The Bra Tree

By Jeff Shibley

No doubt traffic in the High Country challenges us all. Driving without traffic is hard enough. Add a few thousand cars and it’s surprising the demolition derby isn’t filming 24 hours a day. So what’s the solution to the traffic problem? Some say wider roads, fast trains and busses. All have advantages, but there’s a better solution starting to catch on: more ski lifts. It makes sense to have a lift/gondola go from downtown Breckenridge straight to the resort. Beaver Creek is adding at a lift from Avon to the slopes and Steamboat Resort is building a gondola from the town to the base of their resort.

      But why stop there? Ski lifts are great. You may have to wait in line, but have no fear; another chair (or gondola) is right behind that one. There are no stoplights and no stops to pick up more passengers on a ski lift. A lift can’t take that much longer than a bus, and I’m looking for more lift time.
The best times of my life have been on a ski lift. When you ride a lot on a lift, you’re bound to see it all and have stories to tell. I've seen people fall out of the chairs, run into the poles and cause the whole operation to be shut down for hours. Disturbing memories outnumbered by good ones that I'm less likely to share.

Ski lifts can be particularly interesting when you are a “single.” I skied alone a lot this year. You see, my ski partner of more than 60 days last year seems to have found a girlfriend during the off-season, and much to my chagrin our time together on the slopes this year were limited. But skiing alone isn’t so bad. Riding the lift as a single can be as exciting as the run itself.

Most skiers are in a good mood. That, at the very least, makes for pleasant conversation with a complete stranger. Whether I know the person or not, I can’t stand being in close proximity to anyone for any period of time without saying something. It’s the same for me in elevators, car rides, and bus rides – you name it. I’ve got to say something to the person next to me. “Great day out here. Where you from? How ya doin’ today?” These are what I call “decent human questions.” Things I’d hope any decent human would say to a fellow human when you’re within two feet of each other for more than five seconds; whether they knew each other or not.

During this ski season I rode up on the lift with several folks from the Great Britain. It fascinated me to learn that they came all the way over to Colorado, USA for some fine skiing. There are a lot of places they could have gone that are closer than Colorado, albeit not nearly as nice. It was fascinating to hear their ideas and philosophies and impressions of Americans – no worries here, I lived up to my true American potential. I also rode up with folks from India, Columbia, Africa and New Zealand. I was provided fascinating insight to the world.

One day the sun was warm and the snow was soft. Unlike most of the other days, I don’t think I’ll ever forget this one. I made my way to the sixth lift of the day. There was a young lady arriving at about the same time and since we were both singles, we moved toward the twirling chair at the same time. As we approached the red line our skis got tied up and the mount was awkward. The “lifty” went for the red button but we stuck through it and loaded up without forcing a shutdown. The lifty didn’t hide his scowl. “Pay attention,” he yelled.

I looked over at my co-pilot. “Be gentle, this is my first time,” I said, thankful we both survived. She laughed and we seemed to bond over the blunder.
On the ride up, we asked and answered the “decent human questions” that the lift chairs have heard over and over. She was from Nacogdoches, Texas, enjoying a weeklong visit to Colorado. We made more small talk, and she was asking me something when it caught my eye in the distance. It always seems to give me a tingle. Is it weird to admit that? Surely I'm not the only one. Surely Moses had a similar feeling about a plant when he saw the burning bush.

The Bra Tree is one relic that has survived from the days when real hippies, not Focus on the Family, dictated the culture of a ski resort. Many resort traditions are now just memories kept alive by stories from gray-haired dudes with ponytails. So many traditions squelched, but the bra tree is a little piece of historical culture that’s still alive. It’s not just the lace and silk adorning the tree that I like. It’s what the tree stands for – taking it off in the face of The Man. She caught me staring at the handsome tree. Unlike a metro-sexual, I’ll admit I’m just a man. But I was still embarrassed. “I always wondered if they bring them up or take them off on the chair?” She asked staring along with me.

“Do you think it’s possible to take it off without falling out of the chair?” I joked, not meaning anything by it. In one fell swoop she pulled her coat over her head and handed it over to me. She pulled her sweater up and revealed a black… yeow!

“Wait a minute!” I pleaded. Everything started happening fast. I looked away. Held my hands up. Felt my body slipping out of the chair. My heart took off like a rocket. Thought, I'm not the one that’s supposed to fall out of the chair. I propped myself back up and put a mad grip on her coat and the armrest. I looked at her again then looked away embarrassed but my smile couldn’t be hidden. This gal took it off fast. A few seconds later, she flung it towards the tree where it made a perfect landing. It hung securely on a branch and dangled in the breeze. “Wow” was all I could say for the next few hundred feet as I gathered my wits and replayed what just happened in my mind. I continued gripping the armrest as I handed her coat back to her. “Guess you can take ‘em off on the chair without falling off,” I said, not so sure the same could be said for the co-passenger.

Wondered: How did the bra tree get started? Is there some deep meaning why a woman takes off her bra while riding up a ski lift and throws it onto a tree endangering her life and the person who she’s riding up with (even though he’d be willing to make such a sacrifice)? Concluded: WHO CARES? The young lady later admitted she was going through a transition period and she felt throwing her bra onto that bra tree was like a new beginning. Yadda, yadda, yadda…..

There have been a few times in my life where I have looked up to the Almighty and said, “Okay, I'm ready. It can’t get any better than this.” No doubt I was blessed to live another one of those rare moments on this day, and you can bet that tingle will return anytime I pass this and any other bra tree. More lift time please.


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