Last fall, I spent six weeks in Kauai, where I learned more about, and practiced, living aloha. Though I’m certainly not anywhere near living aloha perfectly, when I returned to Breckenridge, I realized I can ski and ride aloha on the mountain (as well as driving to and fro).

In very loose terms, aloha means love, compassion, gratitude and kindness (as well as hello/welcome and goodbye).

In Breckenridge, and Summit County on the whole, we all do a pretty good job of living aloha; island life is similar to mountain life in its love for the land and generally laid-back approach to life.

"Practice skiing & riding aloha this spring."

Practice skiing & riding aloha this spring.

But there are times when our aloha gets tested — and it often coincides with powder skiing, or driving.

When driving through Breckenridge, we locals can calmly and patiently tell ourselves that visitors may be puttering along slowly, trying to take in all of the new sights, and also trying to figure out where that specific shop or restaurant is.

These days, rather than get frustrated, I tend to remind myself of how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place, where people regularly (incessantly, even) slow down or get out of their car to take pictures here and there.

Powder days test my aloha practice a tiny bit more.

Most of the time, a group of skiers and riders gather in front of a soon-to-be-opened lift line or roped-off run. Generally, we all share our enthusiasm by lining up in an orderly fashion, hanging out, and letting any people in front of us grab the chair or track ahead of us.

But sometimes the adrenaline-fueled excitement gets the best of us; I’ve watched people behind me step on top of my skis and nearly plow me over in attempt to get ahead of me as the rope drops. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve resorted to using my elbows — pink jacket and all — in an effort to maintain my “rightful” place in line.

The truth is: We’re all gonna get great powder. I’m a diehard powder hound — it’s what I live for in the winter — but being two to nine chairs ahead or behind someone will still give me plenty of freshies.

One of the courtesies Breckenridge skiers are usually good at is alternating in chair lift lines.

One of the courtesies Breckenridge skiers are usually good at is alternating in chair lift lines.

And as far as driving goes, I just allow a few extra minutes to get where I’m going, so I don’t have to stress. In Kauai, drivers stop all the time to let  a car into a congested traffic area. They wave and smile. It can’t help but make you feel good; I’ve tried it both ways now — letting cars in (even if they’re rolling through a stop sign they should’ve halted at) and being let in (or forgiven when I make a stupid driving mistake, perhaps because I’m paying too much attention to the amazing light around a mountaintop).

Breckenridge, and really all of Summit County, built a reputation for its friendly community. It’s still very strong. And skiing and riding with aloha can help preserve the atmosphere we all love — and keep everyone coming back for.

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About The Author

Kimberly Nicoletti always knew she was meant to escape gray Chicago winters and spend her days skiing the Colorado Rockies. So, two months after she turned 18, she moved to Breckenridge to be a ski bum "for a season," assuring her parent's she'd return to Illinois to finish college. But, the ski bum life stuck. After three years of full-time skiing in Summit County, she decided to finish her degree at CU-Boulder in Creative Writing (granted, she took a semester off to ski). Once free of classes, she took yet another year off to ski in Summit (do you see a pattern here?). Then, she moved back to Boulder to earn her master's degree in Somatic Psychology/Dance Therapy. Upon graduation, she spent a winter teaching skiing at Mammoth Mountain. (Surely you see the pattern now.) In 2002, she moved back to Summit full time, to work at the Summit Daily as the arts and entertainment editor. She stayed with the company for 10 years, enjoying Summit's great events and later working as the managing editor of magazines covering the High Country. She still revolves her life around adventure and creativity, taking time to travel, ski, paddleboard, dance, ice skate, play with her dogs, learn new things and generally enjoy life. She's highly addicted to powder skiing and keeps her winter mornings commitment-free so she can indulge in "deep play" when Mother Nature cooperates. Off the mountain, she's a freelance writer and editor and teaches fitness and mind/body classes throughout Summit County.

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