March 14, 2020

Weekend Recap: Skiing is the New Golf

This week, I took three days off work to head to Utah with some coworkers for a ski boondoggle. I haven’t taken a true vacation in so long (some time off at Christmas, but otherwise my last vacation was Vienna a year ago). With all the stress I’ve been under, it was definitely much needed!

I flew into SLC on Tuesday morning, after some meetings got moved around and I needed to be on the ground by 1pm. I started driving from the airport to my boss’ townhouse in Eden, UT, but ended up having to pull over multiple times for various calls. I finally got in around 4pm MT, and immediately threw on ski clothes to meet my boss and two other colleagues for some night skiing at Powder Mountain. It ended up being just late afternoon skiing (we left before it got dark), but it was still a cool experience – I haven’t night skied since I was a kid! Only one resort (Keystone) in Colorado offers it, so it was fun to have the option.

We ordered some pizzas in for dinner on Tuesday night, and it was such a treat to sit around the cozy dining table with ten other coworkers who I love but don’t get to spend a lot of face to face time with. Between the drinks, some hot tub time, and the That’s What She Said party game (basically a less raunchy version of Cards Against Humanity; highly recommend it!), we all got out of work mode pretty quickly and instead just got to relax in each other’s company.

We skied Wednesday morning as a big group, with my boss touring us all over the whole mountain. Powder Mountain is really big – 8,468 acres, which makes it the largest ski resort in the US by skiable acreage! However, it only has nine lifts, and only one is high-speed, so I have to admit that I snobbishly prefer Vail and Beaver Creek 😉 Still, it was wonderful to ski with this crew – so many great chairlift conversations. And, the perk of not having high speed lifts is that it’s not very popular – even with a huge group, the longest we ever waited in a lift line was maybe three minutes.

We also took a snowcat up to the top of some non-lift accessible terrain, which was awesome! Fresh pow galore.

One of the highlights of Pow Mow was the food. Powder Keg was a tiny little bar in the base lodge that offered burgers, wings, and ramen. My boss advised us that the ramen was incredible – and he was absolutely right! I didn’t expect this dive-y looking spot to turn out such great food, but it was wonderful. Plus, they had a popcorn machine in the corner that was free for you to serve yourself… always fun 🙂

We hit the hot tub after skiing on Thursday, then spent the evening cooking together at the house. Everyone contributed something to the multi-course meal: bruschetta, mushroom and goat cheese polenta bites, arugula pomegranate seed salad, garlic bread, spaghetti bolognese, and brownies. I ate way more than I should have (honestly, ate enough apps that I didn’t even need regular dinner!) but had such a great time hanging out with my coworkers that it was totally worth it.

On Thursday, a few more of us went back to Pow Mow to ski a half day, with people leaving for the airport at various times. That left four of us by 5pm for some quiet hot tub and wine time, followed by a trip to the local saloon for burgers and beer. It was the perfect end to the trip – I cannot wait for more quality time with everyone when we run Ragnar Kentucky in May!

And not just any saloon… the oldest continuously operating business in Utah, the Shooting Star Saloon!

Friday morning, I was the only one left at the condo, with the last few people catching early morning flights. I had breakfast and took a few work calls, then packed up and headed out. But before I went to the airport, I was headed for one more (half) day of skiing. Although my group of coworkers was gone, a group of colleagues from our financial services practice was evidently skiing Alta for the day, and I was invited to join.

Can’t say I minded being on the conference calls when this was the morning view I had while on them…

I had never skied Alta before, which is famous for being skiers only (no snowboarders allowed). However, once I was there, I kind of forgot about that – it really didn’t seem any different to have skiers only. The snow wasn’t great, but it was cool to check out a new-to-me mountain… and there were breathtaking views!

Alta felt very different than the Colorado mountains I’m used to, though it’s hard for me to articulate exactly how. Both are so beautiful, though!

I split off from the group at lunch to do two more runs on my own (one a black mogul run down the lift line that we had been avoiding since the snow wasn’t good), and then called it a day. I would have loved to keep skiing, but I had a flight to catch! (Plus several work calls on my way to the airport.) I grabbed a quick late lunch at the lounge, hopped on my flight, and tried to be as productive as possible in catching up on all the work emails from the week.

I landed at Denver airport at 5:00pm – a little later than originally planned (I pushed my flight to a slightly later departure once I made the plan to ski at Alta), but not bad. However, it meant I really had to hustle to get out to Breckenridge in time for a dinner date at 8pm! I dragged my heavy ski bag to my Uber, stopped home just long enough to unpack my ski clothes directly into the washer, threw some fresh ski clothes into a duffel bag, showered, and headed out the door. For once, though, traffic was non-existent, which was amazing. This was what it used to be like last season when I drove to the mountains off peak. This year, even when I go at odd hours, it’s been backed up. It was a real treat to not hit any traffic and cruise the whole way to Frisco.

I was glad I had hustled out and not bagged the dinner – it was a really nice evening at Tavern West. The food wasn’t very impressive, but we got a great bottle of wine that I really enjoyed. Finally, I called it a night at 10:00pm, and headed home to Minturn. Skiing day 5 tomorrow, this time on my home mountain!

When I got to Minturn, my roommates were still up. I don’t think I’ve talked much about them on the blog, but they are awesome! They live in Minturn full time, which has turned out to be a blessing for me – it means even if I don’t go up to the mountains for a few weeks, they are home and I don’t have to worry about my house. Meanwhile, they both work in the restaurant business, so our schedules are completely opposite and we don’t get any each other’s way. And then there are nights like Friday, when my chef roommate told me he had baked a lot of extra homemade bread and I should help eat it. Don’t mind if I do! Saturday morning’s preschool breakfast was toasted homemade bread and cookie butter… Couldn’t be better 🙂

My friend Bryan picked me up at my house, and we headed over to Vail for a few hours. He hadn’t been to Vail in years, and it was fun to tour him around the mountain! I really love showing friends around Vail, and I’m proud that I know the lifts and terrain well enough to take us to the best spots for my friends’ preferred style of skiing without having to consult a map.

A few weeks ago, I made friends with someone who’s a ski instructor at Beaver Creek, and he was trying to convince me that I should become one as well. The lesson part doesn’t sound that exciting, but my friend told me that a lot of the time, he gets picked up as a private mountain guide for people who just want good conversation with someone who knows their way around the mountain. This would be a dream job for me!

Bryan and I called it quits at noon, even though I would have loved to keep skiing. But I had plans to meet up with my friends Heather and Kirk for an annual Minturn tradition I had missed the year before and was determined not to miss again: the famous Minturn Barstool Racing Championship!

Events like this make me so happy to be in this little small town. The Barstool Racing Championship was everything I wanted it to be, and more. We headed out to a small hill just past Little Beach Park, where a big crowd of people was watching all kinds of things slide down the snowy hill. It was BYO food and drink, but there was no restriction against open containers (something I noted for next year). Meanwhile, if you got bored watching the races (which my friends and I certainly did not), there was a booth where you could try your hand at axe throwing. I would have loved to try it, but was too enthralled with the races!

The event ran from 12-3pm, and I didn’t get there until 1:30pm, so I missed the actual “barstool” event (where people literally strap skis onto a barstool). But the more popular division seem to be the “anything goes” division, where people made all kinds of crazy contraptions to get themselves down the hill. My favorites included an exercise bike on skis, a child’s bouncy horse also mounted on skis, and a Wonderbread-branded soapbox derby-style car driven by a crew wearing full on Napa Auto Parts racing suits. This was outstanding!

Goooooo Wonderbread!

The finals ended up coming down to a costumed couple riding on an air mattress (lame in my opinion, since they hadn’t put any work into their actual conveyance down the hill) and the Wonderbread car. It took two tries after a dead tie, and the second one was literally a photo finish with officials reviewing smartphone video of the finish line… But Wonderbread won by a hair! My friends and I had a blast, and already can’t wait till next year, when we plan to enter ourselves.

None of us had eaten lunch before going to the races, and we were starving, so we headed down the street to Cowboy Bar for some wings and beers. The night continued from there with old fashioneds at my house, and finally dinner at the Thai place down the street. It was a wonderful Minturn day!

The next morning, I was pretty slow to get going, and ended up lazing around watching a bit of TV before finally making it to the mountain by noon. This probably wasn’t a bad thing, as it had been so warm the day before that I needed the snow to soften up from the ruts that the previous day’s skiers had carved into it. For a little bit of variety, I went to Beaver Creek, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the runs weren’t as icy as I expected! I particularly enjoyed Golden Eagle, the steep run that has served as the men’s Super G race course in the World Cup for several years. While this run can often get super icy, on Sunday, there was a thin layer of softness on top that made it less scary.

After skiing, I headed back to Minturn, quickly showered and packed up my stuff, then headed out for a dinner date in Breckenridge on my way home. This time, I went to a new-to-me sushi restaurant right in downtown Breck. You wouldn’t think that sushi in the middle of the mountains would be very good, but The Blue Fish was! I would definitely recommend the cracked black pepper tuna roll, which was a quite delicious special for the night.

A feast of fish… YUM!

And then, back to work on Monday! I was pleasantly surprised to find that the post-vacation return wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Though we’ll see how crazy work gets now with COVID19 spreading…

My final takeaway from this week: when I was younger, I often wondered if I should learn to play golf to help me with my career. I mean, stereotypically, all the guys are always doing deals on the golf course, right? But I’ve never had any interest in golf (nor the aptitude, if mini golf is any evidence), and I never got enough invitations where it felt like I was missing out not to play. In contrast, no one ever talks about skiing as networking… but in the last five years, I’ve done at least two ski trips every year with coworkers, and my time on the mountain has really strengthened my relationships with them.

A few of my favorites, squinting into the sun.

In Utah, I got to meet up with some very senior leaders of my firm, and I think it helped a lot that I’m now a good enough skier to keep up with anyone. I’m not sure I would have gotten the same invites if I were still the very-intermediate skier I was when I moved to Colorado! As with pretty much everything in my life, I’ve had a bit of imposter syndrome even last year (when I was doing / loving double black diamond mogul runs), so it feels really good to now be reasonably confident in my ski abilities on trips like this. Good thing I focused on skiing over golf!


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