Archive | January, 2014
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keystone pow, round 2

31 Jan

keystone pow, round 2

Another day of freshies!

12 inches and counting.

30 Jan

We all knew it was coming.

It was all over the news. OpenSnow was shouting the impending storm from the mountain tops. Amy (aka the Keystone Lodge and Spa “Mama Bear”) had a migraine earlier this week. The question was, would it actually hit Keystone?

You see, Keystone Resort is fondly known by Summit County locals as “The Donut”. Though we are included in all of the winter weather alerts, Keystone seems to be located in a weather bubble that causes the town and hill to get about half as much of the predicted snow. It can be frustrating.

Bu today, today was different.

With 8″ reported at 5:00am and another 4″ falling between 5:00 and 8:00am, Keystone finally raked it in; and we “locals” reaped the benefits of having our home hill take the cake in the powder wars.

Waist deep snow everywhere. Face-shots with every turn. Trees branches sagging, drooping, with the load of snow nestled into the needles. Around every bend, a “WHOOP!” from fellow skiers echoing through the trees. It. Was. EPIC.

Needless to say, it was a morning to remember and with another 10-20″ forecasted to fall by tomorrow morning, you can bet Friday will be up there too.

Let’s get a WHOOP! for the Summit County Snowpocalypse and a WHOOP! for Keystone, the under dog.

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wasn’t NYE just last week?

28 Jan

wasn't NYE just last week?

I’m not sure where January has gone, but somehow Feb. 1 (happy birthday Dad!) is five days away. I vow to make February last a LITTLE bit longer.

Also, if you live in Summit County or the Vail Valley, check out the Facebook page “365 Things to do in Summit County Colorado”. You won’t regret it, I promise.

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the weather outside is frightful.

14 Jan

the weather outside is frightful.

Blowing snow and sub-zero temps. I think Abbey has the right idea. If you need us, you’ll find us camped out under blankets, catching up on Castle, and drinking hot cocoa.

avalanche!

13 Jan

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Photo Credit: Andrew Navin, Mayflower Gulch

“There are old skiers, there are bold skiers; but there are no old, bold skiers”

Mr. A and I spent all weekend becoming Avalanche 1 certified backcountry skiers; becoming more informed on the causes, solutions, escape routes, and tour planning, when it comes to backcountry travel. Considering the amount of time we spend in the backcountry, we figured it could only serve in our favor to become more educated on the great white world that we call home.

Although nearly everything that we learned over the last three days was extremely pertinent and can be applied to just about all of our out-of-bounds adventures, the thing that struck me most during our time in this Avi 1 class was our discussion on Human Triggers and the glorification of big pow, steep slopes, heck even avalanches themselves, in today’s ski/snowboard culture.

The “glorification of big pow” is visible across all facets of daily life in Summit County. Colleagues at the workplace bragging about their huge “huck” off that gnarly rock pile three miles into Little Alaska Bowl, movie nights featuring just about anything from Teton Gravity Research (don’t get me wrong, those guys are rad), features in industry pubs, you name it. But what you don’t hear about is how these “experts” prepared themselves for the gnarly conditions that they are challenging themselves with. I think a lot of people, including myself, consider themselves to be untouchable. That getting caught in an avalanche is something that will never happen to them, even though Colorado is the #1 state in the United States for avalanche related deaths and Summit County is #2 in the state of Colorado for counties with the highest avalanche incidents. If nothing else, this class gave me an idea of the lack of significance that we, as humans, carry in the wild world of Mother Nature. 

Thinking back over my year in Colorful Colorado, I can think of several instances where human triggers and the glorification of backcountry access easily could’ve come into play during my stints in unpatrolled terrain. Human triggers such as the “expert halo” or social instinct, heck even the need to get the perfect “brag” shot, has affected my decisions about whether or not I ski somewhere. Prior to this class, I assumed that the guys I was traveling with were the “experts”, that they had a plan, should we run into something that alters our plan of attack. In hindsight, they may have had all the gear and been strong skiers, but I am fairly certain that many of them had yet to take a proper avalanche safety class that would teach them the basics of utilizing their gear and reading the conditions.

CAIC has some great incident write-ups that detail the events leading up to and during avalanches across the state that involved a loss of human life. Upon reading these write-ups or even this spectacular New York Times article on the Stevens Pass/Tunnel Creek avalanche, you will see that many of these incidents involve people that are considered industry “experts” who ignored the signs that would otherwise point directly to instability in the snowpack. Yes, there may have been signs of a weak snowpack underfoot, but it was the “human mind” that lead these experts to ignore the facts and continue up into the danger zone.

Our Avalanche 1 certification class was an extremely eye-opening experience that yes, while providing us with the very basics in avalanche terrain, also opened our eyes to how naïve we’ve been about the dangers and risks that go hand-in-hand with traveling in the backcountry.  I’m not saying that you won’t find us messing around Mayflower Gulch, Humbug Gulch (a new spot on the other side of Mayflower that was suggested to us yesterday!), or Cadillac (outside of ‘Zuma), but you will find us spending more time examining the conditions, planning routes appropriate to the weather and snowpack, and understanding the risks associate with touring.

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hawaiian tropic.

9 Jan

College spring break.

Even though we knew we would be spending the week in Naples, FL., we got to planning the trip as soon as New Years Day came to pass. It didn’t matter that our sleeping arrangements would be the same as last year or that we already knew that we’d be eating dinner at The Dock on Tuesday and The Pub on Wednesday (or that the two restaurants featured pretty much the exact same menu…) or that we’d swing by D&D’s for a breakfast time chat before we hit the road on our meandering four mile walks down to the Naples Beach Hotel. It was spring break and we were planners.

We overpacked, over-planned, and woke up extra early on the day of our departure, just to ensure that we made it to the airport with ample time; and when we finally walked out of the Ft. Myers Airport to D&D’s van, it felt like we were walking through Heaven’s palm-tree lined gates.

HB and I would begin each day with a morning walk and by the time we arrived back at the condo, whomever decided to sleep through the morning walk had already laid out all of our towels by the water. Every 30 minutes or so we’d pop up and take a refreshing dip in the pool, washing the salty sea air off our browned bodies. At noon someone would make the executive decision that it was time to hit the beach and we’d head down to Vedado Beach, sometimes with Dampa in tow on his daily bike ride, and repeat the aforementioned steps. 5 ‘o clock meant girl talk and a glass of wine with Damma by the bay and 7 ‘o clock meant grilling adventures and gossip with Dampa. It was perfection.

Throughout our time in paradise the beachy, conconutty, balmy scent of Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen permeated the air. It followed us to the beach, the pool, on walks, was imbedded into our clothes, and usually ended up infiltrating our suitcases, following us back to Miami of Ohio and Indiana University.

This morning I woke up to sapphire blue skies and temperatures in the 20s. Prior to heading out on my morning hike up the Dillion Nature Preserve, I lathered on some Hawaiian Tropic. Though there were three inches of new snow on the ground and I finished my hike atop the scenic ridgeline of the Dillon Peninsula, not along the beach of the Naples Beach Hotel, I could’ve sworn I was back in Naples, lounging on the sand with my girls.

Cheers from one beach to another!

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solidarity.

7 Jan

I admit it. I let myself get caught up in the craziness of the holidays. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays. I love that during the weeks between Thanksgiving Day and the New Year, that extra special feeling of closeness becomes ingrained in your everyday life. That to some extent the twinkling of Christmas lights act as a trigger for that feeling of intimacy that can only be felt for the ones you love most. I especially love that the holidays are the perfect excuse to eat as much dessert as your heart desires, because c’mon, what’s Christmas without a little Mary Murphy Dessert?
 
This year was a little bit different. Managing a hotel at Christmastime was far more stressful than I ever could’ve imagined. Truly. I went home every night for about three weeks and collapsed in bed or on the couch, completely wiped out from the day’s events. Not only that, but about 25% of Lodge employees (including myself!) down with an EPIC flu; that said, over the last few weeks I have received more late night calls and text messages about vomit than I care to admit.
 
Anyway, the holidays ended for us, officially, on Sunday; just two short days ago. And to celebrate we hiked up Mayflower Gulch this morning to spend a little time getting reacquainted with the great outdoors. I signed up for the Leadville Trail Marathon on January 1, so I figured Mayflower’s quick hike up would be good way to kick off the training season. But as we wandered up the gently sloping gulch road, I realized that while, yes, I needed to get my butt back in gear, it was my mind that needed this escape into the “wild”. At one point I stopped to take a breather and realized that all I could hear were the birds chirping in the early morning light, the sound of Abbey and Andrew, ok and myself, panting, and the squeaky crunch of the packed snow underfoot. It was glorious.
 
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