THE ULTIMATE SKI ROAD TRIP
16th February 2017
It has seen huge amounts of snow this winter though there is no fresh powder at the moment.
Friday 17th February – Day 11
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
After a couple of days cruising the groomers and hitting the steeps of Breckenridge it’s time to get back on the road.
I got up early and was greeted with a stunning dawn from my room in the Double Tree hotel in Breckenridge.
The two resorts I’m off to are barely a snowball’s throw away – 25 minutes from Breckenridge to be precise.
Now regular readers of this blog will know I raved about Powder Mountain in Utah a few days ago, see here for that blog, as I passed through.
Well if I had the choice tomorrow of skiing Arapahoe Basin again or Powder Mountain again guess which one I would chose?
It would be Arapahoe Basin, and here’s why.
First of all it has had a serious amount of snow this winter.
It may not be pretty but the huge piles of snow in the car park tell their own story.
But I would return even if the snow wasn’t at its best – it is an utterly authentic ski hill it has some steep skiing and fabulous pistes.
I just slammed round the pistes at high speed.
There were very few people around so speed was the theme of the day.
On the lifts I met a host of characters.
‘Chad’ lives in Denver and regards this as his local hill.
He was ripping around on his own on a snowboard he had designed and built himself.
It looked more like a surfboard.
“I call it the slush crusher and boy can it carve too,” he enthused.
“Oh and don’t quote my real name as I’m supposed to be at work at the moment but my boss is out of town.”
The next local I had the pleasure of riding the lift with was Jonathan.
He had just hiked up this path (827 steps) to hit the steeps.
You may be able to make it out in the distance in the middle of the picture:
“The powder is all gone but it was great grippy snow and a challenge,” he said.
Jonathan has been a ski instructor at Keystone for the past 10 years, but comes here for his thrills.
“This is a local hill and pretty much the only people here are locals and they all just love their skiing,” he said.
“Now you take care of yourself, enjoy our hill and you are very welcome.”
My only problem was I simply could not get enough of the place.
Now if you are offended by swearing I advise you not to watch the next video below.
It just kind of slipped out in all my excitement.
And here is what the main slopes look like (without the swearing)
And on I went… taking the same lift each time and finding endless ways down… the mountain was my playground:
I skied through lunch (obviously) and then decided to head to Keystone.
As I passed the base of the top lift (my lift) to head down my body put the brakes on and skied into the lift queue – even though my brain said it was time to go back to the car.
This happened two more times.
I simply couldn’t tear myself away from the steep and super fast pistes that had just a handful of people lapping.
Each time I did the run in a single take and than chatted away on the lift with whoever I happened to sit next to .
But I managed to leave in the end.
The resort was just down the road and only required a single change of shoe – I was in an automatic after all.
Keystone was an altogether different affair.
A purpose-built resort aimed mainly at families.
Once on the slopes I was pleasantly surprised.
It was not A-Basin but there was some decent skiing to be had.
The slopes were wide open and cut through the trees – the two resorts were under 10 minutes apart but were light-years apart in what they offered.
Each resort is different and this is what makes skiing and visiting so many resorts interesting to me.
As I left the valley to head back to Breckenridge one thing was for sure – I had left a little bit of my heart in A-Basin.
It is a resort I will not forget and I will be back.
Next stop Banff, Canada, where I will be skiing with my son, Alex.
I hope I can keep up.
Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay in Alberta are planned.
And maybe Kicking Horse or Fernie in British Columbia.
And then I’m back in the USA in Colorado again where I’ll be skiing Vail, Beaver Creek and Copper before heading to Wyoming and Montana.
Life really doesn’t get much better – have a great weekend everyone.
Thursday 16th February – Day 10.
It’s been Groundhog Day.
I refer you to my blog from Wednesday.
Nothing much more to say really.
Another fabulous day.
You see strange things in hotel lobbies, but I have never seen one of these.
An oxygen bar – and very popular it was proving to be in my hotel in Breckenridge, The Double Tree.
The reason for it is simple – Breckenridge is above 3,000m and the air is thin.
If you come straight from sea level it can be a problem – headaches, lack of energy and difficulty in breathing.
A few years ago I came to Breckenridge straight from London and waking up with jet lag at 3AM and being unable to breathe is not a pleasant experience.
Luckily on this trip I was acclimatised after a week in the lower altitude resorts of Utah on my road trip.
But others are not so fortunate.
And oxygen is not just offered in the hotels.
There is an oxygen bar just off Main Street.
And two shops down is another one of Breckenridge’s shops if you want to inhale something else.
Residents can now buy marijuana like alcohol – with cannabis purchase limited to an ounce.
Oxygen and cannabis on sale next door to each other on Main Street – only in Colorado!
Wednesday 15th February – Day 9
So, what about Breckenridge?
Today was uneventful and even bordering on the boring – and all the better for it in my opinion.
I rarely get bored and it was rather relaxing.
Words have two meanings and for me today boredom meant chilling out.
I spent the day just cruising round one of my favourite large US resorts on my own.
All day I played Led Zeppelin on my iPod (only 1 headphone in case you are wondering, so I could also hear what was going on around me).
I started with Led Zeppelin 1 and worked my way through the entire catalogue.
Breckenridge is a favourite because it has some great skiing and, unlike some of the other household name US resorts I could mention, it lives up to expectations.
I am a big fan of Breck and I am not the only one – it is the most popular US resort with British skiers.
Right back to being bored.
The snow has longed since dripped of the branches and in the distance I could see rings of smoke through the trees.
So, it was time to swap my powder skis for my piste skis – Atomic redsters instead of Atomic vantages.
The powder skis that I had used every day in Utah were put away.
First stop – the highest lift in the USA.
Up a stairway to heaven.
From the top of the resort there’s a feeling I get when I look to the west – anticipation of what’s to come on this road trip as I am heading westwards.
The resorts of Aspen, Copper and Vail are that way – all places I will be visiting in a couple of weeks after nipping up to Canada.
And with that it was off to the Lake Chutes – it is the most difficult area of Breckenridge and goes beyond double black diamond – it is called ET, Extreme Terrain.
To be honest it is a bit of an exaggeration (the Americans like a bit of exaggeration).
Difficult yes, but not extreme.
The voices of those who stand looking were talking about its steepness.
But a new day will dawn for those that stand long.
It is always better to go quickly rather than wait – to be a rock and not to roll.
Given the current fabulous conditions the redsters held the snow superbly as I did it in a single fast take.
When I have one of my down days I just cruise round a resort chatting amiably to people on lifts, getting lost in Led Zeppelin and being entertained by whatever silly thoughts pop into my head.
I rather like my own company and the edge of boredom makes for a very relaxing time.
Apart from the steep slopes at the top (which do need concentration) the groomers ski themselves.
The redsters felt like they were on rails as I goofed off to Led Zeppelin and my thoughts.
There is nothing to report from the chairlift conversations , although my favourite question at the moment is “Did you vote for Donald Trump?”
Oh it makes me wonder as I hear the views.
I have had a few interesting reactions but I am saving them for a later blog.
Lunch was uneventful at the new Pioneer Crossing restaurant.
Though the restaurant bore an uncanny resemblance to one I dined in at Park City last week.
That’s America for you.
Perhaps because both resorts are owned by Vail Resorts?
I even had the same soup so I won’t post of picture of my food – but it did come in a different bowl.
The Park City offering came in a plastic affair I seem to recall.
After lunch I cruised the slopes from the restaurant and there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run I took the direct one down to Breckenridge.
Now if I had been a bird watcher I would have been in heaven this afternoon.
As I stopped on a steep traverse something caught my eye.
Can you see it?
Look closely bottom(ish) left.
A songbird (or two) who sings.
I have no idea what species they are (lets call them snow birds for argument’s sake) but burying yourself in the snow on a steep and frequently used traverse doesn’t seem the best natural habitat.
Though judging by their girth they are not under immediate threat of extinction.
Can you hear the wind blow?
I waved my arms around and shouted a few times, but they just dug deeper.
Perhaps they can’t fly.
It was time to wind on down the road.
Later I am due to go souvenir shopping with a female friend but if the stores are all closed with a word she can get what she came for – otherwise we’ll just head to the bars.
The first day of Week Two in a new US state on my #ultimateskiroadtrip.
I’m rather hoping this level of excitement continues.
I need a rest.
BTW – The observant reader might have noticed an odd phrase or two.
There are 13 clues as to James’s favourite Led Zeppelin track in the article.
That should be easy to guess and 6 will do to get you entered into the draw, but can you get all 13 clues?
The winners get a PlanetSKI T-shirt.
Any colour you like as long as its black.
Check it all out on the PlanetSKI Facebook page.
James is staying at the Double Tree hotel with the US specialist, Ski Independence.
For furrher details about Breckenridge and all the packkages Ski Independence offers then see here.
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