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 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.

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.

U2 – Joshua Tree Tour in San Diego with Childhood BFFs

I tried to get Chris to join us for U2 at Levi’s Stadium, but the timing just wasn’t right. After U2 added a San Diego stop to their Joshua Tree tour, Chris returned the favor and invited me to come down. Grace is in Hong Kong with her family and my parents are visiting to help out, so I didn’t decide to go down until this week.

About an hour after landing, Chris had me in a wet suit, crashing through the surf in a sea kayak, which was reminiscent of Castaway. I didn’t curse him the entire time, but I was wondering why he couldn’t just take me to brunch? Honestly, we had a great time and although I requested an encounter with a sea otter, the next best thing were sea lion cubs. The highlight was riding in on the surf to La Jolla beach in our kayak without disaster.

We stopped at Chris’s house to say hi to Laura and regroup. After Cooper and Stella came home from school, we went to Cooper’s football game before heading over to Steve and Vickie’s new house near University of San Diego. Scott was late getting back from SF, but arrived at Steve’s just after we did. We didn’t make it a priority to see the opening act (Beck) and had dinner before the show instead.

I’m just going to come out and say that the show at Levi’s wasn’t my favorite. It was only the 3rd stop on the tour and it seems they were still working out some glitches. They completely shit the bed on “With or Without You,” I didn’t like the arrangement of “Running to Stand Still” (my favorite JT track), and some of the other songs just seemed off. This San Diego show was the last US stop, so by now they had plenty of practice.

Everything about the show was better. Though technically it was the first day of autumn, it still felt like a warm summer night. The electricity of the crowd was palpable from the very beginning. There were more chills even though I knew exactly what to expect. They completely worked out “With Or Without You,” “Running to Stand Still” was closer to the album version, the encore set was better, and they finished the evening with “One” instead of a slow song that nobody had ever heard.

Most importantly, I was with my BFFs. Chris and Steve were with me at the Silverdome show. It wasn’t until last night that I found out that Scott wasn’t with us that night because he had too much integrity to call in sick to Dunham’s. Though looking back it’s a big regret for him (and us), it’s not surprising at all. None of these guys have changed a bit.

We packed a lot in during my 27 hours in San Diego. Thanks to Chris for hosting me for the show and at his home. Also, thanks to my parents for getting the kids to two soccer games and swim while I was gone.

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.

Celebrating Jen’s 50th in Las Vegas

This past weekend, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Jen’s 40th in Las Vegas in … Las Vegas! A lot of the same crew was there, including Jen’s childhood friends from WB, NY friends, Chicago friends and her favorite brother. After a decade of going to Wynn/Encore, we decided to change it up and go to the Cosmopolitan.

Most people got in on Friday. We met for drinks and a snack and a short gambling sesh before dinner at Jaleo, which was a delicious Spanish tapas/paella restaurant at the Cosmo. Although she shouldn’t have, Jen treated everyone to dinner that night.

On Saturday, Grace and I met Jen for an early breakfast. A lot of the crew went on an excursion downtown to a Detroit-themed hotel and casino, called “The D.” Grace and I met up with Jea and Eddie and headed over to the Encore because we’re creatures of habit. The ladies did a little shopping while Eddie and I made the rounds to greet our casino friends.

Saturday evening, we had a super fun dinner at STK, where they were spinning some awesome 80s music. The food was awesome, Sherri finished her ribeye on the bone, and Kim sang convincingly into her wine glass. Friday was an early night for most, which could be blamed on the time change, but really it was because we got the beat down. Saturday, we got our revenge. Jen and I were up late with Grace, who hasn’t gambled in years.

On Sunday, Ray made a super effort and came in for a day trip. There was a lot of football betting and watching, which isn’t really my forté, so I stuck with what I know. Grace and I had one last nice lunch together before heading out. Some of the Chicago crew got snowed in and others were staying until Monday, so we wished them luck and went on our way.

Jen’s birthday celebration is continuing in Cabo this week. We wished we could have joined that trip, too, but Olivia and Lucas were already pissed about being left behind and our party pass expired.

Happy Birthday, Jen! We all love you so much and had a great time celebrating your big Five-O.

Visit from the Milano-Sessines

Jen and Mike brought the family out to the Bay Area for a long weekend. We were very happy that they spent a night with us for a long overdue visit. The last time Jen and Mike visited us in Burlingame was almost 15 years ago when they were traveling the world. They’re still globe-trotting with Zoë and Owen, but it’s usually to far-off, interesting places. We’re happy SF made an itinerary.

I told all the kids that while Mike and I didn’t start going to school together until 4th grade, our sisters became friends and forced a play date on us when we were in 3rd grade (i.e., about their age). Although that was almost four decades ago, I remember it very clearly.

Olivia and Lucas were sad the minute they drove away. We’re already looking forward to our next visit together, which will likely be on the East Coast.