Last Sunday Tony and I drove two and a half hours south so that we could fly about 1,000 miles west. We were headed to Denver for some business and then on to Winter Park for skiing. Since the weather in our own backyard wasn’t ideal, we left early and ended up ambling around the Grand River in Grand Rapids. The riverside path was several feet under flood water, but it still made for a pleasant evening.
(The right image features in-camera effects; it’s not really quite that dramatic)
Bright Dark and early Monday morning (4:15) we got up and headed for the airport. An uneventful flight and several hours later, our friend also arrived and we were off for lunch, then on to Winter Park. Our house here in Michigan is at about 800-feet; Denver is somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000-feet. Winter Park is at 9,100-feet.
By the time we hit the interstate, a couple of inches of wet snow had accumulated. Dave bravely drove our rental car (Chevrolet Equinox, which did have all wheel drive, but not snow tires) through the ensuing carnage. Locals slid into guard rails, one another, and anywhere but safely forward, and flashing signs announced chain laws were in effect. Intimidated, I doubted whether we’d make remaining 4,000-feet climb in the continuing snow; I can’t think Dave (who is from Atlanta, Georgia, which rarely gets snow) was confident.
But, we kept going, and before long we arrived at the base of Berthoud Pass, about twenty miles south of Winter Park…just as they closed it due to avalanche danger. Short drive long: we doubled back and drove around the mountains, turning a ninety-minute journey into a four-hour one. Regardless, we arrived safely in Winter Park before dinner, and relaxed in preparation for the next couple days.
Tuesday began brilliantly blue and clear, and we skied an hour and a half before lunch. It was a different world on the mountain than what I’m used to. The snow was heavy and wet, and the runs were lllllloooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnggggggg. After tackling a couple in their entirety, I finally decided it was much more enjoyable to ski for a bit, then stop and take in my surroundings before carrying on.
After lunch, we got in another three and a half hours, making our way all the way to the top at 12,060-feet.
Eventually, the warm temps turned too much of the snow to slush, so we called it a day. Not that we were up for a whole lot more. We all struggled to stay awake until 9PM…which was really 8:52. (Normally Tony and I are up until about 1AM.)
Tricked by the previous day’s warm weather, we under-dressed for Wednesday. Not only did the sun almost fail to appear, but also it was colder and much windier. And then it started snowing. A lot. The park began closing lifts one after the other, and since we don’t know our way around, we headed down via a path we did know. Good thing too, because we ended up navigating by the mountainside restaurant, as in: “I must be going the right way, because I’m pretty sure that sort-of shadow is that restaurant.”
The drive back to Denver on Thursday morning went much smoother than the trip from Denver. Crews had detonated charges, clearing the avalanche danger, and re-opened the pass. While Dave met with a client, Tony and I took a walk in a nearby park. I’m not ready to pack my stuff into boxes or anything, but it’s hard to argue with a kid’s playground that houses a tiny climbing feature in addition to expansive mountain views.
We’re back near sea level now, and my body is grateful. We didn’t return to idyllic spring weather, we we did hike a couple miles in the sun yesterday, and about four miles on a snow-free path today. Things are looking up 🙂