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Colorado Snow Trip

It is just my luck that the one year I leave Seattle, La Nina kicks in and the Northwest experiences one of the snowiest winters on record. It seems every day in December and January I would pull up the NOAA information for Mt. Baker and be greeted with 25 degree temps and 7″ of new snow. I was missing Mt. Baker powder days and somehow we couldn’t bring ourselves to make it up to Vermont.

The only trip I had to look forward to was a six day mountain marathon with my buddies Gabe, Al and Steve. I call it a marathon because when you travel with Gabe, you know you’re going to constantly be on the road, traveling from place to place and stretching as much as you can into your itinerary. We never go someplace and just “hang out”. It’s leave at dawn, ride, pack up, drive to new mountain, beers then sleep and repeat. He brings new definition to the phrase “Turbo Tourist”.

It’s not that I particularly prefer this style of travel, but I do understand its benefits. You get to see A LOT. We started in Denver, grouping together at the airport and headed off to West Denver in our rented Suburban, possibly the largest truck I’ve ever driven if you don’t count the u-hauls when we moved.

From Denver we went to Arapahoe Basin, through Keystone where we just checked out the corporate-style village and then to Aspen. After a day at Aspen we drove 5 hours to Silverton, grabbing dinner in Ouray. We actually stayed two whole nights in Silverton (though I rode one day in Durango – booooooring) before driving 2-3 hours to Telluride and then on the same day, drove to Vail. One night in Vail and we flew out the next day from Denver, about 2.3 hours from Vail.

All in all, we put 1150 miles and many layers of dirt on that Surburban, spent about $200 in gas and felt sorry for whomever got to rent it next. It definitely needed a gutting after we got done with it.

Our Trip

Highlights of the trip were:
Boarding A-Basin, mostly because my brother skied it many time when he lived at Keystone and I had always wanted to go. A-Basin is a quaint little ski hill not unlike Mt Baker. The Bloody Marys were tasty and suffering from hypoxia combined with a hangover, we captured on film a sickened Al puking off the chairlift.

Aspen. Aspen is Aspen. Another place I’ve always wanted to go. I almost made it there when I worked for America West Airlines, showing up at the airport with a pair of skis and free flight benefits but somehow ended up that day in Santa Barbara. This time we got to board Highlands and Snowmass. We did an exhausting 45 minute hike up to the peak and had a beautiful run down and after a nice lunch we headed off to Snowmass where somewhere, somehow, on the last run, we ended up in the trees surfing through knee deep powder. The best run of the trip for me, I think. The town of Aspen is pretty cool too with some of the more lively nightlife.

The mountains around Silverton were spectacular. Getting to Silverton was scary, driving 25 mph up icy, mountain switchbacks at night, not a guard-rail in sight. Silverton itself was also a cool little, rustic old mining town. There wasn’t a ton to do there if you weren’t riding or sledding but nice people.
Having driven for probably 7-8 hours on Saturday, riding at Telluride and approaching a snowy Vail without a hotel reservation, we lucked out and scored a 2 bedroom loft, slope-side for 50% off (*or roughly $60/person). They even opened the hot tub up for us at 11:30pm so we could wash off all of our nastiness while staring out over the mountains.

I wish I could say that I was truly humbled by the mountains we rode, many towering 13 or 14k feet, but I wasn’t. The ski resorts there are big with lots of luxuries but the riding itself wasn’t any big improvement over what we have in Washington. Honestly, most of their runs seemed pretty flat. Telluride especially had long sections of flatness. It made me feel more appreciation for the awesomeness we have right in our own backyard.

I wish I could show you some pictures, but they were all accidentally deleted in Al’s quest to erase his earlier chairlift experience…


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