Ski Week in Beaver Creek and Vail

We had a great time during our first time in Utah after Christmas. The next big decision was where to go during ski week. Had we known Tahoe would be dumped on by an atmospheric river, we would have considered it, but maybe they got too much snow? We settled on our trusty Beaver Creek, which turned out to have just the right amount of snow, especially compared to our last trip there.

The other upside was that Jea and Eddie were going to be there with Audrey and Ethan. They’re often skiing over the long holiday weekend, but they don’t have the whole week off. We’ve had one other chance encounter several years ago when they were in Vail, but this time we were staying at the same hotel.

Coincidentally, Eddie and I went on a couple ski trips to this area just after college. Once, we drove with Bobby from Ludington, MI, stopped at a Cracker Barrel to pick up my buddy, Eric (Grub), in Illinois, and drove to CO. We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Avon, which is a stone’s throw from the Westin. Those trips were the last time I skied with Eddie, which was why it was so awesome to ski with him again. It was just a few runs over a couple days before they left, but still fun like old times.

Poor Audrey wasn’t feeling well, so we didn’t see her on the slopes. We spent some time with their friends from DC, who were their hosts. Olivia and Lucas have apparently been playing too much Nintendo as they seemed to school the bigger kids.

The rest of the week it was just us. We tried a couple new restaurants in town, but mostly stuck with the old routine, including countless runs through Jack Rabbit Alley. One day we went over to Vail and tried to find Arthur and Sophia, but between timing and a big mountain, we didn’t hook up.

This was the kids’ first time skiing 6 days, which isn’t that impressive because we’re not a first-chair kind of family. Some days we got on the mountain just before lunch. It snowed a little while we were there, leaving just enough powder to keep everything soft. It was perfect conditions for Olivia and Lucas to tackle their first double-black diamond runs. They thought it was no big deal.

We were having a great time together until our very last run, we wen’t through some trees we had never skied, which seemed to be endless. Lucas straddled a decent sized tree and got stuck, which required me to hike up a fair way to dig him out. We were all ready to get off the mountain after that.

I knew no one was going to want to ski on our last day, so I went out early by myself. It had snowed about 4-6″ up top overnight and was a bluebird morning. I got in a few hours and called it quits while I was still in one piece.

Hoping to get in a few more days of skiing this season. With all the snow in Tahoe, it could be in June!

Colorado Ski Trip with WB Guys

This past weekend Steve, Scott, Herb and I met again in Beaver Creek for our annual ski trip. We had a great time last year in Colorado, so we decided to head back again. We were missing some of our regulars, but four was still a great number on the slopes.

Friday was Steve’s birthday and although we didn’t convene until Saturday, his request was to watch the Michigan Basketball game. This year, we had a large suite at the Westin (where we usually stay). Rather than go out, we just watched the game in the room and ordered room service. It was a stressful game right up until Poole’s buzzer beater. We went nuts.

On Sunday, we skied at Beaver Creek. The conditions were a little firm, but the snow was infinitely better than it was back in December. We had dinner at Splendido, which I had been wanting to try for a while.

It snowed a lot starting Sunday afternoon and throughout the evening. Although it snowed 7″ in Beaver Creek, we opted to go to Vail, which received 5″ of fresh snow. We covered a lot of ground and had a great day on the mountain as it continued to snow. Sunday night, we had dinner at Grouse Mountain Grill, where we celebrated Nick’s birthday last year.

On Monday, we skied again at Beaver Creek, which receive another couple of inches overnight. We did some laps on Larkspur in the morning, which we hadn’t tried yet. The snow was amazing. Before lunch, Steve, Herb and I went up Grouse Mountain and skied Royal Elk Glade (at Eddie’s suggestion). It was the best run of the week – lots of run and everyone made it down safely. We met Scott for lunch before heading up again for one last run down Royal Elk Glade again.

Herb was staying an extra night, so Steve, Scott and I left around 3pm to get back to Denver for our flights. Another great trip is in the books. We’re already talking about next year and hope more of the team will join us.

Skiing in Beaver Creek and Vail before Christmas

The kids had the week off before Christmas so we decided to ski again before the holidays. We had settled on Beaver Creek, but didn’t make our plans until the last minute. I was showing the kids the World Cup, which was held in Beaver Creek at the end of November and it seemed fine. It wasn’t until after we made our arrangements and checked the weather that I found out there was hardly any snow and very little open. Uh oh.

We were locked in, so we just decided to make the best of it. Like last year, we were on our way to our holiday destination (Michigan this year), so we had 8 bags of luggage on the way there, as Elin was joining us for the week. Thankfully it all fit in the car. We have bad luck on I-70 as the road was closed at the Eisenhower Tunnel and we were forced to take the Loveland Pass, which caused a little delay.

On the way there I saw that our old friends, Betty and Andrew were already in Beaver Creek so we hoped to meet up. When we arrived at the mountain the next morning, they were the first people we saw. We met up with them again at lunch as they were leaving the next day.

The kids didn’t get to show Elin all their favorite runs because none of them were open. Despite that, there was still plenty of terrain to ride and we spent the whole week working on our turns (and hockey stop for Lucas). For months I was getting Lucas mentally ready to ski parallel this year. Up until this year, he skied a very wide stance, which made skiing parallel virtually impossible. We started with hockey stops (on both sides) and lots of sliding. I realized that both Olivia and Lucas could turn and stop pretty well when going right, but going left, not so much. From then on, they were only allowed to stop left (though there wasn’t full compliance).

We stayed at the Westin in Beaver Creek again and got a little more space for the five of us. We finally made it to Grouse Mountain Grill as a family, which I enjoyed for Nick’s birthday during the last season. On our third day, we skied a half day and headed over to Vail to watch Star Wars. Afterwards, Arthur invited us over for dinner. It was great to spend time with his mom and his sister’s family, who we see often in Vail.

We skied Vail on Thursday. The coverage was surprisingly thinner than Beaver Creek and it was a day of unsuccessfully avoiding rocks. Arthur made it out in the afternoon for a few runs together. We had more meals at some familiar places as well as tried some new restaurants in Vail during the week.

By week’s end, it snowed a few more inches and actually got quite cold. The last afternoon on Saturday were the windiest conditions in which I’ve skied (seemingly hurricane force). But, it was only my second chance during the week to let my new skis run as Grace and the kids called it a day early.

Even though the snow wasn’t the best (i.e., the worst), we still had a great time and both kids made great progress on their form and speed. I’d call it a success. Can’t wait to get back on the mountain under better conditions.

Colorado Ski Trip with WB Guys

After missing our annual ski trip last year, the WB guys reconvened in Colorado last weekend. This was the first time we’ve been to Colorado together since Chris was living there a couple decades ago. We’ve been going to Utah for several years. Steve graciously hosted us in a couple of his timeshare units in Beaver Creek.

We’ve been asking Nick to join us for years and he’s always politely declined. This year, I conspired with an influential person (Melanie), who surprised him with a plane ticket to join us over his birthday weekend (surprise!). Both of us were a little worried about the fallout, but he was a good sport about it.

I think Nick’s hesitation might have come from the misunderstanding that this was a hard-core ski trip. It didn’t take him long to realize the truth about old-man skiing is that the entire trip is planned around eating. Each day, we get up later and later and go to bed earlier and earlier. The trip is measured in calories vs. vertical feet.

On Thursday night when we got in, we headed over to Vail for dinner at La Bottega. Friday, we skied over at Vail in very Spring-like conditions. Friday was also Nick’s birthday. To celebrate, we had an amazing dinner together at Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek. I’ve been wanting to go there for a while, but we were never able to get in on our family trips. Melanie very thoughtfully arranged for some champagne and appetizers and every person in the restaurant seemed to know it was Nick’s birthday. The evening (and possibly the trip) culminated when the resident musician came over with his accordion to lead a rousing “Happy Birthday” to Nick. All this was topped off with bread pudding for dessert.

One other thing that Nick and Chris might not have bargained for was the Big 10 basketball tournament. Every day, lunch was planned around catching the end of the Michigan basketball game, which really meant the 2nd half (and sometimes included half time). They were good sports and cheered along with us Wolverines as we won every game including the championship.

We all skied Beaver Creek together on Saturday, followed by dinner at Maya at the Westin where we usually stay. Nick and Herb were both leaving on Sunday morning, so the rest of us didn’t get on the mountain until close to noon. Monday was the only day we got up early. Steve, Scott and I were there as the lifts opened as Chris had to work.

Everyone really seemed to enjoy Beaver Creek, so I expect we’ll return again. There’s already talk about going back to Whistler, where this trip all began over 10 years ago. I don’t think it matters much where we go as it’s always a good time, with good food and great friends. Until next time, fellas.

Skiing in Beaver Creek Before Christmas

Grace has pushed all in with family skiing, which is great. This year, everyone got a pass again, which finally makes sense as the kids have hustled their way out of ski school. The kids were off the entire week before Christmas so we took advantage of their time off to stop in Colorado on the way to the East Coast for the holidays.

We have things pretty dialed-in now at Beaver Creek, so we headed there again. We usually stay on California time whenever we travel and without the rush of ski school in the morning, there are no first tracks for this family. I’d say we were more than leisurely on this trip, but having passes makes it less of an issue to pack it all in every day.

On day 3, Grace gave the kids an out because she had to work in the morning and they took full advantage of it to sit in the tub for several hours watching their iPads. I took the opportunity to ski by myself and hit some terrain I had never explored before. It was very efficient. Eventually we met up for a late lunch and they rallied with all their gear. We went up the lift at the base and got on the mid-mountain lift 5 minutes before it closed to get in one run from top to bottom together.

Everyone is making great progress, especially Grace. Olivia opted to hit some black diamonds with me and was fearless. More importantly, she’s my best student and very actively does the things I ask her to do to promote good habits. Lucas is still a work in progress, but he’s not afraid of speed, which is awesome. Grace will need to keep up with him.

On day 4, we went over to Vail for a change of scenery. The snow seemed a lot better over there. Arthur was now in town and graciously invited us to park at his place which was a huge help in terms of logistics. He was deep on the other side of the mountain by the time we were heading up, but we eventually met for a late lunch. After skiing, we stopped by to say hi to Heidi, the girls, and his sister’s family.

One other nice coincidence on this trip was that my friends Judy and Danny were staying at the same resort. Grace hadn’t met them yet, but Judy and I had the honor of being maid of honor and best man in Jea and Eddie’s wedding over twenty years ago. The one and only time we had skied together was at Beaver Creek and Vail over a couple decades ago. And, Danny is Eddie’s business partner. The last time we hung out was at Ed’s surprise 40th. It was fun catching up and having the kids spend time together. Hopefully, we’ll all meet again.

Ski Week 2016 in Beaver Creek and Vail

Despite the much needed precipitation this winter, Tahoe has been hit and miss for us this season. We didn’t make any advance plans for ski week this year and when I did look into it, there were virtually no places to stay, which also told me it was going to be too crowded due to pent-up demand. Thus, we made a game time call about a week ahead to go back to Colorado, where the snow was plentiful and the crowds were light.

Grace had to work in the middle of the week, so we had to go the weekend before or stay the weekend after. We chose the former and headed out on Saturday. The drive to Beaver Creek was a lot easier this year, with warm weather and clear skies. It did end up snowing a bit the first couple nights, which helped to freshen the conditions.

We tried and failed to get the kids to ski school on day 1, so we ended up skiing together the whole trip. We skied Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and Thursday at Beaver Creek, and made a trip to Vail on Wednesday. The Moons happened to be in Vail for the week, so we met them for dinner on Monday while Grace was still in town. Grace had a 5am pickup on Tuesday to head back to Denver and fly home for meetings. Ouch.

On Wednesday in Vail, we met up with Arthur, Sadie and a friend on the mountain, had lunch, and met the rest of the Cinader crew on the mountain briefly. Afterwards, we went to meet up with the Moon boys to get in a few runs with them, too. We made a quick trip back to Beaver Creek to clean up before heading back to have dinner with Mike and the boys.

The rest of the trip was pretty chill. We skied one last day at Beaver Creek before cleaning up and driving back to Denver. Originally I had stopped for dinner, but was a little worried about getting all of our luggage from the rental car center to the terminal. Olivia and Lucas each had to pull a large roller and carry their car seat, while I schlepped the boot bag, ski bag, and a couple other small bags. They were super good sports about it and we ended up having a nice dinner at Elway’s again. Despite getting home after midnight, the kids were super travelers and everyone was happy to be home and see Grace.

Ski Week in Beaver Creek and Vail

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.