While we were committed to skiing for the kids' ski week, we were not committed to Tahoe due to the ski conditions there this season. Eddie and his family have been enjoying Beaver Creek, so we decided to give it a try. It was snowing when we arrived and the Vail Pass was closed just as we approached it. Without local knowledge, we just did what Waze told us to do and ended up driving an extra 45 miles around the pass on white-knuckle, slow-paced roads. The most important thing was that we made it safely, but it was a long day of travel.
We stayed at the Westin, which was a very nice property, but required a bit of extra logistics to get everyone to ski school in the morning. The kids and Grace all attended school on Monday and Tuesday. I was alone and unsupervised, which allowed me to get some respectable vertical feet in between drop off and pick up. I had my greatest hits on shuffle on Spotify for two days straight and it was awesome.
On Wednesday, the kids had negotiated a family ski day, which was a lot of fun for all of us. At times, it ended up being Grace and Lucas and me and Olivia. Because they were relentless in beating me down on ski school, I thought carefully (but didn't consult an attorney) and came up with the following proposal. If either kid could ski three different black diamond runs without crying, falling or stopping, they would no longer need to attend ski school and I would happily ski with them wherever and whenever. Immediately upon putting it out there, they were trying to negotiate me down.
Olivia decided to test the challenge and wanted to ski President Ford's (the Wolverine connection was of course explained) at the end of Wednesday, which was a periodically steep groomer that turned into a blue at the bottom. I tried to say it didn't count, but in the end gave her half credit even though she did stop (not the most important requirement) and admitted she had some tears in her eyes, "but didn't cry." I was proud of her for trying and getting down nonetheless.
Between the Alpine World Ski Championships, which were finishing up just as we were leaving, and some other events at the hotel, we could only stay there through Thursday. However, we didn't want to cut our trip short, so we moved over to Vail for a night. On Thursday, Grace and the kids switched to ski school at Vail. The kids were resistant after recalling their last 4-day stints there a couple years ago.
I ended up hooking up with Arthur that day, which was part of my motivation of moving over to Vail. Unfortunately, Kjell was ill and didn't make it out. Arthur, as always, did his best to destroy my spirit while I did my best to keep up. We skied non-stop (no lunch, no water and I even had to pee in the woods). I survived the longest (unexpected) drop I can recall since my 20s as well as a slight groin pull.
The stinkers were a little leery of moving to the Four Seasons after our Santa Barbara experience. Thankfully, it exceeded their expectations (and ours). Although it isn't right next to the mountain, they more than make up for it with their shuttles and other services that make skiing in and out as painless as possible.
On Thursday night, we had dinner with Arthur, Heidi, Kjell, and their friends, Jean and Lars. We didn't have a sitter arranged, but Heidi was kind enough to let our kids join theirs for a few hours. The sitter literally had her hands full with Aurelia and the rest of the crew. We had an amazing and hilarious dinner at Left Bank. Arthur says he's never been there in 43 years, which is ironic because Grace and I went there a couple years ago. It has since been remodeled and was excellent. The boys all shared rack of lamb, while the ladies enjoyed beef and elk. Lars ordered wine and someone else ordered 9 desserts.
Friday was supposed to be another family ski day. We slept in and had a very leisurely breakfast. In the end, only Lucas wanted to ski with me. By the time we got to the top of the mountain, it was dumping snow. He wanted to show me a couple runs, but about a quarter of the way down, with a snow-covered face, he told me he was done. I told him we could try to ski the bottom of the mountain where it might be less snowy and he agreed. I knew he was fine because he talked non-stop on the way down, which I loved. I couldn't hear much, but what I did hear was about the trees (he didn't know what kind they were) and how they shared the same roots and were like one big tree covering the area of Rhode Island. When asked where he learned this, he couldn't recall. My other favorites were "hey, was that a bunny hole?" and "c'mon, Dad!" We stopped at the base for hot chocolate and Olivia and Grace ended up meeting us at The Red Lion. It was now snowing sideways at the base, so Lucas was done. Even though he only lasted one (long) run, it was one of my best days ever. I borrowed Lucas's goggles and headed to the top for one last epic run in 4-6 inches of fresh snow).
It was another slow and treacherous drive out of Vail, but we made it to the airport with several hours to spare and managed to have a civilized meal (after talking Olivia down from Panda Express). Lucas wanted to sit in the 2nd row of the airplane, but we were actually in last class. For some reason, he stayed up almost the entire flight and was barely conscious when we arrived past midnight. It was nice to be home after a great family vacation.