After an impromptu trip to Taos convinced me that 1) I do, indeed, love skiing and ski culture and 2) I should probably upgrade my equipment to 21st century technology, I visited my local ski shop and with the help of an expert boot fitter, I invested in new Lange boots. I chose new Rossignol Temptation 84s after using them in Taos and finding them relatively intuitive. I did not get new poles – that is a post for another day!
I took my new gear out for a few spins in Wisconsin in March: Cascade Mountain and Nordic Mountain. That was a fun little trip and I’ll save that post for another time.
I was not ready to end the season without trying the new gear out West. I tracked snow and resort closure dates and learned that both Loveland Ski Area and Arapahoe Basin had extended seasons into at least May. I booked my flight to Denver, and rental car. I struggled to find conveniently located and affordable lodging until I happened upon a listing for the Best Western Ptarmigan Lodge in Dillon, CO (just across the highway from Silverthorne.) It had excellent reviews so I took a chance.
The afternoon before I was to leave, I felt horrible – clammy and sweaty, rapid heartbeat, and somewhat dizzy. I thought perhaps I overdid it in the gym earlier that afternoon and was dehydrated. Early the next morning, while plodding through O’Hare to my gate, the same feeling came over me. I shrugged it off as tiredness and boarded my flight. After landing in Denver, while heading toward bag claim, it hit me again. Was I having a cardiac event? I headed toward the information desk and asked for first aid. A wonderful first aid officer came over and asked me questions then offered to do an EKG on site (no charge). He said my EKG was normal but I did have a very rapid heart rate and he could see I was sweating profusely. He advised me to go to a nearby hospital. I didn’t know what to do: I booked a 1PM ski lesson at Loveland (great prices, btw) so I wanted to go on my way. It occurred to me that what I was experiencing was probably a panic attack. I have had these before. They pop up usually as a reaction to stress that I try to ignore until it manifests physically. I have also had similar sensations as part of the beginning stages of anaphylaxis (I have severe food allergies.) If a panic attack, I do carry prescription medication for it, but that would render me unable to drive a car. I opted to take a low-dose of fast-melt Benadryl, and continue on. Some may think this is crazy, that I should have gone to a hospital, but I have had these symptoms before, and with a clear EKG, and a call to an ER Doc relative, I felt confident that my symptoms were able to be overcome on my own.
The Benadryl kicked in as I was in queue for my rental car, or in this case, TRUCK: a mighty Ford F-150. I felt much better, so I made my way to I-70 West and enjoyed my “Happy Ski Jams” playlist along the way.
I made it to the muddy, crowded parking lot and thankfully a handsome middle-aged man with a heavy Austrian accent offered to help me wedge the giant truck into a tiny parking space. He warned me that the snow was “cement.” I did not quite understand what he meant until I got on the mountain.
Like a complete goober, I took my ski and boot bag with me into the lodge. Ugh, what a Jerry move! I was scolded by a woman in the cafeteria about having my skis indoors. Whoops.
I checked in for my ski lesson and bought a bottle of water to tuck into my jacket. Ugh, the altitude was kicking in.
All the instructors were clad in Hawaiian-style shirts, I suppose as an homage to the warming weather. Russ introduced himself, and since no one else showed up/was scheduled for an adult lesson at that time, it was a “private” lesson. I explained that I recently switched to shaped skis and wanted to refine my techniques using them. The first thing he should have said was, “When was the last time you waxed your skis?”
Despite frequent unintentional stopping due to the grippy snow, Russ assessed me as “a good skier” and felt confident we could just go along skiing the whole mountain. For a non-resort ski area, Loveland is vast, and I am very glad I had an instructor/guide with me, as I think I could have easily gotten lost. After tasking me with being more aggressive in my posture and turns, we practiced a bit on the runs around Chair 2, then made our way over to Chair Nine heading to the top of the Continental Divide to ski the bowls up there.
As we approached the summit, I was entranced by the view which included a number of Summit County ski areas. I was so taken with this awesome view that I forgot to get off the lift! Russ was yelling, “Jump!” as the chair began to turn downhill. I jumped and hit my tailbone right on the ice. OUCH. I already had so many bruises that day, though (pictures later) that I just got up and kept going. It was worth it. That view and feeling at the summit is a moment I’ll never forget. Every time I get up high on a mountain, I want to hang out and just LOOK.
It wasn’t the best skiing, due to the snow/lack of base boost on my skis, but it felt like an accomplishment to me, making our way down that bowl.
Pictures below, from the top of Chair 9, skiing down the bowl, and a view from of the other side of the mountain of the bowl we skied.
After my lesson concluded, I skied another hour until last chair, making my way around the opposite side of the area we had been skiing. I popped off my skis, and ambled into a near-empty lodge with just a few folks hanging out at a modest bar with friendly staff. I ordered a Coors Light draft, figuring it would be fresh. Folks, in that moment, among a jovial apres ski crowd, and quenching a thirst after an afternoon in the sun at high altitude, that beer was possibly the best beer I’ve ever had. It totally hit the spot. Unfortunately, I accidentally left a hat, watch, and bracelet in my rented locker! When I returned home, I called Loveland, and they were kind enough to check lost and found, and someone called me back that the items (minus the hat) were found. I just paid the postage and they shipped them back to me via USPS Priority Mail.
I headed to my hotel, was able to check in easily, and then schlepped all of my bags from the truck in the parking lot, up the stairs to my room. It wasn’t horrible, and there is actually a motel I stay at frequently in WI with only stairs, but I now try to avoid it if possible when booking my trips.
I took a hot bath then decided to drive around the town a bit and scout out somewhere to go for dinner. I first popped next door to Arapahoe Cafe, but they were filled in both the downstairs bar and dining room. They had a dish on their menu that looked so good, so I made a mental note to stop in earlier the next day before the dinner rush.
I spent enough time dawdling about that I had no luck finding a non-chain restaurant that was open and felt like the place I wanted to celebrate my 49th birthday.
Feeling defeated, I went back to my room, and used the PHONE BOOK to locate what was open and offered delivery. I ended up ordering Domino’s Pizza from the local franchise. At first, I thought it was a pretty lame move, but the folks on the phone were so nice, as was my delivery person. I tried their Brooklyn Thin Crust and it was pretty tasty. I also got some sort of gooey brownie dish that was gigantic. No candle but I least I had a cake! It was just as well that I noshed in my room while watching TV – I felt pretty beat up after a few spills on the mountain.