Nine Weeks a Ski Bum by Jim Kenney, PART ONE

edited November 2015 in Trip Reports

Nine Weeks a Ski Bum

By Jim Kenney

November 13, 2015

{I apologize for breaking the report into six sections, but the format here would allow only so many characters per post.  Thanks.}

Introduction

I’ve wanted to make this post for months.  I guess it’s my way of thanking those who
managed Snowjournal 1.0 for so long and the new managers who established
Snowjournal 2.0 earlier in 2015.  Also, I
just plain enjoy sharing ski travel stoke with the fine readership here.  This is a very special ski trip report for me
because it’s about the trip of a lifetime. 

The day before I left home: have skis & Subaru, will travel:-)

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On January 2, 2015 at age 61 I
retired from the federal government in Washington DC after 37+ years as a civil
servant.  I’ve been a skier since
boyhood, but trapped in the weekend warrior mode all my life.  Moreover, I was anchored all those years in
the not so snow friendly mid-Atlantic US. 
With retirement I finally got the chance to go “ski bumming” for a truly
lengthy stint during the heart of Winter 2015 while incorporating numerous
first rate western US ski mountains.  This
is my after action report on my nine week trip including highlights, lowlights,
ski area impressions, finances, lessons learned, logistical tips, and lots of
photos.

Probably my favorite picture of myself from
the trip, in the back bowls of Vail, February 2015.

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Logistics and Finances

I started driving west from Northern Virginia on January
31 and I returned home on April 3.  I
chose not to chase powder, but instead followed a prearranged itinerary based
on lodging preferences and planned visits with friends around the country.  You might find it funny, but my biggest pre-trip
worry was whether I would have anyone to ski with, so I made connecting with
friends a priority over connecting with the freshest snow.  I skied ten different ski areas in five states
(CO, UT, CA, NV, WY) and put over 8400 miles on my 2014 Subaru Outback.  I caught a break when nationwide gas prices
dipped last winter saving me perhaps $350-400 on overall gas costs.  The cheapest gas I saw was in Illinois and
Missouri at $1.79 per gallon.

With a gang of friends on a beautiful March day at Breckenridge, I'm on the left.  One of the guys was an extreme skier, two others were instructors at Breck.

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For the record, the best snow conditions I
experienced were in mid-February at Breckenridge, CO, a mountain I had never
skied before and grew to thoroughly enjoy. 
Fortuitously, the route of my great western loop had me circling back to
Summit County, CO for the final four weeks of my trip where snow conditions
continued to hold up fairly well through a beautiful, but not very snowy month
of March.  My favorite onslope memories
from the trip were skiing in good snow conditions at several of the higher
altitude Colorado Front Range resorts.

Thanks to Uncle Sam I received a good government
pension, plus I had lined up a new part time job for after my return home.  Financing the trip was not a problem, but I
have the thrift gene from my Scotch-Irish ancestors.  It turns out that once you have a ski pass (I
used an EpicPass for most of my ski days) the largest cost of a trip like this is
the nightly accommodations.  To economize
while meeting the expectations of myself and my family I planned the trip in
two phases;  an initial month of solo
low-budget ski bumming around the US while visiting numerous ski areas and
friends, and then for the second month settling down into a stable and somewhat
more upscale lodging situation while hosting my wife, family, and friends.

Tina
Maze taking gold in the Women’s Combined at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships
at Beaver Creek.

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During the solo phase of the trip I often used the
Express Deals option on Priceline.com to find motels, particularly when I was
traveling between ski areas and needed a place to stay for just a night or
two.  You never get the best rate by
randomly showing up at a motel and asking for a room. I only did that once due
to fatigue and lack of internet access after a long day of solo driving from
St. Louis to Denver.   My best Priceline deal was a night in a
Quality Inn Suite in Glenwood Springs, CO for $45 including tax.  I regretted not factoring-in a few more days
at this location.  The room felt palatial
in comparison to some of my other accommodations and included a nice breakfast
bar and an indoor pool with hot tub.

Skijoring competition in Minturn, CO.

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I also carefully mined the web and other options prior
to my trip for several key lodging choices that were not obtained via
Priceline.  I found a very inexpensive,
but very austere motel (Turntable Restaurant and Motel in Minturn, CO) that I
stayed at near Vail for two weeks during the World Championships for $350 per
week.  I got a bunk bed in a dorm room at
Chateau Après Lodge two blocks from the chairlifts at Park City for $40 per
night including breakfast.  I enjoyed several
no-cost days at Kirkwood, CA through the generosity of a relative’s slopeside
condo. 

Show me a better bargain in the US for near-slopeside accommodations at a major ski resort than
the $40 bunks in the dorm of the Chateau Après Lodge, Park City including breakfast and two blocks from the lifts. 

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My best lodging decision was to rent a nice two
bedroom townhouse in Silverthorne, Colorado for 30 days so that my wife could
join me for the month of March. I arranged that rental through VRBO for $3500
including all costs.  There is no motel tax
for stays of 30+ days in Summit County, CO.  

Geezer honeymooners.  

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Comments

  • I was waiting for this big writeup after following your reports last winter. I need to get a few weekend chores done but am looking forward to the other installments.
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