Saturday, May 2, 2009

Another season on the books

Two weeks ago, Vail Mountain closed for the season - it's 46th, my 6th. It is funny to think back on my first season and how things have changed.

Year 1: Move to Vail for one season, work in ski shop, apply to law school, decide to stay through mud season and see what the buzz about summer is all about.

Year 2: Defer admission to law school, continue work at ski shop, move horse to Vail, fall in love with summer in the mountains.

Year 3: Give law school a try, leave after almost a full semester, return to Vail, vow to make a living up here.

Year 4: New job with Vail Resorts, skiing the Beav' full time, hiking the peaks during the summer, miss skiing so much travel to South America is warranted, the lil' nugget, Tia, joins the family.

Year 5: Season off to a great start with lights out December & January, career switch from BC to Vail, attempt at heli-skiing in AK (those two runs were amazing!), second chance at mountain biking, first chance at road biking.

Year 6: Another great start, fraught with some challenges at work, X Games and all-time powder day at Highlands, bluebird March photo shoot and incredible sunrises, Amazing April w/new friends, back on the bike(s) and determined to ride more, trip to Cali coast (stay tuned), definitely not leaving Vail anytime soon.

Now, if I can only get through the unpredictable and sometimes unfavorable spring weather!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Another one bagged!

What a great weekend! Things got off to a great start Friday night with the Gourment on Gore wine and food festival. With my friend Jaime at my side we ate and drank our way through Vail Village. Highlights: Pomegranate Martini from Sweet Basil, Buffalo Slider from Larkspur, Malbec from Los Vascos, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes from Batter. I love events like this because everything is in miniature so you can have a taste of everything without feeling like you need to be rolled down the street back to your car.

Saturday was another beautiful Colorado day with plenty of sun and mild temps. This time of year our high temp isn't much more than 75 degrees which is pretty close to perfect in my book. Tia and I had the fortune to be invited on a last minute camping trip with my friend Liz Lee and her pup Pippa (Tia's BFF). On the way home from the store to pick up some last minute supplies I stopped at Colorado Bike Service to check out their Labor Day sale. My affinity for biking has only strengthened over the summer. Between mountain bike camp, spin class at the gym, and fun cross country rides with friends I am hooked, and recently have been thinking about picking up a road bike (never thought I would say that!). To make a long story short, I am now the proud new parent/owner of a road bike courtesy of Colorado Bike Service who I would recommend to anyone looking for advice on bike. They are so knowledgeable and patients which was reasssuring for a novice bike owner like me.

Tia and I headed up to the campground in Leadville that evening for what was going to be a great night in the Great Outdoors. Why I don't go camping EVERY weekend, I don't know because every time I curl up next to a campfire or snuggle down into my sleeping bag I am always reminded of why I live in Colorado, and the mountains in particular. Thanks to Liz and company we dined on steak, mahi, apple/pear/peach pie, and s'mores (my contribution). Thanks again to Dave, Bob, Liz, Hillary, Nancy, Patty, and Rick for letting me join them!

The next morning we woke early to hike La Plata Peak, another 14er on my list to climb. We were a little slow to get going and the fact that we drove right by the trailhead didn't help. In the meantime, weather started to move in and the temps dropped. In our haste to get out of camp, Nancy and Patty forgot to pack a pair of pants and were concerned that they would put themselves in a bad situation given the outlook. I completely understood, however my stubborn side shone through and I decided to continue on the hike alone (with Tia). Given the late start I knew it would be a push to the summit to make it up before getting caught in rain/snow/lightning above treeline.

By the skin of our teeth, Tia and I made it to the top, only to look around, and start our descent. I was so impressed with her ability to pick her route through the skree and talus. We no sooner got back to the car when the skies turned black and erupted in rain/hail. After a quick stop at my favorite gas/grocery/bait/ammo store in Leadville, a warm bath/shower, and a cold beer (me, not Tia) we were both ready for a long nap on the couch.

Monday I took the road bike for a test ride with my friend Christina. Our original plan was to go for a leisurely ride up to East Vail on the road so I could break in the new bike. Of course, between the two of us we pushed on to the top of the Vail hill climb course, two-thirds of the way up Vail Pass. Despite only two chain rings and a compact cassette I think I managed pretty well. The new road bike will be a great way to get in to shape quickly next spring!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Viva la Sudamerica!

About this time every year I start to think about skiing again, especially when I wake up to snow on the Gore Range like I did on Saturday. And when I get emails from friends in Chile and Argentina that are filled with expletives and hyberbole about the snow conditions, I really start to itch.

It was about this time last year that I gave into my yearnings and headed to Portillo, Chile and Las Lenas, Argentina. What an awesome vacation! Two weeks of sun and amazing corn skiing in the Andes. Portillo is like the cruise ship of ski areas. Located about 2 hours from Santiago on the Argentine border, the only way there is via a narrow, winding road that crosses several avalanche paths. The resort itself is made up of one large hotel, a youth hostel, and a additional loding space called the Octagon- aptly named because it is truly shaped like an octagon.
All activity happens in the hotel from the three fabulous meals that come with you lodging package, to the apres seen in the hot tub, and in the event of an interlodge snow storm there is a huge gymnasium in the basement. The terrain is spectacularly varied with as much as 5,000 vertical feet of skiing if you are willingly to take your skis off and hike. The most notable feature is the crazy 5 person surface lifts that zip you up some of the slopes. They are almost a ride in and of themselves.

One of the highlights of the trip was the van ride over the border, through the Andes and the wine country of Mendoza, to Las Lenas. Las Lenas is much larger with several hotels and a small village area and much more terrain. The key to a good day in Las Lenas is the Marte chairlift which accesses the steep, rugged terrain of runs like Eduardos and the Manhattan coulior. We were lucky and the Marte ran 4 of the 6 days we skied. On the two days it didn't open due to high winds (like 80 mph) we skinned out to some of the surrounding peaks. Sometimes you have to earn your turns.

Now that I have relived the trip, I am thinking that I'll definitely have to plan on another August ski vacation next year.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Another big weekend

First, let me just say that I LOVE the Olympics. There is something about the nature of competition and the emotion behind it that is so captivating. As I type this, I am watching the women's gymnastics on TV and the equestrian 3-day cross country phase live on my computer. Does it get much better than that?

While I have been glues to the TV for most of the weekend, I did make it out of the house to drag my friend Elizabeth on a good hike yesterday. At Liz's request to hike a 14er, we headed up to Leadville to bag Mt. Elbert. I was a little concerned that our plans would be foiled by the weather, but despite the very cloudy skies the rain held off. The first half of the trail climbed through one of the most amazing aspen glades that I have ever seen. It was like being in a rainforest. I guess it is kind of the Colorado equivalent of one. When we broke treeline we were literally IN the clouds. When we reached the summit, the clouds parted briefly to reveal the views of Mt. Massive and La Plata Peak.

I think Liz had mixed opinions about the hike itself but I am proud that she stuck with it and made it to the top. We treated ourselves to some amazing BBQ from Kirby Cosmo's for dinner and resumed our places on the couch to watch the Games for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First 14er of the season

We have this thing in the mountains called MTO- Mandatory Time Off. I don't know for sure, but I think it stems from when Vail Resorts HQ was in Avon and they encouraged non-mountain employees to work on the mountain during busy holidays. In any case, I love it! It is like an extra 5 days off a year and due to my lack of planning usually amounts to me taking Fridays off in the month of July in an effort to use up my MTO by the end of the fiscal year.

This year, I am taking advantage and planning my hikes for Fridays. This last Friday I decided to head up to the Missouri Gulch Trailhead (just S of Leadville) and summit Missouri Peak. I got a good night's sleep Thurs and woke up at 4am Fri to make a big breakfast and then drive up to the trail (about 1 hour from my house in Minturn). I arrived at the trail at 7:00 am and was greeted by a full parking lot and parked cars on the county road. Nor surprisingy for this time of year as most hikers favor this trail as an access point to Mt. Belford and Oxford (also 14ers that I knocked off last year).

After trekking the common first 1 mi of trail up a series of switchbacks I opted for the right turn on Elkhead Pass Trail towards Missouri while I watched about 100 people scuffle up the switchbacks towards Belford. Sometimes it is nice to break from the crowd. 3 1/4 hours after leaving the trailhead I found myself at the summit overlooking the Continental Divide Trail depsite the haze from wildfires on the western front.

Saturday, I got together with a couple of my girlfriends for a picnic at the local Bravo Music Festival held at the outdoor amphitheater in Vail. It was a perfect evening- sunny, warm, with a slight western breeze. We enjoyed the Philadelphia Philharmonic's rendition of a variety of classical pieces. While I admit that I am not a huge classical fan, I really enjoyed the entire evening and plan on taking advantage of the additonal performances this season.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ready for hiking season

After a phenomenal ski season with over 30 feet of snow, the trails and mountain tops are finally drying and everything is blooming. The rivers are still pretty high (and scary at some points) but according to many we have hit peak run-off meaning that the waters will be clearing soon.

Over the weekend my friend, Amanda; dog, Tia; and I went for a quick hike up Cougar Ridge trail from the Minturn trailhead just behind the house. We made it up to Lionshead rock in a little over an hour. For such a quick hike it really boasts some great views of the valley. Tia thought she was pretty tough stuff, standing out on the edge of the rock. That is Notch Mountain (left)- a 13er- a Mount of the Holy Cross- a 14er- in the distance behind her.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mountain Bike Camp

This past weekend I attended a mountain bike camp here in Vail. It was an all ladies camp which made for a lot of fun. Going into it I was a total chicken mountain biker- anything narrower than a Jeep road made me cringe. I signed up for the camp to hopefully learn some skills and improve my confidence.

After two days on my bike and um-teen number of falls (I have the bruises and scabs to prove it) I think I am on my way. Single track isn't as intimidating, nor are rocky crossings and loose gravel, however switchbacks continue to plague me. Why can't I commit to the turn? In any case, it was a great experience and one that I would recommend to anyone who felt the same way I did when I started.