Sunday, January 3, 2010

Notes from Snowmass (New Years 2010)

Snowmass is possibly the best family mountain we’ve ever visited. It’s enormous, with a huge range of skiing for everyone. There’s great cruising for the moms, great steeps and bumps for the experts and lots of cool glades for the kids. In a big snow, The Burn would be fantastic. We only got a bit of snow, but it was enough to have serious fun. We spent the week with the Merrills, the Peskins, the Trapnesses, the Marshmans and various other families from Jersey and other past associations. At times, there were twenty of us skiing together.

Here are a couple of notable events from the week:

• Oliver (9) had a tough week, with trips in both a police car and an ambulance. On our second day, he came down the mountain early with Nancy Merrill intending to call it quits because of cold. He thought he spied our condo, so he stopped several hundred yards uphill of where Nancy stood, took off his skis and walked off the hill. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our condo, and he didn’t really know where he was at all. So he descended the mountain and got even more lost amongst the masses. After about 1.5 hours of furious searching by several adults, Oliver was brought home in the front seat of a police cruiser, having been spotted with a bewildered look on his face by another thoughtful dad. Thankfully, all ended well.

• The next day, we let all the kids ski alone, with Walker (12) and Henrick Trapness in charge of the whole group of ten or so boys. Upon taking leave of us, they promptly headed for the terrain park. On his first trip down, Oliver hit the first jump a bit too fast, and ended up inverted, landing on his head and shoulders. He got the wind knocked out of him, and his brain got a bit jangled, so he was essentially mute and breathing strenuously when the medics got to him. They put him on a board, secured his neck, hooked him up to oxygen and took him to the mountain first aid station. Walker had quickly called both Teresa’s and my cell phone, and we showed up at the station even before Oliver did. The doctor on the mountain had no way of knowing whether Oliver’s spine was OK, so he ordered an ambulance, and Teresa piled in with the stretcher and they headed off for a scary trip to the hospital and a CT scan. I followed in the car. Thankfully, all the tests at the hospital proved negative, and after a few hours, Oliver was given a clean bill of health, although he was still feeling bruised and achy. The doctor told him he could ski if he felt up for it, and ironically, by the end of the next day, he was back on the slopes and handling black diamonds with ease.

• We spent New Year’s Eve with the Marshmans and Merrills in Aspen watching fireworks and drinking hot chocolate spiked with double espresso vodka. A good time had by all, even if we were in bed by 10:30PM (that’s 12:30PM EST!).

• We spent our last day skiing at Aspen Highlands, which everyone loved. It has fantastic steeps, and there are plenty of good double blacks that were even fun for Teresa and the kids. Almost on a whim, Walker (12) and I headed out to check out the Highlands Bowl, and we ended up hiking all the way up to Highland Peak, about a 40 minute hike with skis up to 12,400 feet. I was incredibly proud of Walker for toughing it up such a serious and cold climb, and then skiing down such harrowing expert terrain. At the top, there were about six bearded mountain men, Walker and me. Here are a couple of pictures of the Peak and the Bowl (from Google Earth).

A snowcat takes you to the spot where the tree line intersects the ridge, then you've got to hike the rest of the way. We made it to the farthest peak.

Here's what it feels like to walk along the ridge. Best not to look down!

Here are Walker and me at the summit. We found out later that day that George and Alex Marshman had also made it to the Highland Peak.

• On Saturday, we set out from Snowmass at 11AM for dinner at Carl and Allie’s at 321 Jasmine Street in Denver. The whole crew (20 people!) were there waiting for us. I hadn’t seen most of them for more than five years, so it was to be a great family reunion. Unfortunately, mother nature would not cooperate. The snow started in earnest about half an hour after we started on the road. By the time we got to Vail, I-70 was closed because of an accident. We stopped for ice cream and coffee, and by the time we set out again, the road was open, but it was only a taunt. By the time we got to Dillon, the road was unpassable again, and we spent four hours parked on I-70 with a thousand other stranded cars, with only a single can of lemonade and one granola bar between the five of us. By the time we got through Eisenhower tunnel, it was too late to visit lest we miss our plane home. I was devastated about missing the Wells, but ultimately pleased to be able to make the plane. Ironically, the plane was extremely comfortable, since about a third of the passengers missed it, still being stuck in the mountains somewhere.

• By the way, 511 does not work for Diddly. The Colorado Highway Patrol has some serious work to do in keeping motorists informed about travel conditions.