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greg-at-breck

Stunning views at Breckenridge

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An impressive mountain

I know you’re all thinking ‘Its about time’ and sadly the day has come when we have to pack and prepare for the long journey home. We had a fantastic final day on the mountain. Yesterday’s blizzard deposited around 40cm of fresh snow and the grooming crew worked their magic overnight. It was a picture perfect blue sky day and we enjoyed just cruising around and soaking up the amazing scenery.

The past 6 weeks have gone far too quickly and we have many lifelong memories to take home with us. We have witnessed the best and worst of mother nature and taken in some spectacular scenery. The fun of exploring San Francisco and the exhilaration of skiing have capped off a great holiday.

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Cathy-in-VailCathy in heavy snow on bridge in Vail

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Part of Vail village

Our plan was to pick a fine day to do battle with the traffic on the Interstate 70 freeway and drive to Vail. Typical of our planning it really dumped snow all the way. The road was really snowy with no lane marking lines visible and blowing snow adding to the challenge. Trucks had to fit chains to cross the Vail Pass so conditions were pretty dodgy. We made it safely and parked in the $25 per day undercover carpark in Vail.

Once again when we were in a resort for the first time, the snow bucketed down all day … big fat fluffy flakes (around 40cm). The gondola we rode up in had heated seats and WiFi. Visibility was poor and of course it was my fault that we ended up in the back bowls for our warm up runs. The snow was deep and the skiing amazing. We stopped for morning tea at Two Elks restaurant – this was the biggest mountain eatery I have ever seen.

Vail is the largest ski resort on North America and we found it all a bit overwhelming. You could ski there for a week and still not see the whole mountain. Everything was really nice … even the ski racks were flash. There were many amazing sculptures all around the village. Lots of the rich and famous ski here so we pretended to be part of that scene. I’m sure some people come just for the shopping and dining. It was interesting to walk around the paved and heated streets just looking at the people.

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iPhone app showing our skiing today

Riding up the Falcon chair on Peak 10 and skiing down Double Jack run (sped up)

A days skiing at Breckenridge as recorded by an iPhone app ‘Ski Tracks’. The red lines show our movements – up lifts and down runs. No snow in Google Earth images but you get the idea.

Distance: 27.8 km

Vertical: 4163 m

Max alt: 3532 m

Max speed: 60.7 km/h

Frisco

Frisco Main Street

Keystone

Keystone village

Another great day skiing yesterday but the cold temps and high altitude have us feeling a bit lethargic. There are oxygen bars all over the place here where you can pay to inhale O2 to ward off the effects of altitude. You can even buy pressure packs of O2 to use on demand.

We have both contracted colds and it was -21 deg when we woke up this morning so we wimped on the skiing and took the Chevy for a spin around the local area. The historic mining town of Frisco was fascinating with many old buildings and cute restaurants. There is a nearby lake but it is completely frozen at the moment.

There are quite a few ski resorts close to Breck and we drove to the nearest – Keystone. We had a quick look around but it was too cold to spend much time out of our toasty warm car. Our lift tickets for Breck allow us to ski at Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Vail and Beaver Creek so we hope to ski at a couple of these places.

cathyNgreg

On the deck of Peak 9 restaurant

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Wide, perfectly groomed runs

We managed to beat the snowstorm and cross Rabbit Ears Pass in our red chevy SUV and arrived safely in Breckenridge. I think we were mighty lucky as the snowstorm was the biggest in Colorado for over 2 years – Denver was just about shut down. As usual on our first day in a new resort, it snowed all day and we had no idea where we were skiing but we had a great day. We thought Steamboat was big … nothing compared to Breck. There are 4 peaks, each with its own lift system. Each area is interlinked and it is really easy to get completely lost.

Blue skies today so we were on first lifts and skied the most amazing groomed runs. It was great to be able to ski every peak and get an idea of the layout of this place … it is HUGE. At the top of one lift there are only black and double black runs to get you down. This is OK because so many of the black runs are groomed. We had morning tea at the Peak 9 Bar and Restaurant to the sound of explosives as the avalanche control crew did their work.

Our hotel has around 500 rooms and we can ski in and ski out. At the moment we are sitting in front of our open fire and drinking Veuve Clicquot champagne (lucky alcohol is cheap here)

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Greg enjoying the early morning powder 

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Cruising through the trees

As you can see from the photos today was a day you dream of as a skier – fresh overnight snow and sunny skies. Have a look at the photos on flickr and notice the vapour trail I am leaving. I’ve never seen this anywhere else in the world. Everyone is probably sick of me raving about this light and dry powder but it has really blown me away. A local guy told me that when the overnight snow piles up on top of his car he just has to slam a door and it all falls off leaving no residue.

You may have noticed the new ski jacket (SES orange) – Cathy can now find me much more easily. We have both bought new ski jackets, the clothes are so cheap in America.

Sadly, we have to leave Steamboat tomorrow. We are driving a hire car to Breckenridge. The roads have been pretty bad lately due to record snowfalls so I hope this brief stint of fine weather continues.

MexicanEnjoying margaritas and Mexican food

our-room

Cathy relaxing in our room with our pet elk enjoying the view

We went into the town of Steamboat Springs last night and ate at a Mexican restaurant called the Rio Grand. We had a real education in the vast variety of tequila that can be consumed. The margaritas were pretty nice and the food was authentic Mexican. Our hotel has a fantastic shuttle service that will take you to wherever you want to go and you just call them to come and pick you up.

The snow is once again puking down. The skiing was great as usual and we had an interesting lunch at a place called ‘Slopeside Bar and Grill’. It was a noisy bar with loads of atmosphere. I rented a pair of fat skis called ‘Hell and Back’ today and they were great in the powder. The outdoor hot tub with snow falling on our heads was a perfect finish to our day’s skiing.

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Cathy in front of a great vista

go-Cathy

Going for it a as a storm approaches

Theses photos were taken yesterday and the skiing was once again fantastic. Last night and this morning a storm dumped around 50cm of fresh powder on the mountain.  We were up early and found ourselves skiing in hip deep snow on top of the groomed runs. It was the most unbelievable snow, so light and dry. Skiers left a vapour trail behind them. We both experienced face shots and ‘getting into the white room’ as snow sprayed over our heads as we made our turns. I don’t think we have ever had a better day’s skiing.

Going out tonight to the Steamboat Grand restaurant … The Cabin. Should be lots of ribs and country music. We will have to start a serious diet when we leave America.

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Apres ski at the Bear River Bar and Grill

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Entertainment  and bronze statue of famous local identity … Billy Kidd

This is the busiest weekend of the season (President’s Day long weekend) with an estimated 12000 skiers on the mountain today. The place has really come to life and the vibe around town is fantastic. We thought we might avoid the morning crush by getting to the gondola just before the 8:30am opening. There was already a queue of several hundred but it was only a 10 minute wait to get aboard the high speed 8 person gondola car. The mountain is so huge that the crowds quickly spread out and we we skiing on runs with only a few other people. After the past couple of days of snowfall the runs were groomed to perfection. Quite a few of the black diamond runs were groomed so we had a blast. The weather was perfect … blue skies, no wind and temp of about -10.

I think the usual hot bath, beer/burbon, wine, dinner and Baileys should top of a great day.

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View from our hotel window

We have now been in Steamboat (or as the locals call it ‘The Boat’) for a couple of days. Our hotel room has spectacular views of the mountain and a very cozy fire. Last night was Valentines Day and there was a fireworks show and a some red flares appeared on the ski slope in the shape of a huge heart … very romantic.

The snow has continued falling but this has led to really poor visibility on the mountain. This is our first time here and there are 165 ski runs so we still have no idea where we were skiing. We had some great runs in thigh deep powder and had to stick close to the trees to get some definition. The powder is really light and dry – they call it ‘champagne powder’. Our hotel has outdoor hot tubs so we are taking advantage of these to soothe the aching muscles.

This is a cowboy town. Lots of country music playing over the outside loudspeakers and most of the staff wearing cool stetson hats. It is a huge resort and will get pretty busy this weekend. There is a public holiday on Monday … Presidents Day.

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