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!

Skiing with the WB Guys in Austria

Skiing in Whistler with WB Guys

Last weekend, the annual West Bloomfield ski trip went international, as we met up in Whistler, BC. We had a pretty good turn out this year, as Mike joined the regulars and Chris returned after missing last year. Steve, Herb Chris and I last came to Whistler together in 2006.

Looking back, not much has changed with us since then, including Steve’s coat. Yellow snow still follows Chris wherever he goes. We’re mostly there for the food.

We were lucky to receive 19″ of new snow over a couple of days. However, the low altitude and warmer temperatures meant rain at the base and knee deep mashed potatoes up top. Still, nothing to complain about. Mike obviously came prepared for the cold temperatures he’s used to back east. Scott continues to leave us in search of double-black runs. Eventually we always find him.

Herb’s specialty in Urology means he gets the most questions throughout the trip. Thankfully, he’s not performing any surgery in the room and no one needs a prescription from him (yet). Mike might have needed something to relax him for the glass-bottomed peak-to-peak gondola.

After a big mountain trip like this, I’m equally happy to see these guys as I am that everyone went home safely and in one piece. Thanks to all the SOs who continue to support our reunions. There may be something big in the works for next year, which is a milestone year for all of us. Looking forward to it regardless of where we meet up.

Dinner with Seth in Palo Alto

WBHS 30th Reunion

This past weekend the WBHS class of 1988 celebrated our 30th high school reunion. Jen, Randy, Stephanie, and Jodi did an amazing job or organizing this event at the Red Dunn outside the Trumbull & Porter hotel in Detroit. Brad was our awesome DJ. It was a great venue for all of us to catch up after too many years.

Like so many of our other reunions, it just never seems like enough time to catch up with everyone. Aside from so many good friends who weren’t able to attend, there were people I saw with whom I didn’t get to speak to, which is regretful. That said, I’m so thankful for all the meaningful connections I made over the weekend. It’s hard to catch up on decades of being apart. The best was reminiscing fun times and remembering our dearly departed friends.

As my kids grow, I get more and more perspective on how great my childhood was in West Bloomfield among so many great people. I feel fortunate for the friends we had, the space we had to explore and roam, and all the mischief we had up and down Orchard Lake Road.

Sorry for some out of focus photos included here – the softness was unintentional. Thanks to Ross for cropping me out of the photo with Nancy – fair warning for anyone needing an amputation below the ankle. Until we all meet again, take care, everyone!

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.