Nine Weeks a Ski Bum by Jim Kenney, PART SIX
Getting with the flow of this trip took patience. I not only had to get used to the demands of extended travel and rigorous skiing, but this was also occurring not long after the major life event of retirement. I had to detach from the weekend warrior mode of skiing bell to bell. I cut way back on caffeine and went to bed early. As a family guy with four grown children I was used to eating with a gang and I did not like going out to restaurants alone. I preferred eating in my motel room or doing fast food. Interestingly, lift lines were pretty much a non-factor everywhere I went. I just got out of the base areas quickly and things were great. I also utilized singles lines. This strategy worked even for Texas Spring Break Week in Summit County, CO.
Peak Six at Breck.
It took me a long time to dress successfully for Western skiing. I had to go a little lighter than Eastern skiing, but keep layers handy just in case. I watched weather reports carefully. The mornings would often start cold, but go through a dramatic warm-up throughout the day. And I had many intensely sunny days. Getting into a routine with respect to ski clothing and “pocket management” helped me remember my lift pass, phone, keys, wallet, sun block, etc. Learning about bus routes and free parking lots took study, but it’s doable I didn’t pay to park for a ski day the entire trip. I found local newspapers to be a valuable resource about transportation, special events, and good deals. I also used online ski forums to gather ski intelligence data and connect with friends on the slopes.
I caught a free concert one night at Vail, this is the Barenaked Ladies.
Like a stereotypical thrifty senior, I brown bagged my lunch almost every ski day. This led to some memorable on-slope picnics including cooking homemade chili dogs with friends at one of Vail’s free on-mountain BBQ grills, giggling through a peppermint schnapps laced lunch at The Canyons with two hilarious friends, and two beautiful solo lunches at or near the highest lift served points of Heavenly and Jackson Hole. The best restaurant lunch I had during a ski day was at the Alpinehof Bistro located in the heart of the Jackson Hole base area next to the tram. Their Austrian fare was delicious, reasonably priced, and most importantly this restaurant was virtually empty when it was hard to find a seat at other restaurants higher on the mountain.
Jackson Hole scenery.
Although I ski a lot of black diamond terrain, I usually take it reasonably slow and careful. I don’t do a lot of super high speed groomer skiing and I think that’s where a lot of recreational skiers have the most serious accidents. The worst “wipeout” I had on the trip came at Kirkwood when I was daydreaming on a chair ride by myself. I forgot to get off at the top of the lift. As the chair began to circle back downhill I panicked and threw up the safety bar and jumped off. The drop was about four feet and my skis did the splits. It was momentarily somewhat painful, but there were no lasting effects.
Scratching my way down a glade called Needles Eye at Breckenridge.
My prime directive on this trip was to stay healthy, pace myself, and to still be skiing on the last day before my scheduled return. Mission accomplished. This sort of undertaking is a marathon, not a sprint. And finally my last lesson: it’s not just about the snow, it’s also about the people. Invariably I found ski days shared with friends highly rewarding and those spent with my family the most rewarding of all.
My wifey has the patience of a saint.
List of ski days at different areas during the trip: 6 Beaver Creek, 5 Vail, 7 Breckenridge, 4 Kirkwood, 3 Jackson Hole, 2 The Canyons, 1 each Heavenly, and Park City, 9 Keystone, 5 Arapahoe Basin (I skied Keystone and A-Basin on the same day once). I also cross country skied one day on a prepared track at the Raven Golf Course in Silverthorne and one day at Beaver Creek.
All photos by Jim Kenney