Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Terrain

Mardi Gras on the Mountain

Epic Proportions Update

So at the end of week three, here are the stats

Column1 DAYS RUNS Cost per day Cost per run
Hunter 16 118 $ 36.19 $ 4.91
Leslie 14 69 $ 41.36 $ 8.39

Had we been purchasing at the window each day out cost per day would be

Leslie: $89.57
Hunter: $79.88

And the longer we ski the reater the difference will become.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Panoramic to the South

click to enlarge

Panoramic to the North

click to enlarge

Returning to a theme

It seems that the chatter in my head has stilled. At the beginning of the trip it was ... "Oh I can barely breathe up here, HOW am I supposed to ski?" OR "My thighs are burning, my boots are too tight (too lose)" AND "Maybe later in the trip this will feel better and I will be able to enjoy it more."

Well that day is officially here. Skiing is a natural form of locomotion for me now. My boots feel like bedroom slippers. I love moving around the world this way in all this breathtaking scenery. So I am "in the moment" more now than I was when I started. It is a wonderful way to be. I suppose the real challenge is to be able to be in the moment even when I am not enjoying the moment. But for now I am happy to be at the place that allows for maximum ease out thereon the slopes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sunshine in China Bowl

click to enlarge

Doing what comes naturally

I don't know what it is a about skiing at Vail, but I always get a high from skiing there. Several factors could come into play. One is I usually rest a day before I go there. Second, we choose a day we know will be bright and sunny. And maybe, just maybe the lower altitude makes a difference. But there is some thing else ... and I think it has to do with Vail's size. When I am at Vail I feel as though I am skiing TO somewhere. "Let's ski over to mid Vail for lunch" ... "Let's ski over to China bowl and enjoy the sunshine." On other mountains I feel as though I am just skiing runs. Moreover, Vail is well designed enough that the moving across the mountain does not always involve the boring catwalks that other mountains employ.

So we arrived early this morning ... me with fresh legs, and the sun was shining ... It was just spectacular ... AGAIN. We were in China Bowl in bright sun ... and on our second run went into the trees and did some glade skiing. It was all pretty wonderful ... until ...

... the clouds came in and the wind blew up ... but the first part was really pretty wonderful. And I noticed something new out there today. This is going to be a little hard to describe, so bear with me. But I had this feeling on my skis today that I wasn't so much skiing as I was engaging in a natural form of locomotion. I am no longer working at skiing ... I am simply moving around on skis. Does that make sense? It is maybe like the way a bird feels when it naturally turns its body to take advantage of the wind circling at high levels ... only instead of the wind I am turning my body to take advantage of gravity in a natural way without really thinking about it.

So maybe this feeling is what I came here for?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


So we have passed the midway point in this odyssey ... a few observations. First there are the rhythms of daily life. We have been pretty lazy in our mornings. We are usually skiing between 11 and 12. It is nice to spend at least part of each day in the out of doors looking at some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. My day on the slopes usually though not always ends before Hunter's, and I either go home and he takes the bus or I wait at the bottom for him to get those last few runs out of his system. Whenever it ends for me, I get home and immediately hop in a hot shower and take a nap while Hunter does his work. The time between 4 & 6 has been very productive for him. Then it's dinner by 7 and in bed before 9. We have been sleeping 9 -10 hours a night.

Then there is our skiing. We took a lesson mid-week last week and have another one scheduled tomorrow. The sticker price on these lessons was pretty much shock and awe. We mentioned this to a waitress in Dillon one night and she grinned and said she was a ski instructor at A-Basin and would happily take us on. A-Basin chargers a quarter the price for a private lesson than the other areas. So we had an excellent two hour lesson together last week on fundamentals. We then worked out that we would meet her privately at a different mountain on her day off and each work with her privately for 2 hours.

I must say this work on fundamentals has done me tremendous good. Much of the work I needed to do was in upper body work ... all about staying pointed downhill. She gave us a few simple images that really made a difference. We even did a little work in the bumps and the translation of the fundamentals into the bumps made a real difference ... but by then my legs were rubber bands.

Here is a short clip of Hunter.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Epic Proportions Update

Here is an update on the ever increasing value of our Epic Pass.
Column1 DAYS RUNS Cost per day Cost per run
Hunter 9 71 $ 64.33 $ 8.15
Leslie 9 43 $ 64.33 $ 13.47

Downtown Frisco

Main Street Frisco, CO today
Main Street Frisco 1890

We took a day off from skiing last Saturday and puttered around the town of Frisco. There is a little historical park off Main Street that has become a collection site for some of the town's historic properties. First thing that strikes a New Englander is how YOUNG this town is. Folks were showing up here just about the time the Civil War was heating up. Here are some pictures of the old town Jail.But I was intrigued by this little cottage built in 1931 by the Niemoth family from Denver. It seems that as the area began losing population in post WWI era, the local dairy farmer out at Bill's Ranch came up with a scheme to lure population back to Frisco from the big cities like Denver. He offered families free land on which to build their summer cottages if they would in turn buy milk from his dairy cows. Apparently his plan to bring the market to the milk instead of the milk to the market worked ... for awhile anyway.And I do not wish to be a history geek here, but I was really taken with this ballot from 1896. It seems EVERY party wanted a piece of William Jennings Bryan that year. I guess if you wanted to know the power of free silver in the politics of the day, Frisco, CO was as good a perch as any to view it from.(Note: 6 of the parties on this ballot claimed William Jennings Bryan as their candidate in 1896.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spectacular Day Skiing

Yesterday was simply majestic. We started out a little after 8:30 under a bright sunny sky. The views along Vail Pass were in themselves breathtaking.

We had a little trouble negotiating the free parking at Vail. Instead of being one big lot on the outskirts of town it is a warren of little 6 or 18 space spots sprinkled along the frontage road very vaguely marked. So after wasting 30 minutes trying to find one that had space we surrendered to the pay parking ($25/day OUCH!) at Lionshead.

But it is the best $25 for a day of entertainment that I have ever spent. Vail takes alot of grief out here (especially in Summit County) for being too big too crowded just too too. But all that said, it is still ... on a sunny day ... the most fun place to ski I can imagine. With 5,000+ acres of skiable terrain and 193 runs there is little reason to spend any time complaining.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Suffice it to say it was a PERFECT day of skiing.
looking up Showboat from the bottom of Game Creek BowlAnd some panoramic pics too!!Mid Vail at lunch time (click to enlarge)
Top of Wildwood looking over BluSky Basin

A little hint about panoramics. If you have not tried it yet, go to Autostitch and download their free tool. It is amazing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Snow Dance

Statement as of 4:30 AM MST on February 12, 2009

... Winter Weather Advisory in effect from 6 PM this evening to
noon MST Friday...

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a
Winter Weather Advisory for snow... which is in effect from 6 PM
this evening to noon MST Friday.

A strong... fast moving Pacific storm will sweep across the region
tonight bringing widespread snow. Moisture wrapped around the
systems center will continue to bring snowfall into Friday. Total
accumulations from this storm are expected to range from 5 to 10
inches by midday Friday... with locally higher amounts on exposed
west and northwest facing slopes.

So with this in mind we are making a quick dash over Vail Pass this morning to get some skiing in before they close the pass. Whooo Whooo.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Skier's Stew

I owe this recipe to my friend Wynell from whose cookbook I copied it one morning. I am renaming it Skier's Stew because it is a slow cooking stew that can be popped in the oven as you go out the door and will slow cook for as long as six hours (even longer I suspect) without drying out.Now I know a crockpot might also seem like a good alternative, but I have to tell you, it is just not the same in flavor or texture. Sadly our condo has neither a crockpot nor a heavy duty casserole suitable for the task. So we found this nice oval cast iron pot at a nearby Walmart.There are three unusual ingredients in this dish that I did not want to have to buy while I was here. So I packed a little bag of tapioca and bottled some of my own Worcestershire and brought it with me. The sugar I purloined form a nearby Starbucks.Next I prepared the vegetables and set them aside.

Then to the bottom of the cast iron casserole I added 2 1/2 pounds of stew beef. No flouring, no browning ... just the raw stew meat, and I tossed it with generous amounts of salt and pepper. Over that I placed the veggies. Over that I poured the canned chopped tomatoes. Then I filled the can with water and added some of that water to the sugar, tapioca and Worcestershire mixture and mixed it up. I added this slurry to the sides of the casserole so that it would mingle with the juices deeper in the stew (as opposed to just pouring it on top).Next I covered it with a piece of aluminum foil and then secured the lid tightly over the seal.

Put it in the oven and set the oven for 275 degrees. It will be done in 5 hours but can stay in longer. If you think your day on the slopes is going to be longer than six hours you might add an extra 1/2 can of water and set the oven to 250 or 225.

The BEST part is coming in the door and smelling this divine creation filling your nostrils.


2 ½ lbs stew beef

1 cup chopped celery

2 cups carrots

2 onions chopped
4 medium potatoes

1 14 oz can seasoned tomatoes + 1 can of water

1 TBS Worcestershire

1 TBS sugar

2 TBS Tapioca

Meat in bottom of Creuset or similar cast iron pot. Salt and Pepper toss. Cover with vegetables. Make a paste of W, S, and T with water and drip along the edges. Add the water. Cover tightly with foil then put on lid. Bake at 275 for 5+ hours. Do not lift lid.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The morning commute


What you see when you look down

East vs. West

My experience as a New England skier is filled with memories that are mostly Spartan in nature. It was not a question of IF it was icy ... the question was HOW icy was it? And even what color is the ice ... is it blue yet? The cold was a wet cold that would permeate every layer of clothing you owned, and on days when it was clear and dry it was also guaranteed to be windy ... seriously windy.

But here in the West ...well it is another story. When you hear people talk about ice what they MEAN is crust. And the weather? "seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day" about sums it up. In fact most of your day is conducted out of doors. You put your boots on outside ... you eat lunch outside ... and at the end of the day, you take your boots off outside. When you take a break in New England, you are headed INside. You move your frostbitten self, a bit like a slow moving robot, toward WARMTH.

And so that brings me to the question, why does all the snow STAY here? I mean really ... in New England it is MISERABLE all the time and still the snow melts. But not here ... it has not snowed an inch since we arrived and still I see no degradation on the slopes. How can this be?

And I guess the answer is altitude. They don't call this Summit County for nothing. Daily life is conducted at 9,000 feet (2,740 m) and the skiing happens as high as 12,000 feet. (3,657 m)

But before I dump totally on my homeland, there is a custom we have in New England that does not exist here and I miss it. It is the custom of changing your boots in the lodge before you go out skiing for the day. A typical New England ski lodge has a series of wooden pegs on the walls on which you hang your backpack full of sandwiches and little wooden cubbies into which you put your footwear while you ski. Not so here. Everyone arrives in their boots ... there is no base lodge ... there ARE some pay lockers which nobody uses is all a bit strange.

So we were pleasantly surprised yesterday when we went to Arapaho Basin for the first time to find a little A-framed base lodge and to see wooden pegs on the walls and many folks putting on their boots in the lodge. I don't think it would be inaccurate to say that A-Basin is the Mad River of the West. It relies on a loyal local clientele who wouldn't be caught dead in those boutique ski areas to the west. Nestled up against the wall of the continental divide, A- Basin sits in a cirque of mountains and is generously supplied with snow by virtue of her altitude. We took 2 runs off the top 12, 472 feet ( 3, 801 m) amid some serious wind.More to come on Arapaho Basin ... we return there Tuesday for a lesson.

Epic Proportions

Now THIS entry is not at all about being in the moment ... not at all about enjoying each moment for what it has to offer. Instead, THIS entry is about the crass economics of skiing.

Let me say that skiing is an expensive sport. It is especially expensive when you do it as most of us do, one week at a time. But this month's residence in Colorado has given us the chance to take advantage of the coveted Epic Ski Pass (which we purchased before 11/15/08). This pass gives you unlimited access to 5 nearby ski areas. Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Arapaho Basin and Keystone.

So we have been keeping a little tally of our daily skiing and dividing it into the price of our Epic Pass. The more we ski, the more value we gain from our little ski pass.

Here is our total at the end of week #1



Cost per day

Cost per run




$ 115.80

$ 16.08




$ 115.80

$ 26.32

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Belly Button - Breathe

The weather here has been brilliant ...warm enough to sit outdoors and eat a picnic lunch at the base and cool enough to want to zip up your down parka at the top of the lift. The altitude is a factor in these early days. Summit County is high even in your HOUSE. Frisco, where we arer staying is at 9,000 feet. And at the top of the mountain you are at 10,000 feet plus. So Hunter has come up with a new skiing mantra. Those of you who remember the book "The Inner Game of Tennis" from the 70's will recall the mantra "bounce hit" designed to take you out of an analytical mode about your game and put you in a "flow" mode. Well we have one called "belly button-breathe." You imagine a little cord from your belly button to the tip of your skis. You stay focused on THAT while you make your turns and in between you breathe deeply. Belly button - breathe .... belly button - breathe.

And you need all the oxygen you can muster to feed these screaming thigh muscles. First run is always a nice one. Second run is hard ... muscles tighten up ... breathing is harder. Then third run is a charm. Make it to the third run and you are enjoying things. Then it is just a matter of how long your legs will last. Today promises to be another warm and sunny one. Then the clouds and snow will visit for a stretch.

Lost and Found

All over the mountain there are hospitality people here to answer your every question. It is almost a little invasive sometimes. Such was the case when Hunter was walking by the Lost and Found Hut the other day and wondered "Have I lost anything?" At that moment a uniformed gentleman asked "May I help you sir?" And Hunter replied, "Yeah, I think I lost my Mojo."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


You know how you have a dream in your thirties … a dream about having more freedom to do the things you love … well one of OUR dreams has always been to live in ski country for a season. We would be free to only go out on sunny days .. rest when we were tired ... and really get GOOD as a skier.

Well IF that dream is to be fulfilled, then it better begin this season. So that is why I am writing this from Summit County Colorado. We have rented a condo in Frisco for the month of February and are in the beginning stages of the 2009 ski-a-thon.

In trying to think of an angle for this journal I realized that one thing that I do LOTS in life and maybe even more on ski trips is look ahead to the NEXT day … the NEXT run … instead of being in the moment . So I thought it might be good to take as my focus the Zen of such an experience. Perhaps this will be as boring as slush. But I think by reflecting on the times when it is easy and the times when it is hard to be in the moment, I might … well do just that reflect on that and what it teaches. William Least Heat Moon on skis?

So let’s place us in time and space … we are in a little one bedroom condo about 8 blocks from Main Street in Frisco. We have a season’s pass to 5 areas Breckenridge, A-Basin, Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek. We started out yesterday at Breck which has a reputation as an intermediate mountain … good place to warm up on. It was on the way to the parking lot that I first caught myself thinking “God, we have been on the move since 7:45 yesterday morning and I STILL haven’t taken a run … can’t we hurry up and get there?”

Then I looked out at the peaks that make the Breckenridge ridge and realized THAT was something I should be savoring. It was then that I came up with this way of thinking about the trip. And since I am only a beginner at such things … since not EVERY moment is one I live in fully… here is a rundown of the few things I really did savor as they were happening yesterday.

#1 the first run … it was sunny ... the snow was perfect … the pitch of the slope allowed me to get right into my rhythm … and my K2 Apache demo skis … were making me look LOTS better than I am.

#2 the conversation on the lift with a woman from Annapolis who was a gardener and a painter … my age … and only 4 months out of knee replacement surgery.

#3 taking a hot shower when I got home and just feeling the HOT seep into my bones

#4 my first sip of “medicinal” scotch before dinner

Sadly the rest of the day was about tired legs, losing my breath because of the altitude and thinking NOT about this moment but rather about how much better this will all feel in 2 weeks.