12.29.2004

Holiday Cheer

Where to start? It was quite the busy holiday! I left my place on Wednesday night and had dinner with Karlin and Wells and our friends Erica, Sara, Jake and Pete. I stayed at their place that night so I wouldn’t have to get up so early to get to the airport. Well, much to my dismay the long term parking was pre-pay, can you imagine? I mean it takes all of about 15 seconds to take a ticket, but it took almost 4 minutes to pre-pay, per car. That delay was one I could not afford, and even though I would have been at my gate an hour early, I missed my plane by less than five minutes. It wasn’t too bad, I got standby on the next flight (an hour later), and it was a better plane, a 777, which meant I got to watch Shark Tale on the flight. So I made it home okay, just a little later than expected, and my dad and nephew picked me up at the airport. Thursday was pretty much an easy day, we had lunch, relaxed at home and did some last minute shopping at Circuit City. Friday was wrapping presents day (I can’t bring them on the plane wrapped), and setting up the apartment time. My parents got a new condo, so I was helping to arrange furniture with my dad, which took us to about 8.30 at night, and we hadn’t had dinner yet. Of course, it being Christmas Eve, the only place open to eat were the Chinese restaurants, so we had dinner there. Saturday was Christmas, we picked up my Aunt, went to the cemetery to visit my grandparents, and then picked up my sister and nephew and went back for presents. This was Christmas Part 2 (of 3) for my nephew, he had already had presents from his mom and Santa, and still had to head over to daddy’s later. After presents we watched The Simpsons on DVD (courtesy of my sister’s gift to me), and had dinner, it was probably one of the first meals cooked in the new place. Then we sat around digesting and talking before taking everyone back home.

Sunday I went downtown and met up with my friend Mike for pizza and some shopping, there weren’t really any good deals downtown, and if their were, nothing was really worth it anyway. We went over to Reckless Records instead, which had much better music selection than my local choices, and I got a couple of used CDs. Later we went out for sushi at Rise with my friend Chris and his girlfriend Krista. It was really good, they have a few interesting specialty rolls, including one with charred provolone cheese on top (sounds weird, but its great, its called “Fire Roll”). After dinner it was off to Sheffield’s where we later met up with Alex, Vallary and Pete. It was nice to see everyone again, its too bad it couldn’t have been a longer visit, but with the holidays and everything, that is how it goes I guess. Monday my mom and sister and I took my nephew to Winter Wonder Fest at Navy Pier. It wasn’t that much fun for the adults, but Evan seemed to like it. He got to ride a few rides, and decorate a cookie. We also took him to Build-A-Bear workshop, and he got to pick out a bear, stuff it to his desired softness, and buy clothes for it. Its really a cool store, the bears are not that expensive ($10-25), but the clothes and accessories can add up. Tuesday’s return was uneventful, in fact O’Hare was a piece of cake, no lines for the Easy Check-In, and security only took about 10 minutes. The drive up to the mountains was dry, and didn’t have a lot of traffic. I did finally find out why the lot was pre-pay, it was an overflow lot, and they only have people attending it when they need it, so Tuesday there were no attendants there. It’s still a pain, and I think next time I am going to investigate other options. Hope you all had a great holiday, and I’ll talk to you in the New Year, be safe!

12.19.2004

Time for a vacation

After a weekend full of “recreation” like that, I am glad to be going home for the holidays, where I will get a chance to relax! We are finally starting to get a lot of great terrain open up here, Vail has a good portion of the Back Bowls open, Beaver Creek has the majority of their “Talons” terrain open, and over in Summit County the Outback at Keystone is open, as well as Chair 6 at Breckenridge. All that adds up to a lot of work for my poor legs, and makes me glad I spend so much time climbing mountains this summer. Saturday I went to Beaver Creek, I was supposed to meet up with my friend Ben from work and his girlfriend Erica, whose birthday was Saturday, but they slept in way to late, and didn’t make it up to join me. I spent most of the day skiing the Grouse Mountain runs, part of the Talons, which is Beaver Creek’s name for their most difficult terrain. The name comes partly from the Birds of Prey World Cup that uses part of these runs, the three lifts that form a talons-like shape, and the bird-named runs in the area like Peregrine, Raven Ridge, Screech Owl and Osprey. All together there are 13 runs, all black diamond or double black, that if skied all in the same day one gets a commemorative pin, and their name on a plaque at Red Tail Camp. In January they have a weekend dedicated to completing these runs, and have people at each run to check off your accomplishments (otherwise you need to take a lesson and have your instructor can do it). I thought it was a good time to take a few dry runs this weekend with 9 of the runs open, and the other 4 partially open. They were steep, and definitely challenging, but also very enjoyable! It was also not crowded, there were no lift lines, and the runs were not crowded. They even had the lower half of the World Cup run open, and it was groomed. Wow, was that fast! I can’t imagine what it would be like to race down it, those guys go over 80 mph! After I had sufficiently worn myself out, I went home to get ready for the birthday party. Ben and Erica hosted us for a winter barbeque at their house after “happy hour” at the local Brew-Pub.

Sunday I had some more Christmas shopping to do, so I wanted to head over to the Target in Summit County. Seeing as I hadn’t been to Breckenridge this season, I figured it would be a good use of my morning to do a little skiing over there. The base was crowded, and the lifts had long lines, I guess a lot of people were up from the Front Range today. Once up the mountain though, I headed over to the higher terrain at Chair 6 to ditch the crowds. This one of my favorite areas, not just at Breck, but at any of the resorts I have been to. The chair tops off at just below 12,000 feet, and right at timberline. The top section is through loosely scattered trees, struggling to grow in the thin air. Then there are several little steep slots trough the thickening forest below that, some of which create sort of natural halfpipes in the rolling mountain side. All of the runs are black diamond, and that in combination with the relative isolation of the lift keeps the crowds from the lower mountain at bay. It was really nice, no crowds, barely any lift lines, and a lot of fun terrain. I spent a few hours playing around up there before heading down for lunch in town, and Christmas shopping in Silverthorne. In fact it was so much fun, that I didn’t leave until about 2.30, so much for just staying the morning! I hope everyone else had a fun (and productive) last weekend before Christmas, see you next weekend!

12.15.2004

More Visitors

This past weekend I had my parents in town for a visit. We spent a lot of our time shopping in the villages at Vail and Beaver Creek, seeing as they don’t ski. Of course there is only so much shopping I can take when literally steps from a world class resort, so I had to go up for a couple of runs. After lunch on Saturday I got a handful of runs in on Vail Mountain, and then after 2pm when the Gondola is free to pedestrians, my parents were able to come up and see the world from the top of the ski resort. We had been up the gondola over the summer, so it was nice to give them the chance to compare summer and winter at the top. There were a lot more people in winter than in summer, and they had traded their bikes for skis and snowboards, but the view was still spectacular. After hanging out in the sun and checking out the view, we all headed back down, them in the gondola, and me skiing underneath. It was the first time they had seen me ski since I was too young to drive and they had to drive me to the ski areas back east. That night was my company’s Christmas Party, and my parents got to go as my guests and meet all of my co-workers. We had a White Elephant gift giving at the party, which was a lot of fun. Some of the gifts were more of the “gag” variety, but there were a few good ones in there that made their way around the room. For those who don’t know how it works at a White Elephant, people pick presents from the table in order of numbers drawn from a hat. When your turn comes up, you can either pick a wrapped present, or steal someone else’s. If your present gets stolen, you can either steal another or pick a new wrapped one. To limit time, there was a stealing presents limit of three. Sunday we went to Beaver Creek Village, had some peppermint hot chocolate and were entertained by the beginner lessons at the base of the resort. Our firm did several buildings there, so I got to show a few of them to my parents while we were there. We then took a drive over to Breckenridge for dinner, over the summer we spent a day in the Breckenridge area and I thought it would be nice to take them there so they could compare the two seasons. Monday was back to work for me, but my parents headed over to Glenwood Springs for the afternoon. It was a good visit, and even though I am going home for Christmas next week, it was a good time for them to come out and see the valley in winter, for one it’s not as cold, and the whole place is decorated for Christmas. For a pair of non-skiers, this was the perfect time to visit.

12.05.2004

Opening our Doors

What a difference two weeks can make! Ski season is really starting to get into full swing here in the Vail Valley, Beaver Creek is over 50% open, Vail has over 1400 acres of skiing on the front side, and the World Cup circuit was in town all weekend for the Birds of Prey series. With all the great early season skiing and riding came the first winter visitors of the season, and we had a great time this weekend! My friend Gabe was visiting from Chicago, and Karlin and Wells came up for the weekend as well. We all used to work with each other in Chicago, so they all came up to enjoy the great skiing and riding. Friday night after they got in, we headed up to Vail Village and had a quick dinner with a couple of Karlin and Wells’ friends from Denver who also were up in the mountains this weekend. Then on Saturday we all met up at Vail with two more friends from Denver, and the eight of us hit the slopes for a nice early season treat: A 3 hour early season preview of Blue Sky Basin. It is still two weeks before the Back Bowls and Blue Sky officially open, but we got to get an early season taste this weekend. It was great, that area is one of my favorites in Vail, providing a backcountry feel tucked miles from civilization. Because this was the first time it has been open all season, it was untracked powder! Of course, the popularity tracked it out quickly, but we got a few good fresh runs in before that happened. It was very tiring though, its still early season, and none of us were quite in shape for the deeper snow. Being early season, it was also a little thin, and several times you could feel the earth below, and the rocks. I was glad to have on my rock skis as I got a couple of gouges and scratches. It was a great time though, and we were all happy to have been able to get some fresh runs, I guess Gabe timed his vacation pretty good!

Saturday night we all met up for dinner in Edwards, but were pretty well exhausted in general, so we all just headed home after that. Sunday we thought about heading up again, but instead we decided to be spectators. After some breakfast, we headed up to the crowded parking lots at Beaver Creek and took the bus up to the viewing area for the Birds of Prey races. It is an annual circuit of races here, typically with only a Downhill and a Super G, but this year Park City gave up the Slalom and Giant Slalom, so Beaver Creek picked them up. It was only the second time they hosted all four events. It was just the men’s World Cup in town as the women’s World Cup was in Lake Louise, Alberta this weekend. Today’s event was the Slalom, and we got a nice viewing spot right along the finish line fence near the monitors that showed the whole race, as it would be seen on TV. Its really impressive to see these skiers up close, their form coming down the mountain is amazing, you wonder how they can get their bodies so close to the snow, and their skis so on edge without just falling over! If you ever get the chance to see a World Cup up close, I would highly recommend it. There was a definite international flair, aside from overhearing all sorts of foreign languages, we saw skiers from the Slovenian team while we walked back to the bus, and rode the bus with members of the German team. This sport is such a great equalizer between professionals and recreational people like us. The runs they race on are regular trails on the mountain, and when the races are over, they are open the public for anyone to challenge; you can’t say that about any other sport. You will never play baseball at Wrigley Field or try and kick a 50 yard field goal at Soldier Field, but you can ski right down the same runs as the World Cup, and the ride the same shuttle with the ski team members. After the races we hung out walking and shopping in the base village before the gang took off for Denver again. It was a really fun weekend, and it was great to have everyone up to visit!