Wes and the Boys in Colorado 2003
Every travelogue begins and ends with an airplane story. Mine is
simple: I got on healthy and happy, I got off sick and miserable. I had
a room reserved at the airport Motel 6. I checked in at 11:00 PM, by
11:10 PM I was hanging over the toilet puking my guts out. Rinse and
repeat. And again. Fitful sleep followed but not until 1:00 AM or so.
My plan was to meet Matt Duffy at A-Basin Monday morning at 9. At 7 AM,
I roused myself and started to dress for skiing. Ddin't get very far.My
brain was certainly not engaged. But my digestive tract was in
full gear: by 7:10 AM I was hanging over the toilet puking my guts out.
Rinse and repeat. And again. Somewhere in there I called Duffy and
said, "Go back to sleep!" I called Vickie and she told me the same.
More fitful sleep followed.
So here I was, in Colorado for six straight days of powder skiing and
SkiVt-L research. And here I was, sicker than a dog. Altitude? Norwalk
virus? Poisoned by members of some rival ski discussion list? Who
knows. Whatever the reason, I wasn't skiing: I was half naked in a dark
and dingy Motel 6 on the outskirts of Denver tossing cookies down the
Next thing I knew, it was 10:30. I awoke. My head was clear. My stomach
was calm. I dressed again. Still OK. I packed my bags. Still OK. I
called Duffy, I checked out of the dive, bought a burger and Coke at
the Wendy's next door, and raced onto I-70 West. Get the barf bags
ready, A-Basin, here I come!
I met Matt on the Sundeck around 12:30 and bought a half-day ticket.
The sun was shining, I was at 10,000 feet above the sea. Things were
starting to click. And so there I was, standing at the ski rack
clicking into my skis, when a guy comes up and says, "You the guy from
the ski list?"
I got get me some new pants. No anonymity no more.
The guy was Reed, UVM graduate, roommate of ex-lister Rick Ando
(Andor), Boyhood buddy of Jerm (see http://list.uvm.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind9903A&L=skivt-l&P=R1645
). Reed had moved out to Dillon after graduation, fell in love, got
married, moved to Westchester NY. Skiing Plattekill now, but missed the
big mountains, so there he was, wife and kids in tow. He joined up with
me and Matt as we gave A-Basin the once over.
Analysis: hard snow, by Western standards. Incredibly carvable bumps,
by East Coast reckoning. Big blue sky, bright Colorado sun. Reed was
complaining about his headache: I felt like a champ.
Dillon and dinner followed. Matt and I caught up on our life stories,
then I was off the Breckenridge to secure lodging for the rest of the
team. All I needed to do now was drive another 100 miles into Denver,
pick up Jimmy and Scotty at America's most convenient airport at
midnight, drive another hunnerd miles before bed.
The boys and I didn't get to sleep until 3 AM mountain time. Tuesday
morning brought confusion and scrambling: Matt on the phone, Jeremy on
the phone; Andrew Clapp, Jim's brother on the phone. Breakfast at the
donut shop. Bro factor ski medallions were exchanged, gaining us free
access to the lifts at Breckenridge. It wasn't until the disgraceful
hour of noon before we boarded the lifts.
Breckenridge is a broad ridgeline of high peaks that you can't get to.
The lifts run from town almost to the summits -- to get any further,
you have to hike. Working on little sleep, that seemed out of the
question. So we rode lifts and looked for snow. Surely there was some
There certainly was none up in the bowls. We rode the so-called summit
T-bar, talked to a patroller, and on his recommendation we traversed
out to a big old bowl named Vertigo. And that it was: steep and wind
scoured. The snow was firm but chalky. Slick but carvable, if you kept
your wits. One of our party did not, and down he tumbled like a broken
rag doll doing the slide for life. After two or three hundred feet, his
ski tail augured into the firmament and he came to a stop, signaling
Trees are good. They hold powder Not today, but in general. Today they
were bumpy but soft, skied out yet fun. Better than death slides in
empty bowls, that's for sure.
Other than the Big Slide, the day was uneventful. We longed for the
deep powder of Vermont. The Inspection was not going well: Matt Duffy
has indeed been exagerating the truth, we thought. There was no powder
to be found in Colorado, not at A-Basin nor at Breckenridge. Snow was
in the forecast, though -- a whopping 30% chance. Duffy had one more
day to come through and show us the goods. The clock was ticking.
Hot tub and showers, dinner at Eric's Sports Bar with Andrew and his
family. Time for bed and powder dreams.
Jimmy's Birthday Present
During our pre-trip correspondence, I wrote to Matt something to the
effect of. "I've never seen a group of 3+ skiers reach a consensus
decision." But in SkiVt-L land, you never know. After about 14 phone
calls between the various interested parties, Jeremy, His brother
Jason, Matt Duffy, Scott, me, and fortieth birthday boy Jumpin' Jimmy
Clapp rendezvoused at the base of the Super Bee lift at Copper
Mountain. We rode that lift as far as we could to a summit poma and
followed young Jason into the Enchanted Forest. Enchanted indeed: Poof!
and he was gone. Jeremy said he'd go find and him, and Poof! he, too,
disappeared. The three old men and Matt were left holding the bag, as
it were. Day One of the SIbling Challenge had begun.
So Matt and I took the lead and away we went, this way and that,
generally staying low and skiing long. That first run was way long --
all 2600 vertical feet. In and out of trees, using our Vermont honed
powder snooping skills to eek out little turns here and there in a few
inches of old snow. Making noise in the trees, terrorizing the tourons,
filming our exploits for the 2003 video projects, hoping to eventually
score big but knowing that we probably wouldn't.
Our meanderings delivered us to summit once again in search of Union
Meadows, a run both Matt and I recalled from previous visits as being
"out there." So Out There we went, clinging to the resorts norther
border line, singing I Need a Miracle. BEEP! BEEP! The powder radar
clicked in, and as Jimmy described it to me later, I dropped into a
passing glade like a bomb out of a B-52 aiming toward Baghdad. Powder
shots, massive cedar trees, lines of flight to be seen everywhere. Call
it 8 to 10" of old yet undisturbed snow, lying right there in the midst
of one of Colorado's most popular resorts perhaps for weeks on end just
waiting for some big ol' Vermont boys to track up and scatter. Oh, yeah.
This far out powder route lead us all the way back to the bottom. So we
went up and did it again, and lo -- it was still good. Good enough for
a third time? Perhaps, but the hour was late and Matt had to check on
dog WInter before she baked in his car forcing us to eat roast puppy
burgers that night. So the Duffster headed home, and we headed back up
the hill for some warm-down runs, ending the day with the 17 Glade.
Finally, they shut off the lifts and we had to stop, and no sooner did
we pull of our boards did Jerm and then Jason -- remember them? They
came to ski with us -- reappear, having just diced 17 Glade themselves.
"Who won," I asked. "I Guess I did," beamed Jerm, "I'm down first!"
So the five of us retired to our temporary condo home and welcoming hot
tubs. We boiled a bit before heading up to Blue River and Andrew
Clapp's house for birthday dinner and cake. I love January birthdays.
Hump Day at Keystone
The brothers Malczyk were gone to see sister Malczyk in
Steamboat. Matt dealt himself in, as did borther Andrew, and thus began
Day Two of the SIbling Challenge. Destination: Keystone. If Copper
still held untracked in the high far nether reaches, I reasoned, then
Keystone, too, would have some untracked hidden somewhere in the
But to get to the outback, you need to ski the upfront. Welcome to
Vermont: East Coast skiing at its worse. First time I saw Matt not
having a good time. He and I were forcing phat powder skis to negotiate
Killington terrain. Diceman Andrew put us all to shame, knocking of big
GS carvers and clearly earning Sibling Challenge points. The only
thing that slowed him down was his cell phone, and Jumpin' Warren
And what was there to film? We found the Outback all right, and
followed two old guys through the gate and towards a norther exposure.
"Any good out here?" we asked. "Yeah it's OK. I mean, no -- it sucks!"
Words that engage the powder radar. They split left, I traversed
another 2, 3 hundred feet and it was bombs away! Down, down down down
powder turn left right left right over the log turn turn turn turn turn
turn powder powder powder powder!
We sliced and diced those glades over and over. One thousand vertical
feet of mostly untracked, undisturbed snow, laid down my Momma Nature
perhaps weeks before our arrival, guarded by just those two old guys
and waiting just for us. We skied and filmed and skied and filmed while
Andrew made deals on his cell and waited impatiently until he could
take no more and had to split for home and some real work. And we skied
some more. We figured a half dozen runs, four with Andrew Diceman,
accounting for some 28 tracks in the snow. Virgin glades no more:
Colorado gang bang Vermont style.
Finally, depleted of water, food, energy, and sun, we began the long
trek back towards The Village, the Car, the Condo.The five of us (with
Winter) retired to our temporary condo home and welcoming hot tubs. We
boiled a bit before heading in for giant plates of beef flesh and
subsequent comas. Good night.
or DOH! Vail.
Underground parking garages. Only at Vail. Faux Fantasyland Alpine
Villages. Only at Vail. Shoppers hustling with shopping bags and
stylish furry boots. Only at Vail. Seventy-one dollars for a lift
ticket. Only at Vail. Five thousand two hundred eighty nine acres of
crappy snow. Only at Vail.
Well, mostly crappy. Thanks to Andrew's discounts and some old guy
scalping his 3-day group ticket, we came in well below rack, so at
least we weren't paying top dollar for house drinks.
We bee-lined for Blue Sky Basin, as well as you can beeline for
anything across 5000 acres. Meaning two, three runs down those
immense back bowls. With 2500+ acres of back bowls alone, it was hard
to find crappy snow everywhere, so we were forced to ski a bit of
decent packed powder moguls, moguls that seemed to drop steeply away
for ever and ever.
Pissed that he clearly lost the Sibling Challenge to little brother
Andy on Thursday, and knowing he stood little chance of besting Andrew
on home turf at Vail, Jimmy lashed out in unexpected directions.
Thursday night he convinced Scott -- suffering from bone spur ankle
problems -- to gamble on a pair of demo skis and Alpine boots. So Scott
had traded his Scarpa T-Race for some indiscriminate Nordica Pincers.
He nearly collapsed in pain on the first run, and after two runs in
Blue Sky he had had enough. He dolefully wandered back frontside, alone
and destitute, doomed to shopping and then solo reebs at the Red Lion
while Andrew continued to show us how it was done.
But Jimmy had the last laugh. Scott was out of the way, and the weight
of his cell phone dragged Andrew down, too. By 3 PM, it was just
Jumpin' Jimmy and me, returned to the slightly less crappy north facing
snow of Vail's Front side. We headed up for One Last Run, which turned
into One and a Half as we boarded the Northwoods Express at 4:03 PM for
One Last Run. By 4:25, he and I wound up 22,500 vertical feet of crappy
snow skiing, 25% of it in the last hour. Only at Vail.
The three of us retired to our temporary condo home and welcoming
hot tubs, where we became six when we discovered Matt, Jerm, and WInter
poaching our hot tubs. We boiled a bit before heading to Mia Casa with
Andrew and family and giant plates of Tex-Mex and subsequent comas.
The Last Hurrah.
Every day since Tuesday the weather report was calling for snow
showers, chance of snow 30%. Every day we got nada. Friday night came
with predictions of nada. Saturday morning, 4" of snow blanketed our
After the customary 14 morning round-up calls, the Old Men opted to
take the easy way out. Here we were, at a slope side condo in
Breckenridge facing 10 AM checkout. and 4" of powder outside our front
door. Why drive? We could pack the truck, aim straight for a lift, ski
hard all day, and poach our own hot tubs like Matt and Jerm did the
On the lift at 9 AM. Back down the Four O'Clock run at, well, 4
o'Clock. In between, 19 runs, 22,300 vertical feet, 10,000 powder turns
on peaks 7,8,9, and 10. Vermont owned Breckenridge, if just for one
day. great snow, everywhere and anywhere. Even the unpredictable,
inconsistent windblown off the T-bar. Chair 6. Blues, Greens, Blacks,
double blacks, glades glades and more glades. Powder Power. For this
one day, we were the Masters of the Universe, He-Man of the Fluff,
Kings of Kings.
And then it was done. Poached our tubs, loaded ourselves in the truck.
One last burrito binge, gifts for the kids, white knuckle drive up to
the Eisenhower tunnel and down, down down back to Reality Central:
For me, six days, 5 resorts, 100,00 vertical feet. Snow like Harry
Potter's Every Flavor Jellybeans. Good food, better friends. Giant
breakfasts, Bigger dinners, and little more than tap water and candy
bars for lunch. Not once did we eat in them fancy mountain restaurants,
Forty minutes tops spent shopping, half of that in a single ski shop
staring at phats. Bro factor discounts brought the total trip cost,
air, hotels, food, lifts, entertainment to less than $650.
Thank you Andrew Clapp, James Clapp, Scott Danis, Matt Duffy, Jeremy
Malczyk. Jason Malczyk? Yeah, thank you, too, Jason, for that quality
time in our Hot Tub.
Same time next year? Over Vickie's dead body, so I am told. A lot can
happen in a year...
Last modified February 12 2003 05:10 PM