I kicked off my weekend early, attempting to take Thursday and Friday off work. However, I ended up taking a bunch of work calls in the morning (oops) and not really accomplishing much on the workout / personal front either. But I finally threw some stuff in the car around lunchtime and headed up to the mountains mid-afternoon. So much for skiing on Thursday! But I had several days of that ahead of me.
As a Beaver Creek employee, I’m given a few 50% off lift ticket coupons that I can give to friends and family. (With one-day lift tickets priced at $218, these are pretty valuable!) I hadn’t used almost any of them this season, but my friend James had an Ikon season pass rather than Epic this year, so he came up to the mountains for a day of skiing at Vail with me. I was excited to hang out, excited to have a full day of actual skiing (rather than training or teaching), and excited for the time off Friday!
James came up Thursday night, and we headed down the street to Kirby Cosmo’s to get barbecue for dinner. The barbecue paired nicely with Teneral Cellars Notorious Cabernet Sauvignon, and the quiet night was a good break from the stress I had been facing earlier in the day. Let actual vacation begin!
I slept pretty well, waking up at 6:30am and having pretzel bagels for breakfast before we headed over to Vail. We took our time, though, and didn’t get to the gondola until around 9:30am. I was happy the line wasn’t too bad, in spite of it being Colorado’s spring break week. We headed up Gondola One and went straight to the Back Bowls from there – my first time in the Back Bowls this season! Crazy to realize that, with how it’s where I normally spend dozens of days most ski seasons (“skisons”), and how I even started trail running the Back Bowls a ton this past summer.
We did a quick warm up run down Northwoods, then hit one run each down Sun Up, Sun Down, and China Bowls, and then went over to Blue Sky Basin. I have generally found Blue Sky Basin to be overrated – there is always a massive line at Skyline lift to get there, and the top is always super crowded. But I surprised myself by liking it a lot on this day – the snow was good, and we did a bunch of tree skiing runs that were a lot of fun. We also popped over to Mongolia Bowl – my first time actually riding the platter-style lift here, since it’s so far off to the edge of the mountain.
I was really impressed by the snow here – we went off to the far side, and ended up going through about a foot of untouched powder, which was awesome. The time flew by, and we called it a day around 2pm so he could take a work call. I was actually happy there was a built in reason to end – while I was having fun skiing, I had a bunch of work and email I wanted to catch up on, and it was nice to have a stretch of 6 hours before bedtime to get that all in!
After I had been home and in the groove for an hour or two, my friend Heather texted to see if I might want to grab drinks with her at Moonrise, just a block from my house. Although it was hard, since drinks would have been fun, I turned her down in favor of getting more catch up done. I was really happy with this decision, and also strangely proud of myself for making it. I find it hard to say no to friends who want to do something fun, even if there is something else I know I should be doing (or want to do) more. As the world starts to open up again, I’m hoping that I can keep some of this attitude of only saying yes to the things that I really want to do, rather than packing my schedule with obligations and things I kind of want to do. (In this case, drinks with Heather and Kirk sounded awesome, but we had already planned to get dinner and drinks on Sunday night, so I preferred to take Friday night for myself.)
And in that same vein, on Saturday, I was thrilled to have a day off and do myself with no obligations! I slept all the way till 7am, then lazed around having breakfast and relaxing. I headed to Vail again, but didn’t make it to the mountain until 10:00am, and was happy it was still pretty easy to get free parking by Chamonix and then take the shuttle bus over. Rather than starting at Gondola One, I got off the bus on the west side of Vail, at Lionshead, and headed up Born Free lift. It was a decently crowded Saturday (unsurprising given the 5 inches of fresh powder the night before), and Born Free had one of the shortest lines up the mountain. From there, I popped over to Avanti, and that lined me up to cruise down Ouzo into Game Creek Bowl for my first run (one of the only bowls I hadn’t hit the day before). Although I had anticipated a few runs through the trees here, the lift lines at Game Creek were kind of long, so I flipped over the top and down Morningside Ridge – one of my absolute favorite runs in the Back Bowls, perhaps in part because where it’s located means you can’t lap it and you have to take at least two chairs to repeat it. Beautiful!
Unfortunately, the lift at the bottom of Morningside was also rather crowded; I did one more run in Sun Down Bowl, then headed one over to Sun Up. I hadn’t really planned on where to go, but followed two ski patrollers ahead of me down Apres Vous – and they definitely knew what they were doing, as the snow there was the best I have experienced all season, knee-deep and delightful! I took Sun Up Express rather than going back down to High Noon, and shared the chair with a guy who tipped me off that the Yonder Trees were really lovely… and they were too!
But rather than continuing to progress east across the bowls, I flipped over to the front side to try my hand at Highline, and this was where I really found my groove. I was rocking out to country music on my iPod, and ended up lapping Highline chair over and over, alternating my runs between Highline (big double black bumps) and Blue Ox (smooth but super steep single black). They were so different from each other, but also so much fun, and I was excited to discover that I still really do love mogul skiing, even if all my training this season has taught me that I’m not very technically good at it 🙂
I finally left that area, taking Roger’s Run to Northface Catwalk, veering off to take #38 for the final stretch down to the Vail Village base. #38 is a steep mogul trail that usually has lots of exposed spots (given how close it is to the base), and with the light coverage this year, there were definitely lots of dirt spots and rocks to avoid! When I got to it, there were two skiers standing on the edge trying to decide whether to go down, and I felt proud that I didn’t need to stop and ponder with them; I just went up and over and knew that I was good enough to make it down safely and smoothly. That felt great!
I caught the bus back to my car pretty quickly, and then went home and caught up on some blogging… but got lazy and skipped going for an afternoon run, like I had originally planned. Oops! But I wasn’t just left to my own devices for the evening; I had a bit of a deadline with a friend coming up.
Remember J? We dated for four months, and I taught him to ski in January. I hadn’t seen him since we broke up, but we both really wanted to get to ski together again. He had been up to Copper a half dozen times practicing on his own / with his kids, and he was particularly eager to show off his skills and get help with progressing further. I was pretty excited about the plan!
He got up to Minturn just after 7pm, and we headed down the street to Moonrise for cocktails. Moonrise is a new pop up at Sunrise Minturn, a coffee shop that used to only be open for breakfast and lunch. The drinks were delicious, but I didn’t love the atmosphere as much as I was hoping – it definitely still felt like a little coffee shop 🙁 I’m glad they opened though – it’s nice to have another option on Main Street!
As for dinner, we ordered Thai takeout down the street and enjoyed it with wine back at my house. We had a great night catching up on all kinds of things, and finally headed to bed around 11pm. Latest I’ve been up in a while, but it was worth it for the great conversation!
The next day, I woke up early and got a bunch of work done, then I made my favorite ski breakfast for J: Trader Joe’s pretzel bagels, lightly toasted and topped with vanilla cottage cheese and a dash of cinnamon. J is a huge Trader Joe’s fan, even inventing “J’s Buynary Scale” (JBS), where every product gets a yay or nay. (I adore the JBS and trust it wholeheartedly for TJ’s recommendations.) It was fun to introduce him to the pretzel bagels, and the whole meal got a big yes from him!
We took our time getting to the mountain, but when we finally did get there, we had a really fantastic day. J was a much better skier than I expected, and in spite of chatting so much the night before, we had tons more to talk about on the lift rides. We initially headed up from Bachelor Gulch to the top of Beaver Creek, since there is a huge beginner section at the top of Beaver Creek, but he was so good at the first two runs there that I realized he was definitely ready for blues. We headed down Red Tail, which is definitely not an easy blue, in part because it usually ends up pretty scraped off, but he did pretty well, and then we did some nice easy laps on Larkspur Bowl (J’s first bowl!) before stopping for lunch at Talons. While I had intended to pack a healthy lunch for my pocket, I accidentally left it at home. Instead, I followed J’s lead and got a burger and fries… and I did not regret that, as it was delicious!
After lunch, we headed over to Bachelor Gulch to tackle a bunch of blue runs there. J kept getting better and better, and I didn’t think it was just because the snow was getting softer and thicker (which can be easier for learning, since it slows you down). He was such a fast learner!
Although the warm temps should have been a cue, the end of the day snuck up on me because I was having so much fun, and I was surprised while skiing down Gunders to realize that the lift had shut down and we had to be done. Bummer! We went back to my place to shower and clean up, and then headed to Vail Brewing for apres. But I couldn’t stay too long, as I had those plans with Kirk and Heather that I mentioned…
The three of us (I invited J to join but he needed to get back to Denver) had reservations at The Rose, one of my favorite restaurants in the Vail Valley, for a 17-course omakase sushi and sake tasting. I was so excited! It ended up not being quite as epic as I had hyped it up to be in my mind, but it was still pretty delicious, and I was also really happy to hang out with Kirk and Heather again – it has been a really long time.
Finally, while Monday should have meant “back to reality”, it was actually one more day off my consulting job in order to teach skiing! I had a private lesson as my last teaching gig of the season, and had a great time teaching a family of absolute beginners. They were extremely fast learners, and we progressed from the bunny hills to the true beginner terrain by the end of the day. Unfortunately, though, one girl fell and hurt her knee a bit at the end – nothing serious, as it turned out, but I didn’t want to chance it, so she got a toboggan ride down the mountain while I skied with her sister down 🙁 I was devastated to have an incident like this with one of my students, but the beauty in writing about it a week later is that I now know everything is fine and it wasn’t a serious injury. Plus, her family asked me if I could teach another private lesson for them on Thursday. I couldn’t take another day away from my consulting job, but it felt good to be asked!
So… that wraps my season of teaching skiing! It also may wrap up my ski season (or “skison” as J termed it) entirely, as I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get back to the mountains again for these last few weekends they’re open. I am definitely sad that the season is over, but really excited for more trail running… and before I know it, it will be winter again and I’ll be thrilled to get to teach again 🙂