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.

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.

Rhee Family Christmas in Michigan – 2019

Due to my dad settling into a new health care regimen, he wasn’t able to travel to NY for the holidays as we had planned. Although we were just in Michigan for Thanksgiving, Jen, Grace and I decided to return to Michigan to spend the holidays with my parents. I know my mom wanted us to go ahead and see the cousins, but it was important to spend this family time together.

Because we made last minute changes to our flights, we ended up on a redeye from SF to Detroit, leaving shortly after saying our farewell to Elin. In addition to seeing the grandparents and aunt Jen, the kids were also excited to see Blue. They took some turns taking him for walks and to the park. It was the warmest Christmas I can ever recall in Michigan and no one was really complaining about missing a white Christmas.

We didn’t want my mom to feel like she was hosting and feeding us, so we planned a lot of meals out. Christmas Eve dinner was at Eddie V’s. Jen, Grace and mom did spend most of Christmas cooking for dinner at home, which was beautiful. My mom’s bestie, Mia, joined our family for dinner.

Once again, the kids got too much stuff from all the relatives. For this reason, we don’t often get them anything, but what we did get them was purchased pre-owned from Mercari. They were thrilled.

On the 26th, we went downtown for lunch and ate at San Morello, where Melanie and Nick took us in August. We ran into some old friends who were also visiting from the Bay Area. On the way home, I wanted to show the kids where Jen and I lived before moving to West Bloomfield in 1973. We lived on two streets, Margaret and Savannah, between Woodward Ave. and John R. My parents couldn’t remember the exact number or house, which likely didn’t exist anymore as only about 20% of the original houses are still standing in this significantly blighted area. I wanted to give Olivia and Lucas some perspective, not only for where they live, but also for our family’s humble beginnings.

Friday evening, we met up with the Feleses for an evening at Top Golf. It was our first time and a lot of fun. Uncle Nick’s swing is as beautiful as Fred Couples’. Olivia was invited to an impromptu sleepover with Eve and had a lot of fun. Although they rarely see each other, the kids always pick up where they left off.

Saturday, we celebrated my dad’s 84th birthday at Benihana. I’m glad to say he’s doing a lot better than he was when I saw him at Thanksgiving. We’re thankful for all the time the kids were able to spend with them this year and hope they can come visit us in California again, soon.

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!

Thanksgiving 2019

This was a Park Thanksgiving. We decided to all meet in Michigan, as Delaney was already there for college, and the Hur family is in the area. We stayed with my parents, with Jen and Blue. Elin has been staying with us for a couple of months. After some days exploring Austin and New Orleans, she flew up to Detroit to spend the holiday with us.

To avoid the madness of traveling during Thanksgiving, we flew out on Wednesday and returned on Saturday. It was a rainy week, but we spent some time outdoors walking Blue and showing Elin around my home and around U of M.

Grace’s parents don’t keep too much in Ann Arbor, so instead of trying to cook, we ordered in a complete Thanksgiving dinner from Zingerman’s. As you can imaging, it was delicious. On Friday, everyone came over to my parents’ house for dinner and to give Olivia and Lucas more time to spend with Delaney and Cameron.

Dave took Jen’s tickets for the Ohio St. vs. Michigan game, while the rest of us watched the brutality from the comforts of home. The kids love Buddy’s pizza, so we had that for lunch. I spent some time senior- proofing my parents’ house.

We have much for which to be thankful, especially precious time with our parents and family.

Touring Michigan with Friends – 2019

Every year my week off while the kids are at camp is a little different. A lot of it depends on how much of the week Grace chooses to spend with me. The good news was that Grace was going to take the entire week off. The bad news was that it was decided very late, so I wasn’t able to book lodging at Arcadia Bluffs.

JP was also non-committal this year, but we twisted his arm into playing twilight golf with us at Forest Dunes after camp drop-off. This was the first time Grace and JP played together, so they got their first on-course dose of each other. It was a beautiful day (despite 800 gnats swirling around your head during every shot). We had dinner together before JP headed back to Canada and Grace and I drove up to Traverse City.

Grace and I played alone at Grand Traverse the next day. It was our first time staying there and pretty nice. Afterwards, we dropped by to see Frances and Jon at the cabana, which has grown since the last time we were there. Coincidentally, the Caries and Brimhalls were staying with them, so it was so nice to catch up with everyone. I know it’s trite, but when you don’t see kids for a while or even a year, they can get big. Jake is huge, at least compared to baby Jake.

The following day we spent with my parents. That evening, Melanie and Nick took us downtown for roof-top drinks and dinner at San Morello, which is in the Shinola Hotel. I spent my first five years after college working out of a downtown Detroit office. It certainly has changed and it was a perfect evening to show off. Thanks, Mel and Nick, for an amazing dinner.

On Wednesday, we played golf with Jin and DJ at U of M. The new club house is beautiful. The course is as tough as ever. Thursday, we played with Spencer, who I hadn’t spent time with in forever. I forgot to mention that when I dropped the kids off the prior week, the Rhee families had dinner together. I stopped by the new house in Northville and also drove by Paul and David’s old house on Mayo Dr., which was a huge part of my childhood.

Afterwards, we headed back up to Forest Dunes with Jin. Friday morning, we played a quick round before heading to camp for visitors day, where we saw many more old friends.

Even though we squeezed a lot in to our week in Michigan, I know there were many friends I didn’t get a chance to see this trip. We’ll be back!

Spring Break in Maui with The Lees

We’ve traveled before with Julie and Albert, but never for a week. I don’t know why because our kids (and the adults) always have such a good time with our BFFs. We haven’t been to Hawaii in 8 years, mostly because they were usually Grace’s work boondoggles. The kids were too young to have any memory of it, so this was all new to them.

Going to Kapalua on Maui is a little bit of a golf bucket-list destination, so I was excited … until we got the news that the Plantation course was closed for renovations for a year. No worries, we were really just chaperoning these five kids so they could be on their devices in one of the most beautiful places and in close proximity to the ocean. Our au pair, Ala, also came along. Hawaii was a first for her, so she went to Oahu right after we arrived to explore by herself for a couple days.

Albert’s cousin lives on the island, so they spent a few days with us as well at the resort with their daughter and brand new baby. The kids had endless ours of fun at the pool and down at the beach. We went and explored Lahaina and Kaanapali and had a lot of great meals throughout the week. On April 9th, Julie and Albert joined me and Grace in celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary at Merriman’s. Julie and Albert could write the Lonely Planet guide to Luaus and took all of us to one at the Westin in Kaanapali on our last night there. One of those fire-spinning dudes was not like the others.

By the end of the week, everyone had their fill of Spam musubi. Everyone was ready to get home to their pets (Max and Luna). It was a sign of a relaxing and restorative vacation. Our families are often like one, and we hope the kids will always feel that way about Olivia, Ellie and Theo. Looking forward to our next big adventure together.

Mahalo.

Spring Skiing in Tahoe

The weekend of March 30th, we went up to Tahoe to get some more skiing in before the end of the season. Olivia has soccer practice on Friday nights until 8pm, so we left right after she was done. Olivia has not been a fan of fast food for most of her life, but for some reason was craving McDonalds. We made a drive-thru stop on the way and she sampled the McNuggets. They are a drug. I had my first McDonalds French fries in a couple years. Also drugs. Lucas didn’t sample the McNuggets, but he is not curious to try them. Fries are the gateway drug to other McDonalds foods.

We didn’t arrive to the hotel until midnight. We’re not a first-chair kind of family, so after a proper breakfast, we hit the slopes. We had just missed some fresh snow a few days before, but were now enjoying the bluebird conditions. I left my sunglasses at the Moons’ house on our last trip up, so I ended up burning my eyeballs before buying a new pair.

The Moons were also up at their house with friends so we met up with them for dinner on Saturday night. On Sunday, we skied for a few hours again after breakfast before changing, packing up, and heading home so as to not get home too late. The traffic wasn’t as bad as our last trip, but I’m still feeling that the drive is not the best use of time. Utah is looking better and better to us.