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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Ski Colorado - Beaver Creek and Vail

I'd like to say that the next few blog posts will be a rave review of all the different ski resorts in Colorado.  The original loosely formed plan was to ski the Epic Resorts (Beaver Creek, Vail and Breckenridge) maybe sprinkle in a little Copper Mountain or ski a bit of A-Basin.  

But the truth?  

The truth is 2 hours into day 2 while making my way to the lift a few hundred feet away I somehow twisted a ski and went full yard sale (poles, skis, gone, tumble, dive).  Like collecting my shit and spent some serious time digging myself out of a snow bank while people watched with a sharp pain in my right leg thinking "what hurts - what did I damage",  it was that kind of yard sale.   So a "ski all the resorts trip" turned into 1.5 days of skiing, a whole lot more reading, a good amount of drinking at the base lodge, and a hefty dose of relaxing.  Of course I was bummed about the lack of skiing, a little down-in-the-(ski)dumps about the season pass I paid for and would not be able to use for the rest of the trip.  But I reminded myself of a few things:  

        I am in beautiful Colorado
        I could use a slow relaxing trip
        Damn did I miss and love these mountain views, and most importantly
        The point was to spend some much needed time with gal pals - on or off the mountain.  

I kept reminding myself of that silly romantic quote "we were together, I forgot the rest".  A little different when you are with two girls in Colorado but - you get my drift. 

So instead - I skied a little, laughed a lot, and can tell you what I thought of Beaver Creek, my half day spent skiing Vail and an afternoon with a swollen ankle at the Express Lift Bar.  

Base Elevation: 8,100 ft. / 2,469 m
Summit Elevation: 11,440 ft. / 3,488 m
Vertical Rise: (3,340ft/1,018m)
Number of Trails: 150
Number of Lifts: 23

Skiable Acreage: 1,832 acres / 741 hectares
Longest Run: Centennial at 2.75 miles / 4.43 km

Beaver Creek was a mountain I hadn't heard much about in the years I have been skiing.  I skied Most of Utah, some of Wyoming, a bunch of the Northeast and some of Canada but Colorado was another land to me.  I soon discovered Beaver Creek was on the Epic Pass (i.e. owned by Vail), was located just past Vail, and was one of those insanely bougie ski resorts - Deer Valleyesque if you will.  While I prefer the old school mountain relaxed vibe, a champagne toast at 2pm and warm cookies handed out by a chef in fancy white coats does - not - suck.  

You read that right.  

We walked out after a great day of skiing with our gear in one hand and a gooey chocolate chip cookie in the other.  My only regret of the day is not getting myself to the champagne break.  The bar has been set high with this one. 

Overall, we really enjoyed the mountain and let's be honest, the 60 inches of snow that fell in the area that week certainly helped with the high stoke and awesome trip.  We spent some time on the Birds of Paradise area, making our way through piles of fresh snow, powdery runs through the trees and even some challenging and fun steeps.  By the time lunch rolled around, my legs were jello and begging for a few groomer runs.  I parted ways with the girls to grab a coffee and ski a few easy runs to give my legs a break.  I sat at the base lodge of Beaver Creek with a hot coffee in my hand, fancy outdoor furniture under my butt and a huge grin on my face.  I love a frozen drink and a sandy beach in March but there is something special about a winter ski trip away.   

By 2:30, we were all done and after consulting with the locals, ended the day with some apre ski margaritas (good) and some chips and queso (mediocre) at the Coyote Cafe - Beaver Creek's first bar and restaurant.    We sat in our booth at the bar and couldn't believe our luck in the timing of this ski trip.  A few big storms may have caused some crazy avalanches and shut down I-70 turning our 1.5 hour journey from Denver into a 4.5 hour trek, but boy did it offer some wonderful conditions.  We sat at the bar in exhausted happy ski girl bliss with Vail on our minds for Day 2 of skiing.

Image result for vail colorado trail map

Total Skiable Terrain: 5,289 Acres (2,141 H)
Front Side: 1,627 Acres
Back Bowls: 3,017 Acres
Blue Sky Basin: 645 Acres

Beginner Terrain: 18%
Intermediate Terrain: 29%
Advanced/Expert Terrain: 53%

Longest Run: Riva Ridge - 4 miles (6.4 KM)
Total # of Named Runs: 195

Average Annual Snowfall 354 inches (899 CM)

Base Elevation: 8,120 Feet (2,454 M)
Mid-Elevation: 10,250 Feet (3,125 M)
Peak Elevation: 11,570 Feet (3,527 M)
Vertical Rise: 3,450 Feet (1,052 M)

Image result for vail colorado trail map

Let's cut to the chase - Vail is a BIG mountain.  It sits at about the same base and summit elevation as Beaver Creek but Beaver Creek has 1,832 acres of skiable terrain compared to Vails 5,289 between the front side and it's famous back bowls.  We knew Vail was a big mountain and we were excited to sink our skis into some snow and see what this fancy pants well-known mountain was all about. 

On Saturday morning, we were up early and on the road heading back down I-70 for day two of our trip.  The plan was to meet up with another girlfriend from home and her boyfriend, who have been living in Boulder and spend the day skiing around Vail.  With a fresh 12 inches overnight, we were beside ourselves with the conditions as we stepped off the gondola.  Fresh powder everywhere we looked and some blue sunny skies trying to peek out between the clouds.  Oh, there was a decent amount of squealing, yee-haws and oh yahs.  We decided to start on the back bowl of Vails and we spent a few runs skiing through untouched shin deep powder.  It was as good as I have ever seen skiing conditions - end of story.  

But really, this is sort of the end of the story.  

We did a few runs in the back bowl area and stopped a few hundred feet from the lift to revel in how amazing the conditions were, regroup, and discuss our plan for meeting up with our friends.  I got back up on my skis and made my way to the lift, the lift I could see right around the corner.  All I had to do was finish this last tiny stretch of the double black we were on and hook a sharp right onto this traverse that leads to the lift.  Next thing I know, I am tumbling off the other side of the traverse and I am buried in about 4 feet of snow.  It takes me a good 10 minutes to crawl and dig my way out of the bank with the help of my friends and it only took one step for me to realize I was done skiing for the day, maybe for the trip.  Turns out, it was definitely for the trip.

My initial reaction was to evaluate the damage at the nearest lodge but the girls reminded me it was best to keep my boot on and tight to hold whatever had happened in place.  We took the lift up (you know, the one I had just crashed in front of) and from the top I had to ski some double blacks back down to a different lift which would take me to a part of the mountain with a lodge where I could re-evaluate.  I made my way slowly down a few trails, took a breather at the summit lodge and finally made my way down to the base lodge. I parked my rear in a chair and elevated my ankle while self-medicating with beer and Aleve outside at the Express Lift Bar.  

After a few beers and one of the best tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever had, I met back up with the girls and I hobbled my way over to the Red Lion where we had some much better queso and an apre ski beer.   This was an ugly hobble - tears in my eyes and a sharp piercing pain with each step from Bar 1 to Bar 2.  This was not a good sign. 


It wasn't until after we got back to the car and I took my boot off that I realized I had done much more damage than even I thought.  The swelling was instant and of epic proportions and the future of the trip for this skier was going to involve the lodge instead of the lifts.  After icing, elevating, and refusing to get the monster of an ankle looked at, by Day 6 (back at home) I finally stuck my ankle under an X-Ray machine, relieved that nothing was broken, just badly sprained. 

While the injury was a damper on the day, I had to keep reminding myself it was a short day of skiing but damn it was a good one.  Some of the best runs on a gigantic mountain in perfect conditions with a great crew.  I hobbled around the European style village after, a little smitten with the charm of Vail and a little drunk on the beer I had been drinking instead of skiing.

 I was a little disappointed no one was offering me free champagne or warm cookies and quickly realized Beaver Creek had set the standards impossibly high for being reaaaaal extra on the mountain.  I then snapped back to reality, reminded myself that a day at these resorts costs $207 and that the warm cookie was a small prize for anyone spending over $200 for a day of skiing. Reality check. 

It wasn't the epic ski trip I envisioned, but it was two (ish) days of powder skiing at world-class resorts, high ticket prices and warm cookies included.  We loved the expanse of vail and the steeps and trees of Beaver Creek.  Vail won high marks for its European style village and we loved the apre ski vibe at the Red Lion.  Beaver Creek was the perfect way to start our Colorado girls trip and Vail taught us that it was a mountain you certainly need a few days to explore.  

My Colorado ski tour was short but oh was it sweet. 

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