We chose Vail this year, and chose March specifically. March is supposed to be Vail's snowiest month. This is going to be our biggest adventure yet for a number of reasons.
1.Vail is Big. Really Big. It's also full of really surprising things like Babel fish and tea. Vail is Big. Really Big. It may seem like a long way to the corner chemist, but compared to Vail, that's peanuts. As Matt puts it, "Vail is king!"
2. This will be our most well attended trip. We will be renting a two bedroom condo which will be housing anywhere from 4-6 people, depending on the day. People will be arriving and departing at all different times during this trip. We will even have a seventh person, not staying with us.
Thankfully, Matt gave me a checklist of things to do and places to go while in Vail.
I will be flying in with my brother Michael and a cousin of a cousin from the in-law side of the family. The cousin whose cousin this is will be arriving on Sunday. We will be meeting up with Trok in Denver around the same time, all four of us taking the expensive $62 shuttle to Vail. Speaking of expensive, and quoting Matt again, he says, "Bring all of your money because you're not coming back with any." A car rental for the week was close to $400 with taxes, and since it will only be two of us returning the following Saturday,. The economics were just not feasible.
Saturday, March 8th: The plane trip was uneventful, thankfully. We got out luggage and searched for Trok. Couldn't fund him so I called his cellphone. His wife answered. What was his cellphone doing back in Chicago, or is he still there? Nope, he just didn't take it with him. How am I supposed to find him in this huge airport? I use the two-way radio, this time set to channel 11, sub channel 31, but I got no answer. We went to the shuttle and they said we needed all four people, but my thinking is "you snooze, you lose." If he doesn't show up by the time we are to leave, I am ready to go without him. He finally shows up and we head to Vail. We share the shuttle with three southern guys, one of them being from North Carolina. Michael starts up a conversation with them. We also share the shuttle with three girls from NY; Susan, Stephanie and their leader, Julie. I tell Trok my Alta story from the previous month.
We arrive at our condo and settle in. Our condo is pretty darn nice. A master bedroom with two full beds and a bathroom, another bedroom with a single full bed and a living room with a couch that I though was a pullout but wasn't. A kitchen too. First thing to do is go out an explore and shop for food. The four of us head to the supermarket for supplies. Trok insists on getting Lucky Charms cereal. There is one box left. We pick up some juice, milk and other sundries. Now it's time for dinner. It's Saturday night in Vail. We are told it is not easy to get reservations at any restaurant in Vail, but we try anyway. It is early, around 5:45pm, so we may have a chance. We see one place with a nice menu. When we wonder if we can get a reservation, a gentleman on the street looks at us like we're from New York, gives us a funny face and nods his head. We wonder if we can get a reservation maybe on Sunday or Monday. He doesn't give us much of a chance. We continue on. We walk into a German restaurant and try there. They tell us that is want want to eat immediately, we can do so. We choose to. There is not one single person seated yet. I don't really want to eat in a restaurant as the only table, but we are hungry. We are told to wait in the bar area until they call us. When we are finally called, we notice the dining room is now full of people. We sit and choose our meals. I go for the Caribou. Yes, it's meat, so all you vegetarians can just skip to the next paragraph. It is a tradition to try new animals on my ski trips. This one is no different. This leads us to wonder what exactly is a caribou? I claim it is from Maine, as there is a city called Caribou there. The others think it's from Montana or Wyoming. We are determined to find the answer at some point. The meal was excellent!
On the way back we stop of at the supermarket for a for more items. On the way out, Jill points out that she thinks Cameron Diaz in in the market. She is correct. Ms. Diaz is wearing a wool hat covering her head all the way down to her eyes, but there is no mistaking her eyes. Jill wants to hang around and star watch, but I am not that kind of person, so we leave. I go to the liquor store to pick up a six-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade. We go back to the condo before heading out to The Red Lion.
This place looks like a college town bar, or a frat house. It's young and mostly male. We walk in a a guy sitting at the bar says, "Oh my, this is a New York crew if I ever saw one!" Normally, it takes a few sentences before someone can hear an accent, but this guy picked out out without a single word being spoken. He must be a genius or he just says that to everyone. We were not earing any "New York" clothing or anything to give it away. So we strike up a conversation with him. A blonde girl who is more than two sheets to the wind is with them, but she is not "with" them. She came up from Denver to ski for the day with some girls and they abandoned her long ago. Her name is Donna and she has a penchant for talking about sex a lot. We run into Julie and the other NY girls and hang out with them for a while until me and Trok head back.
We have a toiler bowl ghost in the bathroom in our room. Sometimes the bowl just flushes on it's own. It's quite weird. A few hours later, Jill and Michael come back. There is a guest with them. It is Donna. She is too drunk and tired to drive back home, so she needs a place to crash for a few hours to sleep it off. We are asleep by 10:30pm. We're beat!
Sunday, March 9th: Donna flees at the crack of dawn. At breakfast, we realize Donna has left her cellphone. Now we're in a quandary. How do we get this back to her? I suggest we keep it on, hoping she will call it, but we don't want to have the responsibility of dragging it along all day. I go through her address book looking for a home phone number. I see a name called "Me." I call it. It is indeed Donna's number, but it is her cell phone number! That wasn't too bright. I leave a message, hoping she'll try to check her messages.
Time to hit the slopes.
It's sunny. It's in the mid 30's temperature-wise. It's not optimal for my liking, but maybe I can come home with a wacky skiers tan. Me and Trok abandon the others and head up Vista Bahn. Instead of going straight to the back bowls, we see some nice groomed cruising runs over by Golden Peak, so we head on over there. We pass right by lifts 3 and 4, which would take us to the top in favor of Golden Peak. For future Vail skiers, you'll notice that lift 4 is crowded, and lift 3 is not. This is probably because lift 3 put you at the far end of mountain by Game Creek bowl and Sun Down bowl at Wildwood. Lift 4 puts you in a more central location between Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls, at Patrol Headquarters. We do two runs in Golden Peak before heading to the bowls. The conditions on the front side are extremely hard and crunchy. It reminds me of Switzerland. It's brutal on the legs.
The bowls are huge. As usual we explore into areas less traveled, and probably due to the reason that the ungroomed treachery that lies ahead of us is daunting. Steep, mogully crusty conditions abound. We plan a path to the bottom and I decode to head for some powder-looking area and take a nice tumble sideways, head-first. I don't fall far, probably only about 20 feet, but I lost one pole and in knee-deep soft snow on a steep slope, it's not easy to retrieve my pole. I remove my skies but am having a hard time making any progress so I use what tools are afforded me. There is some vegetation between me and my pole and I use it to pull myself up to my pole. The snow is too deep to place my ski on solid ground to get into, so once again I use the branches of the bush as a base to place my skies on so I can get into my skies. It works and we continue. A side-effect of this episode is that my left leg hurts. I wonder if it is re-injury of our Davos, Switzerland trip.
We pretty much ski China Bowl, Sun Up and Sun Down bowls today. There is plenty to do just in this area for one day, and we have 4 more full days of skiing ahead. An injured skier is transported up one of the lifts at the bottom of one of the bowl by having his stretcher attached to the ski lift. It was quite impressive.
Wearing sunblock 8 on my face and 30 on my nose, I still get a little color on my face. The temperature is close to 40 degrees and without a cloud in the sky, I opt to exchange my funky Hellraiser hat for a baseball cap
We ski a full today and head home. We opt for leaving our skies at the mountain rather than carry them through the streets back to our condo. I would strongly suggest you take advantage of this option as it costs only four dollars per night, or fifteen dollars for 5 nights and it is at the bottom of Vista Bahn lift.
Amy, our 5th guest arrived around 2pm. Michael and Jill both stopped early to meet her so she can find the condo. The five of us go to dinner at the Ore House tonight, a small pub on Bridge street. It is an economical dinner and I get the tuna steak.
Of course we cannot even stay awake as late (early) as we did last night due to the exhaustive day on the mountain. I think we were out cold by 10:00pm. Trok learned something new since our last ski trip. He learned how to snore! I get the earplugs out of the toiletry bag and make it through the night.
Monday, March 10th: We wake up around 7:30 and find that Jill is feeling sick. She wants to ski with me and Trok as she doesn't want to be slowed down by either Michael or Amy. We try the same scenario as yesterday, starting out with a run or two in Golden Peak. The snow is ever harder today, probably sue to the fact that is melted a little in the 40 degree temperature the day before and refroze at night. Jill, being a snowboarder is really having a tough time. I broke my rule of not associating with snowboarders. After all, she is kind of a relative. Don't think I am softening up though, so you future snowboarders don't think you can get any nice words from me.
We miss the turn off to Golden Peak and wind up back at Vista Bahn. To prevent this from happening again, we decide to head to the bowls immediately. We take chair 3 from the top of Vista Bahn, which puts us all the way by Sun Down Bowl, far from China Bowl, which is what Jill was aiming for. We do some exploring, which is difficult for Jill, but she manages. I have to say that Sun Down Bowl is more challenging than the other bowls, at least with the snow conditions we have. In the bowls, directly in the late winter, the sun is baking us. It feels even warmer than yesterday, without a cloud in the sky again. We take rests often in this very empty bowl. Around 11am, Jill tell us that she has had enough. She is really not feeling well at all so Trok and I head into Sun Up Bowl, towards China Bowl. Just as Jill leaves, we find much easier skiing conditions, the bowls are groomed and we find the nice cruising trails Jill was so eager to find.
We have a good rest of the morning until lunch. We have lunch at Two Elk Lodge once again. While on line, Nancy calls me and says she has arrived from Eagle, but there is a problem. The driver does not know how to get to the condo. This baffles me beyond belief. What the hell does this shuttle company do for drivers? Do they hire bums off the street on the day they need drivers? How can a shuttle driver, who must have driven to Vail hundreds of times not know where our condo is? Are we the first people to EVER stay at the Vail Village Inn? Unbelievable! I can offer no more assistance. I gave the driver the name of the place and the address. If she can't find it, let her figure out something on her own. For the amount of money they charge, they have a lot of nerve not knowing how to get there. Just as I hang up with Nancy, a blonde girl walks up to me. It's Donna, from the Red Lion from Saturday night. She asks if I have her cellphone. What are the chances of us running into her on this huge mountain? I tell her I'll meet her at The Club at 5pm, because I want to see if I can catch Steve Meyer.
After lunch we pretty much stay in China Bowl. We get lost a few times, thinking we are skiing to other lifts we want to find, but we always seem to end up at the Orient Express lift. Oh well, we have 4 more days to find the rest of the mountain. We do some good skiing today, making it all the way until 4pm once again. The skiing does take a toll on us though. We are a little more tired than yesterday. Our last few runs are on some nice blue trails off of the Northwoods Express lift. The snow is good, it is pretty groomed, and you can cruise to your heart's content. On on of our last chair lifts up, the older couple on the lift with us make a comment that with a hat like mine, I should be in Jackson Hole. When I tell them we were there last year, they excitingly state that that is why I looked familiar to them. They saw us in Jackson Hole last year. They remember the hat. Wow! Another weird coincidence. What are the chances of that? Oh, a note to the reader: Stay away from the Sourdough lift. It is VERY SLOW and it doesn't even travel far. Using it will be a mistake.
We go back and Nancy and her friend Steve are there. Nancy is not feeling well due to the altitude. She feels dizzy and nauseous. She heads back to the hotel she and Steve have. I thought we'd be bale to accommodate them before we got to Vail, but that would have only been possible if strangers would share beds. I take shower and head over alone to Red Lion to meet Donna to give her back her cellphone. It's not open. It's 5pm and it is closed. Shit! How am I going to meet her now. So I go to the Red Lion hoping to run into her. As soon as I walk in the front door, there she is on her way out to meet me at The Club. I give her back the phone. I want to get an Irish Car Bomb, so I belly up to the bar. The bartender tells me that I have to order two, since they don't have Guinness on tap, and therefore have to use the drought can, which makes two drinks. It's either no drink, or two drinks. The guy next to me asks me what an Irish Car Bomb is, so I explain it to him. Ok, I 'll explain it to you. It's a half glass of Guinness, a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream, topped off with Jameson Irish whiskey. You drop the shot in the pint glass and pound it down. I decide to go for it. I get both pints and pound them down in succession. I decide I better get on back before I forget how to get back or am unable to get back.
We eat dinner tonight at Vendetta's a nice Italian restaurant. Steve decides to stay with us for the night even though there really is no room. We squeeze him in. Tonight I had to deal with two snoring people!!!
Tuesday, Match 11th: We wake up to sunny skies once again. This is getting boring. Jill is sick. So sick that she won't even ski today. She plans on calling a doctor for a house call. Steve calls Nancy. She is sick too. She had to be on oxygen last night. The doctor tells her she can ski today, but to take it real easy and don't go to the top of the mountain. She stays over in Beaver Creek, by her hotel room. Steve tells us that he had trouble sleeping and that his heart was racing. Are we all doomed?!?!
While walking over to the Vista Bahn, Trok realizes he forgot his ski locker ticket and must go back. After he heads back, I notice I forgot my two-way radio, as it is attached to my knapsack and today I chose to go sack-less. I have Amy call back to the room to ask Jill to ask Trok to bring my radio. He returns and realizes he forgot to put sunblock on, but we're not going to delay any longer and he decides to skip the sunblock today. During our morning skiing, we do see some clouds. It is the first time since we have been here that the sky has not been cloudless. Trok and I head over to Lionshead for some runs like Matt suggested. I am feeling tired or weak today. The third day, it starts to wear on you. It also could be that I didn't have enough breakfast. In a rarity for me, I munch on my Powerbar throughout the morning because I don't think I'll make it to lunch without doing so. After a few runs in Lionshead, we head on over to the bowls. Today, we decide to try Game Creek bowl. In our attempt to get into Game Creek Bowl, we want to add a little adventure as usual and decide to take a "shortcut" through the trees. This is the first time we cut through trees where we don't see any other ski tracks at all, so we (or at least I) are maybe just a little worried. We finally do make it out and enjoy the rest of the morning in Game Creek bowl. Gamecreek bowl, which in my opinion has the two best runs on the entire mountain. There are three long blue cruising runs called the Woods, Baccarat and Dealer's Choice. In one of those special moments, in a single fluid motion, I wipe out on the trail and without losing a beat, maneuver my body so that I get right back up and continue skiing. It was quite acrobatic.
Today, twice I was asked to take picture of people at the top of Game Creek bowl. When I asked the second group why they chose me, thinking that it must be something about me, they told me it was because of my hat. Ha! We eat lunch today at the Smoke House at the top of Wildwood, a nice change from the pasta meals at Two Elk Lodge. The rest of the day we ski China Bowl and Teacup Bowl.
Dinner tonight is back at the Ore House again. It's a quick and cheap meal. Michael and Amy go out to parouse the bars since they will be heading home tomorrow. Jill being sick needs rest. Trok and I have no interest in going out tonight. Michael and Amy come back around 11pm. The nightlife is dead tonight. The first place they go to has one person. The next place has slightly more. He observes that the town is male dominated, at least in the bars. I know this is nothing to celebrate, but we are able to stay awake until 11:30 tonight It's not easy, so I don't want to hear any comments from the Peanut Gallery. The toilet bowl ghost starts to get a little mischievous. Now it doesn't flush at all. It requires us opening up the cover and manually flushing it by pulling up the plunger.
Wednesday, March 12th: Today ends the trip for Michael and Jill. They take the 5:45am shuttle to Denver. Amy takes the shuttle two hours later for her flight. This is also the day Nancy and Steve will be moving into the condo for the rest of the trip. It is also the one day on our trip Trok and I skip the skiing. It's sunny of course. Something I have noticed on this trip that I have never noticed before is that there are a lot of people walking around with broken or sprained limbs. There are lots of arms and legs in casts and some people walking around on crutches.
For lunch, we go to Los Amigos to try and see some people wipe out on the front of the mountain like Matt said to look for. I get a taco salad and a marguerita, but we don't get to see any wipe-outs. There are very few people at all skiing the front of the mountain. We take a walk over to Lionshead today. On our way, some blonde chick with a big chest trying to get attention by wearing a very thin tank-top was walking right behind us. When the bus came by, we hopped on it. Why walk when you can take the free bus? When we returned back to Vail Village, we went to the supermarket to see if Trok can pick up more Lucky Charms. There wasn't any on the shelf, but he found an entire crate of them, as of yet, unpacked. He was very excited and looks forward to our return.
We head on over to The Club to see if Steve Meyer will be playing tonight and sure enough he is. Matt was right. This guy is an excellent entertainer. I won't go into his routine, you'll have to see that for yourself. He is a little dirty, but that's what makes him very funny. He also makes fun of snowboarders, so he scores even more points for that. He also points out that the crowd is unusual in that it is a 50-50 split male-female. Normally, he says it's a 7-1 guy-girl ratio. Yes, it's true, Vail is a male town. So Michael's suspicions were right that it seemed there were mostly guys out in the bars. On the way back to the room before dinner, we stop by the market one more time to see the progress of the Lucky Charms. Success.
Tonight, the four of us go to a Swiss restaurant and I have the best Sauerbraten I have ever had. Ever! We also all get some truffles (yummy!) on our way out as a desert treat. Sleeping arrangements require someone to sleep on the couch (it's not a pullout) since we are only one girl now and we can't having sharing beds because that wouldn't be right. I opt to sleep on the couch so I can sleep in a snore-less environment. I even choose to sleep on the couch the following night for the same reason.
Thursday. March 13th: Guess what? It's sunny today. Doh! Today, the four of us start out together. If it's possible, today is even warmer. Even at 9:30am, the temperature is already over 40 degrees. All four of us start out skiing together. Nancy is a wimp (sorry Nancy) when it comes to skiing and doesn't like any black runs or going fast, so we head to Game Creek Bowl for the cruisers. We let her go ahead but immediately pass her. This is not going to work for me and Trok. We tell Nancy and Steve that we will go off on our own. We do a few runs in Game Creek Bowl and then head over to the other bowls. It is really warm out and I opt to scrap the kooky hat and don't even wear by baseball cap. It is THAT warm.
We stay in Sun Down and China Bowls until lunch. With the warm weather, we are noticing more and more ground cover being lost. It's a little mushy and this type of snow slows you down to the point where your body is moving at one speed and then your skies kinda get stuck. You tend to fall. I fall a few times. I get a call on the two-way radio that Nancy is up at Two Elk Lodge eating lunch. We don't plan on stopping for another hour. When we do stop, we call Nancy and she is still up there, so we meet up for lunch. Steve meets us too. This is probably not a smart thing for Nancy to do since she did have altitude sickness and she is hanging out at over 11,000 feet for over and hour. I take this opportunity to call Christine at work and ask her to look up Caribou on the Internet so we can once and for all find out where it is from. All the links she finds deal with Africa, Kenya in particular. Trok brings up a question about his lunch beverage. He gets an Aquafina and wonders where the water comes from. Ah, what the heck, let me call them. I call the 800 number on the bottle and ask. After giving in the code number on the bottle, it is determined that is it bottled in Denver. No surprise. For anyone interested, there are about 23 different bottling sites in the USA. The first letter signified the state and the second letter signifies the city. I think there is a number between the two letters, but I am going by memory.
We part ways and head out. Trok and I go to blue Sky basin to Pete's bowl and Earl's Bowl. This is new territory for us and it is quite refreshing. At one of the lifts, we see a thermometer. It's 63 degrees. We see guys skiing topless and see one girl skiing in a sports bra. Blue Sky Basin is worth checking out, with a few good blue runs and some impossible ass-crazy black runs. Try to avoid taking Kelly's Toll Road, one of the blue runs down to the bottom of the bowl because IT SUCKS. It's boring and should be a green.
We end our day as usual with a few runs down the front, utilizing the Northwoods express lift. The blue runs here are still nicely groomed and you can zoom down to your heart's desire. Just watch it as this is a crowded trail with lots of beginners. We head back, and Nancy is not feeling well. No surprise. The hour and a half up at Two Elk Lodge probably did her in. She naps while we waste time until dinner. Once again, I use Matt's advice and we head to Lionshead for a dinner at Montauk Seafood Restaurant. Excellent fish dishes. I get the seared tuna. We head back and wait for sleep to arrive.
Friday, March 14th: Our final day. Lucky it was out final day, because the temperature dropped below freezing overnight and everything froze. The conditions suck. I didn't come all the way to Vail to ski east coast conditions, but that's what happened today. Crusty, icy, hard as a rock. Not Good!
It's cold in comparison to the other days. I think it's in the upper 20's today, maybe in the low 30's. I am in full headgear today and I get a few compliments on it. There are even clouds today, and not the pretty puffy white ones. We were going to do Siberia Bowl again and then head to Mongolia Bowl, but with the conditions we don't think it's worth it. We do go to Blue Sky Basin and try some of the runs we didn't try yesterday. Bad choice. We do get a run or two on Cloud 9, which is one of the few good snow conditions we can find on the mountain. We do Game Creek Bowl for two runs, which also has good conditions. We eat at the some House again. The conditions are so bad today that we call it a day around 2:15. It's not worth it.
We head back and I want to use the hot tub to soothe the muscles, but it's too friggin' hot. I couldn't take the heat, so I go into the sauna. It's too hot too so I just go back to the room and take a shower. Nancy is limited on her funds so we have to find a cheap dinner tonight. We find some small place off the beaten path (I don't remember the name, but you wouldn't want to eat there anyway) and I get a burger and milkshake. Bad day skiing, unsatisfying dinner. It goes hand in hand. We all pack. Trok and I have a shuttle pickup at 5:45am. Nancy and Steve are scheduled for a few hours later, heading out from Eagle. Finally, after a week here, I drink one of the Mike's Hard Lemonades. So, bottom line, we have two six-packs, and only one bottle gets drank (drunk?).
Saturday, March 15th: We get picked up on time and pick up 7 more people. The girls from the shuttle ride out are not on this shuttle. That's odd. Too bad, I was anxious to see how their week went. I do know they are on my flight, so I guess I'll see them then. Trok get dropped off first, at United. It doesn't look good for us hooking up in the airport. We are in different terminals.
While waiting, I listen to my iPod but the batteries are almost dead. I must find an electrical outlet. I explore the airport and find an outlet in a phone cubicle that is set up for Internet access. So, here I am standing in a phone cubicle, opening my knapsack pulling out all this electrical equipment to plug into an outlet. I must look suspicious. I stand there for about half an hour while I charge my iPod, reading my Discover magazine. I go to the gate and wait. Julie, Susan and Stephanie show up. They took a later shuttle and we discuss our week. They wee partying all night, and all week. They were disappointed in me that I was not out doing the same every night. I explained that skiing is my priority and if I am not tired, I go out, otherwise I prefer to get a good rest to conquer the mountain.
Our (my) streak of good luck on ski trips seems to have worked against us (me) this year. Not a single flake of snow fell on this trip, yet three days after returning from Vail, Denver got it's worst storm in 90 years. Four feet of snow in Denver gave two feet of snow at Vail. Then more snow came. Somewhere between 30 and 40 inches of snow fell in the week after I left. I bid the farewell until next year in, wherever that may be.