West Bloomfield Ski Trip to Austria

During last year’s West Bloomfield ski trip to Whistler, we discussed doing something more adventurous in 2020 as we are all turning 50 years old (50!). We discussed somewhere in the Alps. I’ve been wanting to ski in Japan, too, but haven’t yet made it happen. As the plans were coming together, the best week for some of the group just happened to be right after the kids’ ski week, which was still a priority for me. Therefore, I told them to just go ahead and plan without me.

After seeing Nick over the holidays, we discussed the trip and inquired with the rest of the team about the details. Grace was super cool with me going. I even talked to my team about my reservations about being gone so long and they encouraged me to press the “F***-it button.” Once I confirmed with the powers that be, Nick and I both made our arrangements to join the trip.

The group had been discussing various itineraries in Europe and had settled on skiing in Austria in St. Anton am Arlberg. There was some consideration for adding another location, but thankfully we avoided a lot of additional logistics by sticking to one spot. Most of the group arrived just before Nick and I met up at the Zürich airport. We were like lost kids once we got to the Zürich Main Station. We had just missed the earlier train by a few minutes, which was fine because it took us about an hour to figure out where to get our tickets (mobile app) and the proper platform, which was more elusive than getting to Hogwarts on 9 3/4.

Once aboard, we settled in for our 2h 20m train ride to St. Anton. It was a shame that it was dark out and that we couldn’t see any of the Swiss and Austrian country-side. Unbeknownst to us, we also passed through Lichtenstein. Even though the walk from the train station to the hotel was short, it was still a huge pain in the ass with us each carrying skis, boots, gear, etc. At the hotel, Mike, Steve, Scott and Herb were already waiting for us. The 25th was Mike’s actual 50th birthday, but we arrived a little too late to celebrate properly.

Every morning, we were treated to a beautiful Tyrolean breakfast at the hotel. It had apparently not snowed for 5-6 weeks, but we were lucky that it just started snowing as we headed out to ski. The weather was so severe that the lifts to the other areas of the mountain were closed. This region is unique in that about 6 different towns/ski areas are all interconnected by trails and lifts, making it one of the top five largest in the world. We were, however, land-locked in St. Anton for a couple days, which mean there were a lot of people to dodge and sometimes long lift lines. I will say that one of the downsides of skiing there is the chaos on the gondola and lift lines. There is just one big crowd that inches their way towards the front, which leads to sharp elbows and an un-relaxed experience.

On the first day, we got caught in a white-out high up on one of the mountains. It would be exaggerating to say zero-visibility, but it was really more like 10 feet. I’ve never experienced anything like it. We got separated and I was just trying to make my way down as fast as possible, which wasn’t very fast. There are signs to mark the trail, presumably for this very situation, but even those were hard to find. At one point, the snow was moving past me so quickly that I thought I was moving backwards, which was completely disorienting. I had no idea where to go or where I was. Thankfully, the group was able to rendezvous lower on the mountain. The rest of group had rescued a young woman who was separated from her family and asked to ski with them. Just 100 yards from a lodge in which we took shelter, we got separated again from Mike and Steve who completely missed it.

Day two was less treacherous. We had lunch on the mountain at a place recommended to us and it was excellent. Even by this time, however, I realized how heavy the food was in Austria, and I couldn’t take another schnitzel, gröstl, burger or frite. I had to opt for a salad for dinner at Fuhrmann-Stube, one of the best restaurants in town.

On the evening before our third day of skiing, it snowed about 11 inches. After skiing another morning in St. Anton, Mike was very curious to try Rendl, the area on the other side of the train tracks. I’m thankful for his persistence because as we headed over there, the skies opened up for a bluebird, knee-deep powder day with the most spectacular scenery. It really can’t be described, but from top of every lift, there was a different breathtaking view and vantage. I was in awe all week.

On the fourth day, we decided to explore more of St. Anton and beyond. We went much higher up on the Valluga lift. Scott has a healthy survival instinct, so he didn’t go, but the reality was he could have easily skied down from there. Once again, there were amazing new views. We skied all the way to Lech, Stuben, and finally down to St. Christophe. Our terrible lunch that day was made up by the best meal of the week at Hazienda. I’ll be honest that I didn’t find the people to be the most hospitable and friendly in town, but our servers at Hazienda couldn’t have been more kind and gracious. I also had one of the best “sandwiches” (beef tenderloin club) of my life.

On day five, it snowed again overnight. Herb headed home after breakfast. It didn’t seem like as much snow, but we went back over to Rendl. We had the most amazing groomer run of the week until we skied into a cloud and low visibility. We decided to head up to the top (Scott excepted), and found blue skies and deep powder. I had one of my best powder runs of my life. I’m not going to lie. It was scary to get over to the fresh snow as there are exposed rocks everywhere off-piste. I had a slight code-brown staring down from the narrow traverse down the steep hill to rocks below. Once we were in the clear, Steve took a little tumble and while we waited for him, I noticed a small avalanche had happened right above his friend, Ramin, who was right above me. I thought it best not to wait and took the ride of my life (thanks for the video, Mike!).

As it warmed up, the snow became a little mashed potatoes and sticky even on-piste. We called it a day a little early to avoid injury and get ready to pack and head out. Our train was surprisingly delayed to get back to Zürich. Despite researching a nice dinner for us in Zürich, it turned out to be better that we didn’t and we ended up just having dinner at our hotel. I headed out by myself for a few minutes before to take some pictures. We also went for a short walk together afterwards and then watched the end of a terrible Michigan game. Spartan-helmet-wearing Nick couldn’t bare to watch for other reasons. 

We didn’t have much time on our last morning together. Nick headed out early after breakfast. Steve, Scott, Mike and I took a short walk near our hotel. Steve was staying an extra night and the rest of us took a car to the airport (which was great because I was tired of schlepping all of my gear). The silver lining of being delayed a few hours at the airport was that I was able to process all my photos. Sorry, but I chose the best 143 of them.

This was no doubt our best trip ever. That said, not all of the team could make it, for very good reasons. They were missed. We’re already planning for next year, and while it probably won’t be as epic, with this crew, it will be just as memorable and fun. Here’s to the next 50!

Ski Week 2020 in Tahoe with The Moons

Clara and Mike invited us to Tahoe for ski week. Unfortunately, Grace’s aunt passed away the day before our trip, so she went to Florida to be with the Hur side of the family for most of the week. Lucas, Olivia and I headed up to Tahoe on Saturday for the week.

We didn’t have last year’s epic snow, but there was enough. I learned the hard way that sometimes, enough isn’t enough. On Monday, we planned to take the only mogul run on the back for the last run of the day, hoping things had softened up in the warm temperatures. About 3 turns in at the top, I came over the back side of a rock-hard mogul and pulled my calf pretty badly. I thought maybe it was just a cramp, but I had a hard time getting down. I was able to limp back to the lodge but soon realized I could ski better than I could walk.

The kids were hoping for some down time, which they got for the next couple days while I stayed off my leg. I was determined to make sure they got in some runs, so we skied on Thursday and Friday and I was 80%. It was bluebird days every day. They had a lot of fun with Alex and Nico both on and off the slopes.

The Binzers came in from Portland for the second half of the week and we were all able to ski and hang out together. It was a bummer that Grace wasn’t with us, but I know she appreciated the time with her extended family. Thanks, Moons, for another fun week together in Tahoe!

Celebrating Bobby’s 50th in Las Vegas

Even though Bobby is not the biggest fan of Vegas, he happened to be there for work and suggested we meet up for a golf trip. And although he is isn’t turning the big 5-0 for another couple weeks, Ed and I used the milestone to justify squeezing this trip in to an always busy winter. Ed even moved his call and a day of surgeries around.

Fun Bobby only turns 50 once. Because he is so much older than us, it was only fitting that we mark the occasion to honor him. We stayed at the Cosmopolitan instead of our usual Encore/Wynn. The crowd is a little younger and there is more to do/eat there.

The weather, while not pool-perfect, was still awesome. The wind was up at Paiute Wolf, which is already super challenging. We posted some really bad scores. On Saturday, we played at Bear’s Best, which is our home course. Although the weather couldn’t have been more perfect, the scores didn’t improve too much.

We had three great dinners on the trip at STK, Scarpetta and Milos. The latter two were a first for me and both were excellent, especially Milos, which is a fun experience (whole grilled fish is the way to go).

The trip might have been about four hours too long, which is why I left for the airport four hours early with Bobby. Had a great time with these life-long best friends (and best men).

Happy Birthday, Bobby!

Fair warning that I’m going to be playing this milestone birthday card all year long.

Olivia’s 13th Birthday Party

We’re so happy Olivia found her people during her first semester at Nueva. She invited some of them (and her brother) to her 13th birthday party, which included our old-time favorite, bowling, pizza on the Ave., and dessert at our house. We feel fortunate for these friendships and hope they continue to flourish.

Skiing Beaver Creek with Friends

The kids had an extra week of winter break after Christmas so we took advantage and decided to go skiing. Winter break skiing has been hit or miss for us the past couple of years. Last year’s trip to Deer Valley will likely not be topped, though we had our fingers crossed that the opportunity might present itself to Ann and Jeremy (and then to us). We waited for word, but it wasn’t happening so we needed a plan B. Plan A for skiing is usually Beaver Creek, so looked into that.

It turned out that Eddie’s family was also planning to be there, though we would only overlap a couple days. Of course we also wanted Ann and Jeremy to join us, but it’s complicated when everyone is on a different season pass and Colorado is Vail/Epic country. In the end, they decided to give it a try and we all stayed at the same resort.

We traveled again on Olivia’s birthday. Last year’s birthday dinner at the Deer Valley Seafood Buffet was not such a big hit and I wanted to make it up to her. We invited everyone to join us at Grouse Mountain Grill, which is usually always solid. This time, however, we were seated very late, dinner dragged on for more than two hours, and not everyone’s food was great. I don’t think we’ll return.

We got to ski with Eddie’s family on the 31st as the Rogers kids were taking a break as they had already been on the mountain a few days. We tried to keep it simple by celebrating New Year’s Eve in the hotel, but dinner was again a disaster and again dragged on for hours. The kids left to play Nintendo in the room. I think Ethan was looking for redemption from last year, but I don’t think he got it.

Olivia had come down with a cold, so she and Grace stayed in on the 1st and I skied with Jeremy and Elsen and on the 2nd, Lucas and I skied mostly together. Olivia rallied on the 3rd and we skied the same double-blacks we skied last year together. We finally had a really great meal at Vin 48, which we hadn’t tried in all of our previous trips. It will now be in the rotation.

Ann and Jeremy left early on the 4th. I skied by myself for a couple hours in the morning. We made our only stop in Vail for lunch on the way out of the mountains.

We had great snow and weather for most of the week and the only bummer was that Grace and Olivia only got to ski a couple days. We’ll have to make it up this winter.

Last Tahoe Trip with Elin

Elin was hoping to go on one last ski trip with. us before returning to Sweden. Thanks to some early snow, we went for a short weekend up to Northstar at Tahoe. We rarely (if ever) leave early on Saturday morning, but somehow we made it out the door and onto the mountain by 11am, which is about when we would be skiing even if we had stayed overnight.

We had a late night in the arcade after dinner. Sunday morning, we had a full breakfast and Elin helped us with our holiday card. There was some more snow on Saturday night, which made Sunday skiing one of the best days ever on the mountain that I can recall. Grace opted out of skiing on Sunday, which meant that Lucas, Olivia, Elin and I went to explore the mountain. We found a lot of fresh powder out there.

Hopefully we’ll ski again with Elin, maybe next time in Europe!

10th Annual U of M Holiday Party

Up until a few weeks ago, there was radio silence on our annual U of M holiday dinner. Thankfully, we were able to lock in a date and the Hoffmans graciously offered to host at their beautiful house. One thing that makes it hard to find a time are those pesky kids and their schedules. We lost the Thornes at the last minute due to an out-of-town soccer tournament. We also lost our lone Aussie, Michael, due to work.

The rest of us had to press on with delightful food and company. Look at all of these beautiful smiles and festive people! Jenn preparing her salad in the laundry room / sous-chef area is something out of an InStyle spread. The white elephant gift exchange was rather tame, with only a few real stinkers, which Jenn had a knack for selecting. The squatty potty was a nice touch and thanks to Matt for demonstrating. Cutest couple goes to Jason and Ben.

The older we get, the earlier this party breaks up. That said, I’ll never tire of this group of amazing friends. Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

Lucas’s 11th Birthday

Lucas turned 11 on November 1st. We had a family dinner at Benihana and he invited a couple of new school friends from the neighborhood. They are super sweet and polite kids. We opened our family presents and cards at home afterwards. Grace and I usually don’t buy the kids presents because they get so much from their generous family and friends. However, this year Lucas’s had been white boarded his list all year (ranked), so we took some cues and knocked out #1. He was so happy. We also got him a dozen golf balls in his favorite color, orange. I was so happy.

In keeping with our tradition of themed birthday parties at home, Elin and Grace prepared Lucas’s favorite meal of spaghetti and meat balls along with his Pokemon decorations. He had a small group new and old school friends.

Grace also organized an escape room activity for them. Despite the creepiness, they worked together really well and managed to escape with 90 seconds to spare.

Happy 11th Birthday, Lucas! We love you.

Sigma Nu Reunion at U of M Homecoming

Anyone who knew me for my first 19 years, or even first 49 years, might be surprised that I would join a fraternity. But, for a number of reasons, I returned to U of M for my sophomore year determined to try something different. Unfortunately, that didn’t include becoming a better student. I went through the Fall Rush process and found a house where I knew a couple of people and seemed like a good fit for me.

One main consideration was that up to that age I didn’t drink at all, which made the prospect of being a pledge all the more improbable. However, Sigma Nu was founded as a non-hazing fraternity, so if I believed it possible to remain myself, while at the same time expanding my horizons, it seemed the right place for me. Thankfully, the existing members somehow felt the same way about me.

I often reflect on how I could be standing by the keg at a party and someone out of courtesy would offer me a beer before they realized to whom they were speaking. It wasn’t uncommon for that person to apologize. Listen, we were young, and did truly idiotic things all the time, but even at that age, there was also respect, maturity and inclusiveness that I appreciate to this day. Reflecting further, I know we could have done even better, but I do believe there was a sense of honor and collective consciousness that made this group different from most others (I’m biased, of course).

This past weekend, dozens of brothers from all eras returned to Ann Arbor to celebrate a number of things at Sigma Nu. A little over 10 years ago, the house had lost its way. Despite efforts by alumni to help them get back on track, they were ultimately kicked off campus. It was sad to have another fraternity living in our house, and trashing what was one of the most beautiful, grand homes on campus (again, biased).

Thanks to some students who didn’t see the house they were looking for on campus, and with the help of alumni, the house corporation, and the national organization, Sigma Nu was recolonized over the last couple years and this Fall a great group of young men moved back into a partially renovated (i.e., inhabitable) house at 700 Oxford Rd. Super big shout out to Brownie, who has invested so much time and energy to making this happen.

It was also a celebration of 100 years of Sigma Nu at U of M, so there were festivities both before and after the Iowa game.

My personal experienced included:

  • Golf on Friday at Radrick Farms, hosted by Paul and Ryan. We’re terrible at golf. Thank you!
  • Jon and Greg hosted everyone at the Pretzel Bell on Friday night. Aside from great friends whom I have seen over the years, it was great to catch up with Tony Grover and Mark Tanase. Mark did his best to discredit the rumors that he is in the CIA. Later, we put together that the Obamas were also in town for Parents Weekend. Coincidence?
  • The most important reunion for me was seeing Eric and his son, Charlie. I’m not allowed to call him Eric (Grub, Grubbie, E-Dubs are all preferred), but he was one of my groomsmen and will always be one of my best friends. I don’t know how it happened, but I haven’t seen him since … my wedding!?! There’s no good excuse, except that we fly often over the great state of North Carolina instead of to it. He stayed with me at Grace’s family’s home, which allowed for a lot of quality time to catch up.
  • Also staying with me was Chip (Douglas) and his son, Anthony. Anthony, being 15, went a little harder this weekend and basically had the best time of his life.
  • Jen has had season tickets since college and this was my first time sitting in them (thanks, Jen). Jack needed a single ticket and joined me. It was great catching up with him and listening to the commentary from the two old guys in front of us who probably have been calling games for decades.
  • I guess everyone’s experience starts with older guys and ends with younger guys. I stopped by the older guys tailgate before and after the game and caught up with great group of men to whom I always looked up.
  • Back at the house, I got to see many friends, including a lot of younger guys I got to know because it took me 5 years to finish college.
  • Grub and I took Charlie for ice cream and then back to home after a long, long day. I went to Fran and Jon’s to catch the end of the MSU-OSU game. When I left, I asked where Chip was and he was still at the house! I went back over there, where a few really old guys were likely cramping the style of the students who were trying to get their party going.
  • Somehow, we ended up at the Brown Jug at midnight with a bunch of much older guys. Chip and I supervised a few high-school sons who all go to school together in DC, but had no idea their dads were fraternity brothers (we were essentially the vape enforcement squad).
  • The next morning, we skipped the two-hour wait at Avalon and took our chances at Zingerman’s, only to find the shortest line ever. It was brilliant and Charlie had his first Zingerman’s sandwich.
  • We said our goodbyes at M-Den. By goodbye, I mean see you next year, because we made a pact to make it an annual tradition. I’m in!

Best weekend with the best guys ever. GO BLUE!