4aprice's Mini Ski Safari 3/8-3/19

4aprice4aprice advanced
in Trip Reports Posts: 192

11 day's , 8 on snow, 4 resorts, 2 states.

Talk about timing, one day after the snow we had waited for all season in the northeast, 4aprice and wife got on a plane for a trip west to see the boy and other family and of course ski.  March has always been one of my favorite months and my favorite time to travel to the Rockies and thus we plan it this way almost every year.  The northeast weather gave back a small favor to us as a plane to Boston delayed at our gate made our flight a little (and I mean just a little) late and the United Captain gave us free DirectTV for the the flight which was one of the smoothest and quickest flights I have ever taken to Denver.  Arriving in time for a nice dinner and good weather for the drive to Steamboat Springs, the first stop of the safari.

Steamboat Springs

 The wife and I had become tired of forking over at a minimum $100.00 to the airlines each trip out so we had sent the boy out on a mission to get us skis that will stay stored at his place in Denver.  He happily obliged and had them waiting when we arrived.  I will discuss them more later in the report but just mention it here because they are wider in the waist then anything either of us had skied before.

Friday the 9th dawned as a nice clear spring day.  For all intensive purposes its spring and I like to refer to these days as "50-50 days", 50 % hard fast groomers in the morning and 50% nice soft bumps and woods in the afternoon. The morning was basically spent up in an area serviced by a high speed quad called the Sunshine Express.  These runs are for the most part fairly long intermediate cruisers and a perfect place to try out the new boards.  There was a small adjustment period but for the most part things went pretty smoothly and we were pretty happy.  Did not take photo's during this adjustment period but will note that as stated above they were fast hard cruisers.  

The wife and I had shared a couple of cocktails on the flight out and had each had a cup of coffee for the drive from Denver to Steamboat.(this is vacation after all)  The combination of the 2 did not effect me but it had effected my wife's sleep pattern (altitude may have played a part too) and after a 1/2 day she was pretty wiped out.  The boy is nursing a sore knee (hurt biking, but affecting skiing) so they decided to rest up for the afternoon so I went for a little solo time.  Sun was out and working its magic on the snow and it was a nice backend 50% part of the day.  I headed for Storm Peak via the Burgess Creek area.


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White Out Run in Burgess Creek Section

I had found a wonderful section here last year, served by the Bar UE double chair.  1356' vertical of bumps and trees with an exposure in a direction that keeps the snow in better condition then some of the other pods.  The Triangles glade section was in really good shape.



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Upper part of Triangles


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Lower Part of Triangles below the Bar UE Double Chair

The good snow and bumps were a great proving ground for the new boards and I really started to get the feel and really started to like them.   Couple of these runs and a couple of more runs down Storm Peak North and Burgess Creek ,then down the main face near the gondola completed a nice first day.


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Storm Peak North above Four Points Hut


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Some of Steamboats famous Aspen Glades on Storm Peak.

Saturday March 10th

Saturday dawned cloudy with a little snow in the air.  1-2 inches at the most, but enough to put down a nice fresh layer and provide some fun.  We headed for the Morningside Park Section to which we had never been before and really had a blast.  We found a whole bunch of low angle trees which was really nice for my wife who is still a bit leary of tree skiing and she had a real good time dabbling in and out of them with the fresh coating of snow.  As the snow eased and the the sun started coming out we moved around the mountain hitting a lot of the intermediate groomers such as Buddy's Run and Vagabond.  We were also forced  to take a run down BC Skiway (a round about work road) because some of the group (wife, offspring) overshot the lift I wanted them to take .:x   Made for a pretty circuitous route around the mountain. 

 My son had a friend stop by and so leaving the wife at Gondola Square I went for a couple of runs with them.  The son, an ex racer and the friend, a Snowbird (UT) native went at it pretty hard and I had a fun time chasing them around up in the Triangles section described above.  Made it to about 3:00 pm before surrendering and heading for Gondola Square (they went at in the park for a couple more).  Found the wife (enjoying one already) and had a cocktail, enjoying a band on the stage, and some of that delightful Rocky Mountain sun.


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Apres in front of the Billy Kidd Statue (decked out in a spring Lei) at Gondola Square


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Sunday March 11th 

This was originally supposed to be a travel day off snow, We (I) have learned that taking days off makes these trips much more enjoyable at least for me, but we were having so much fun seeing the boy, and the fact that he was going to ski, we said yes to a 3/4 of a day 3 at Steamboat.  

Beautiful clear weather.  A lot of people must have arrived Saturday night as the Gondola line was much bigger then the previous 2 days.  Lots of Texas athletic regalia, indicating Texas Spring break. (confirmed by lift partners on same ride).  Steamboat is pretty spread out so lines weren't really an issue outside of the 1st gondola ride.  We went back to Morningside Park and actually saw some of what we had skied the day before.  Also saw the birds that will famously land on your hand for birdseed if you bring it.  More tree dabbling for the wife.




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Morningside Lift where the birds will feed


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Some of the fun low angle trees of Morningside Park

Wrapped up the day with the High Noon and 1 O'clock runs off of Sundown Express.  The boy went off with another friend and his ride back to Denver and we got ready to hit the road to Salt Lake City.  We packed up and was loading the car to split when they came out to the pick up area, done for the day so we extended our time with him with a nice early dinner before, they hit the road east and us, west.  A great start to the safari.  Part II to come.

Alex

Lake Hopatcong, NJ
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Comments

  • ciscokidciscokid expert
    edited March 21 Posts: 2,245
    Nice! My honeymoon at Steamboat 36 yrs ago in June
  • 4aprice4aprice advanced
    edited March 21 Posts: 192
    Part II Utah

    Since we skied Sunday, Monday was to be a day off.  No issues with the drive over from Steamboat so we slept in and awoke to a pretty pleasant day in Cottonwood Heights.  Some renovations have been performed on the condo lately so we had to shop for some cleaning supplies and of course food in the morning and I went down to the airport to pick up my BIL's stepson and friends coming in from NJ.  Pretty much spent the rest of the day cleaning, cooking and drinking and hit the sack pretty early.

    Tuesday March 13th.

    Nice clear day with predicted warm temps.  Solitude was the target.  Of course Cottonwood Heights at 5200 ft and the base of Solitude at about 8000 ft are quite different and it was going to be another 50-50 day.

    We got up and started pretty early and went for our usually routine on Eagle Express but we found the top to be quite solid so after a couple we actually found ourselves skiing the bottom 3 lifts Moonbeam, Apex and Sunrise where things were a little softer and conditions better.  




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    Morning Cruisers at Solitude

    It eventually warmed up but certainly took its time.  Skied at a nice pace till about 1:00 then took a break for a home made lunch at the Moonbeam base at a picnic table.  At this point the wife (a little bit under the weather probably from the plane) decided to stop so it was more solo time for me.  

    The recon from the boys was that Honeycomb Canyon was not in good shape so I skipped the Summit and concentrated on the bowl off of Powderhorn Chair above Apex and Moonbeam.  Like I said 50-50 day and the backend was bumps and trees.  Had a wonderful afternoon.




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    Bumps, trees and the Bowl area off Powderhorn trail

    Ended the day with Moonbeam bumps


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    Something else that was apparent was a change in the weather


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    Clouds moving in at the end of the day.

    Wednesday March 14th

    Weather was calling for some sort of a storm but being cautious as they didn't seem to know how it would transpire.  The Sierras were getting it but they could pin point when it would move in and with good reason.  We decided to hit Brighton which is our go to in a storm because of the trees.  It was stop-start snow pretty much all day, not much accumulation, a lot of grauple type light snow and certainly not a picture day.  Spent most of the day on groomers and low angle woods with the wife.

      
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    Weather on Wednesday

    Took a break about 12 and was forced to make it a little longer then normal when the lifts were closed for about 40 minutes due to to near by lightning.  Did make it out after that but quit about 2:30 ish.

    Thursday March 15th

    The weather down in the valley had been quite active so we knew it was going to be good on the mountain.  We selected Brighton again because we thought it was going to snow all day, it didn't.  In hind sight had I known the weather I probably would have hit Solitude again for the more open areas but Brighton was not a wrong choice by any means.  Radio said 5 but it was more like 8-10 in pockets.  We went nuts in the woods off of Crest and Snake Creek.





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    The wife and bad photography by the husband who missed her in the powder just above that.


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    We had a blast and really enjoyed the wider waist skis.  Skied pretty much bell to bell and still had powder scraps on the last run near 4.


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    An awesome way to end part II of the Safari.

    Alex

    Lake Hopatcong, NJ
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  • mtsnow123mtsnow123 advanced
    Posts: 420
    Great share! Always jealous of tree riding out West. We have it tight on the East coast.
  • CannonballCannonball advanced
    Posts: 242
    Fantastic!!  I love both those spots.  I especially think Brighton is one of the most overlooked places in the best. 
  • 4aprice4aprice advanced
    edited March 21 Posts: 192
    Part III Copper Mountain.

    Friday was again a travel day as we beat it back to Denver to see the boy.  Trip took longer then expected but we made it back successfully picked up the boy (and his new interest), had a good dinner and headed back up into the mountains to Dillon.  

    Saturday March 17th  (St Paddy's day)

    Learned something new today as the boy lead us to the Triple Treat lot at Alpine Lift.   Again the weather was  beautiful and sunny but it 9000 ft in elevation it takes time for the snow to soften thus it was another 50-50 day.  Pretty much worked our way over to the west side and into the Timberline area.  Being the weekend in the Denver area we got out early and while not empty it wasn't crazy either.  

    Skied The Moz, Jacque's Pique, and Windsong before moving over to Sierra and taking a T2B run down Timber Ridge to the West Village.

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    Alpine Lift



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    The Timberline area.

    The boy is a member (actually a officer) in his Ski Club in Denver and several of his friends came up to join him on Saturday.  They spent a lot of timed in the Park Area off of Union Creek Quad.  We hung with them for a while but eventually left them for cruisers off American Eagle and Excelerator Quads.  At one point we got separated when I wanted to take Brennan's Grin and she was to take Copperopolis but over shot the entrance and had to go down to  Center Village.  I went back to the top of Excelerator and waited for while between it and Super Bee which is where I thought she would end up. We later ended up meeting at Solitude Station after I got a run in on Mine Dumps, which I loved.



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    Brennen's Grin was good


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    But Mine Dump's was better.

    Since she over shot the entrance to the trail, I was not in trouble but she was a little worn out and I had to ski her down to the car.  Formidable was groomed but steep and while tired (and still a little under the weather) she's a trooper and made it down.  I still had more leg and went solo for a run down Too Much, a sea of bumps from top to bottom.

     
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    Too Much, ,the 4 aprice way to spend St Paddy's day

    Sunday March 18th

    Last ski day of the Safari and a more laid back day then the previous one. Another lesson as the boy showed us the Chapel Lot near Center Village.  If we had to do it over I would have swapped parking spots on both days hitting Chapel Saturday and Triple Treat Sunday.   Lots of cruisers off American Eagle, Super Bee and Excelerator.  Was mostly sunny but clouds were building to the west over Vail Pass and a change in the weather was coming.  Skied till about 1 then broke for lunch, which we ate along a wall in the center of West Village.  The wife was done but I still had a little more leg and hit a couple off and Excelerator including Mine Dump's again and finished off the trip with Glade 17, A fitting end to a fun trip.

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    Weather at Lunch when the wife quit


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    and at 4 When I quit.

    Alex

    Lake Hopatcong, NJ
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  • 4aprice4aprice advanced
    edited March 21 Posts: 192
    Part IV  The Other Stuff:

    The wife and I really liked the way the trip played out with a good amount of skiing and sufficient rest too.

    We were very satisfied with the hotels we stayed at.  The Holiday Inn in Steamboat is really nice with a Hot Tub/Pool that is the model I think all ski area hotels should have with a belly wall between tub and pool.  The Ptarmigan (Best Western) in Dillon was nice too with a nice big Hot Tub and Breakfast to die for, along with just spectacular views.

    Meals were a mix of good and ok.  We love the Beau Jo's in Idaho Springs (where we had dinner on Sunday on the way back into Denver) but was disappointed in the one in Steamboat which has a much more limited menu.  Decent meal at a Irish Pub in Steamboat the first Saturday and a really great meal at a Mexican Place next to the Walmart Sunday before heading to Utah.  Enjoyed a good meal at the Dam Brewery in Dillon St Paddy's Day.

    The meals in Utah are the work of my wife as she is an excellent cook and really good in preparing good meals for decent size numbers of hungry skiers mouths.  My BIL's stepson and friends were so relived when they found out she would be there as they had bad information about our itinerary and thought they would be surviving on PB & J's.  She is very smart as she plans meals where the leftovers can be used for packed lunch's the next day.

    The driving part of the trip was interesting.  No problems from Denver to Steamboat, and Steamboat to Utah, but a different story on the return to Denver.  We took I-80 through Wyoming , which is the suggested shortest route,(my 1st time in that state) only to get to Sinclair and find the highway closed to Laramie due to a fatal accident.  Told it would be 6 to 8 hours before opening, we doubled back 50 or so miles to a highway that took us down to Craig Colorado and back through Steamboat.  We were supposed to get to Denver about 2, ended up being 6.  

    The drive back to Denver on Sunday night was pretty brutal too.  The storm (same one hitting Jersey today) was hitting the Front Range pretty good and the the final drop down to Denver was a little white knuckle.

    Kudo's to United, who gets a lot of bad press, they were nothing but good to us.

    Almost forgot the skis.  Boy did a good job picking them out.  The snow in the west hasn't been the best this year and there were times when we both missed our eastern skis on some of the slicker groomers in Colorado on the weekends but in both the soft snow and the powder snow and more typical western conditions, they were just awesome.



    Finally a big warm welcome to the 4aprice skiing/riding posse to Kelly (my sons interest).  A very nice young lady, good boarder, and all around good sport.  Was very impressed how she handled the board in the bumps and she makes the boy very happy, which is all a parent wants


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    Overall a great trip (safari) and can't wait to do it again next year.

    Alex

    Lake Hopatcong, NJ
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  • bmwskierbmwskier expert
    Posts: 525
    Awesome report with some great advice. Must be very handy to have a "front man" do the recon and get the gear for you all ready out there. Makes me want to start planning a western trip in the next couple of seasons!

    Does he want to hire out as a guide/front man? :-) 
    "Making ski films is being irresponsible with other people's money, in a responsible sort of way..." 
    Greg Stump
  • ciscokidciscokid expert
    Posts: 2,245
    Wow Alex your written report is as detailed and strong as your skiing. You put a lot into this , thanks.
  • JimKJimK advanced
    edited March 29 Posts: 261
    Thanks for sharing. I finally got around to reading this. I was doing a safari at the same time. Fresh snow is a double edged sword when doing ambitious western ski road trips. You want good ski conditions, but you need decent road conditions too for next relocation. It's all part of the adventure.
    Murphy's law about good local snow conditions just as you head west;-) When I started my trip on Mar 1 the mid-Atlantic areas were just about dead from a warm, rainy Feb, but I guess they got a second wind in March and some areas recovered quite well. I missed the comeback and Nor'easter drama since I was gone almost the whole month.
    Way to get around! We have to connect in Utah sometime.

    Not much you could do about that accident on I80, but it kind of sobers you about long mountain drives. My safari took me 7000+ miles and I have to admit that was a bit much even for a road lover like me. Not sure I will ever attempt that much on one trip again. We did a lot of one and two-night-stands and that got old too.
  • 4aprice4aprice advanced
    Posts: 192
    Thanks JimK.  Coming from you that means a lot as I have marveled over your reports and pictures for years.  I bet our paths will cross in Utah as we are out there every year.  

    32 is a good total for living in the DC area. (got to be a tough area to be a big ski fanatic)   I'm at 30 but hopefully have 3 more weekends to add.  The advantages of living up by NY.(and being able to access NNE)

    Alex

    Lake Hopatcong, NJ
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