12.20.2005

Holidays and Celebrations

It was another weekend on the slopes for me, last one before the holidays. Saturday all of my friends from Denver came up to ski and snowboard at Beaver Creek. With such a big group, we all sort of split up on the mountain and met up later for lunch. It’s always tough to ski in a big group as some people want groomed runs, other moguls or trees. A few of my friends were at Beaver Creek for the first time and I got to have some fun playing tour guide, hitting a few of the lesser known tree runs. It was a wild day on the mountain, from collisions to special announcements. The brother of one our friends got run over by another skier while on one of the groomed runs. The guy who hit him then just skied off without helping him or taking any responsibility. We were skiing a different slope at the time, but all the lifts come together and when we got down we saw a crowd of our friends gathered around him on the ground. Unfortunately he was seriously injured in the collision and ski patrol had to take him off in a sled. It turns out that he needed stitches in his chin, and had fractured his jaw. It’s just like driving, here our friend is riding carefully minding his own business and out of nowhere someone slams into him; you just can’t trust that the other people on the mountain are going to ski or ride responsibly. Of course a little while later on another run, our friend Pete got cut off by another snowboarder and went down hard himself. No injuries thankfully, but he was glad he had his helmet on as the back of his head hit the snow. Sometimes I think the tree runs are safer, at least there are no other people to run you over. All of this bad news from the slopes needed to be complemented by something good, and we got a huge surprise when we got down to lunch. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone else, so I’ll just say that there was a big announcement and a new piece of jewelry. We had a great lunch to celebrate, so good in fact that we never made it back out onto the slopes! I unfortunately wasn’t able to join the after party as my work was having our Christmas party that night, but I’m sure it was a good time.

The Christmas party was fun too, and we had a pretty good dinner. We also do an annual White Elephant gift exchange, I got the lucky draw… last person to pick! The way it works is that you each draw a number, the first person opens a gift, and the next person can either open a gift or steal the first person’s gift. When your gift is stolen you can either steal a gift or open a new one. It keeps going like this until the last gift is opened. Being last to pick meant that I had my pick of the already opened gifts or pick the last gift and end the game. The one caveat we have is that if a gift is stolen three times it is “retired”, otherwise the game goes on forever if there is a hot gift that everyone wants. The choices weren’t the best, but I ended up with the game Balderdash, better than the wind chimes I would have gotten if I had opened the last present!

Sunday was back to the slopes at Beaver Creek, I ended up soloing it though as a few of the people from work that had talked about going up were too hungover to make it. I only went for half the day, but I got to do something I have never done before. Now that the lift close to my town has opened for the season, I was able to walk from my house to the lift, and then ski down at the end of the day and walk back home. It’s a little bit of a walk, but worth it in my opinion. Although I am by no means “ski-in, ski-out” where I live, it is one step closer to that dream. No skiing next weekend though, I will be heading home for the holidays, those of you that are going to be in town I will hopefully see you soon!

12.13.2005

Blue Skies and White Mountains

Our succession of snow storms took a break, but when all was said and done the mountains had close to 60 inches total since Thanksgiving. Its been great for terrain openings of course, but it was nice to have a sunny weekend too. Saturday I headed to Beaver Creek and got my first turns of the year on Grouse Mtn and Larkspur Bowl, both of which opened during the previous week thanks to our storms. There were virtually no crowds and I was able to get a lot of runs in. I even ran into my friends Beau and Sadie who live in Denver and were up for the day. We got a few runs in together before they had to drive back to the city. I also got to take a run down the Royal Elk Glades, somehow I went all of last year without finding this run. Its really a great run tough, it is through the trees but opens up nicely lower down. It has a real backcountry feel, similar to Blue Sky Basin in Vail, and you cannot see any lifts, buildings, or other sign of civilization from it. There were even a few opportunities for fresh tracks as it hadn't been skied that much since the storms earlier in the week. I also got some runs in at Larkspur Bowl which has a new chairlift this year. The old lift was an 11 1/2 minute ride, and with no foot rest my feet would often fall asleep by the time it was done! The new chair is a much more comfortable, and quicker (about 6 minutes) ride that is a welcome change for sure!

Sunday I met up with Wells and Chris over at Keystone, we took it easy at first with a few groomers on nice fresh courderoy, but had our eyes on the bowls from one of the lifts. We decided to make the hike up the ridge to where we cound find some fresh tracks way out in Goalpost Gully. The hike wasn't bad, close to 45 minutes, but the conditions were good for it. It was warm, not windy, and the snow was not that deep on the ridge so the walking wasn't too difficult. When we got to our run of choice it was a little thin and windblown at the top, but it quickly became a nice untracked slope and we got several fresh turns in before getting back to treeline. Here things got more interesting as deep snow, a creek basin, and tight trees made for slow going and careful route finding. I'd like to say it worked out perfectly, but unfortunately the creek bed kept causing us to briefly get stuck and have to climb back out. After the hike and fighting with the creek we decided we would call it a day, it was already lunch time so we stopped for a few slices of pizza in the village and then headed home. All together the weekend turned out to be a great one for skiing, and conditions for early December continue to be amazing. Hopefully we will get a few reinforcing flakes for this weekend (it snowed a bit today) and then soon it will be off to the midwest for Christmas. See you all soon...

12.05.2005

Up to our Knees

The snows kept flying most of the week, the storm that came in on Friday night was a pretty good one and left us with nearly a foot officially at the local ski areas. It continued Saturday as well, and there were even a few more showers on Sunday. All total Vail got about 40" this week of snow, in town we don't have quite that much, but the ground is well covered for sure. This meant a great powder day on Saturday at vail, where the snow was easily up to my knees when I was skiing. I broke out the new powder skis, and they were definitely worth it! Skiing on those was a lot of fun, you don't sink as much, and they can cut through the soft moguls that formed through the day with ease. There were some crowds in the morning at the back bowls, but the first two runs back there were worth the wait. After that I started heading to a different area, but still was finding lots of areas where the snow was knee deep, even after 12. I ended up staying there pretty much all day, and when I got back to my car I had a good 4 inched to clear off from what was falling that day. Sunday I decided to go to Beaver Creek instead, partly for convenience and partly because of the World Cup races. With the Olympics a mere 10 weeks away, the race took on extra meaning as it serves as a sort of Olympic Preview this year. Friday and Saturday the top American speed skiiers (Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves) both did very well. It was the second straight year they finished 1-2 in the Downhill, and the next day they switched positions for the Giant Slalom. Sunday's race was the Slalom, and I got to see bits and pieces of it as I skiied the runs that lead to the race arena. It was a cold morning, only 4 degrees, but it definitely felt warmer. The cold and races seemed to keep people off the slope and I managed to ski about 10 runs before lunch time, when I decided to get some pizza in the village and head home for the day. Tomorrow the next snow storm moves in, so far this season Vail has gotten about 11 feet of snow! This snow has prompted earlier than scheduled terrain openings at resorts across the state, and skiing is already better than it was at New Year's last season. While the snow may be making the roads slick and cleaning the car off a twice (or more) daily activity, the skiing has made it all worthwhile. As long as it takes a break when its time to fly home for Christmas, I say keep it coming!