Colorado’s Spin Cycle

Colorado's Spin Cycle

August 2, 2019

Colorado The Race

Characterized by high elevations and relentless climbs, the weeklong USA Pro Challenge is too epic for any one city: Ten communities play host to the race’s seven stages, which link Aspen, Crested Butte and Vail with larger hubs such as Colorado Springs and Denver. All test a champion’s mettle. “It’s one of the hardest races I’ve ever done,” says pro rider Tanner Putt of the Bissell Development Cycling team. But legions of fans motivate racers to conquer the challenges. Over the course of the week, 1 million spectators turn out to watch and cheer. “Riders race here and feel like rock stars,” says Shawn Hunter, the race’s co-chairman and CEO. “The only other race in the world that has this level of excitement and energy is the Tour de France.” 

Aspen  

Leave 12,095-foot Independence Pass to the racers. Mere mortals content themselves with the route to the iconic Maroon Bells, which serves up the state’s most celebrated mountain panorama yet demands a relatively modest eff ort (1,600 vertical feet over 10 miles). As an added bonus, the road is closed to cars from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 20-mile out-and-back ride begins at the roundabout 1 mile west of downtown Aspen. Take the Maroon Creek Road “exit” and pedal uphill past Aspen High School. Rest assured, the hills become gentler as you pass Aspen Highlands ski area. The road climbs gradually, hugging the banks of Maroon Creek as mansions give way to the White River National Forest, where aspenfringed meadows afford glimpses of majestic, 14,026-foot Pyramid Peak. At the road’s end, dismount and walk some 200 yards along the paved path to viewpoints showcasing the Bells’ stunning symmetry mirrored in the blue waters of Maroon Lake. 

Wheel Deals: Ute City Cycles rents drool-worthy Orbea and Felt bikes for 100/day, or get a pro tune for your own ride from the repair crew. Refuel: Peach’s Corner Café tops off your fuel tank with the likes of kale salad or a chicken and avocado panini, served on the outdoor patio. Recover Check into Remède Spa (in the St. Regis) for a stint in its steam caves, stone-lined pools stirred by cascading water and treatment rooms offering wraps, facials and massages featuring local skincare products.

Vail

Like all routes out of the Vail Valley, the 12-mile Daybreak Ridge loop includes a stout climb (1,800 vertical feet) that humbled cyclists in the 2013 USA Pro Challenge. But from the circuit’s high point you overlook the soaring peaks of the Gore Range. And because the upper section of the ride takes place within gated neighborhoods, traffic is scarce. “You’re more likely to spot deer and bear than cars,” says local Brett Donelson. Start in Avon, 11 miles west of Vail, and crank up Village Road, passing through the gated entrance to Beaver Creek Resort. At 1 mile, turn right onto South Holden Road, left onto Borders Road and left again onto Strawberry Park Road. Ogle the luxury residences lining the road, pass beneath the Elkhorn ski lift and pick up Daybreak Ridge Road to top out at a high point affording those well-earned views down into Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch. Follow Daybreak Ridge Road as it serpentines down through Bachelor Gulch. Stop to refill a water bottle at the RitzCarlton and then cruise down into Avon via Bachelor Gulch Trail. Venture Sports in Avon rents bikes, organizes group rides and employs the valley’s best bike technicians. Vail Valley riders have long embraced Yellowbelly in West Vail for its all-natural chicken and veggie-laden side dishes Recover.  Spa Anjali (at Avon’s Westin Riverfront) draws from healing traditions in the Alps, Himalayas and Rocky Mountains to create three unique “journeys” that go way beyond a standard massage. 

Colorado Springs: Pikes Peak isn’t the Springs’ only scenic landmark— although cyclists do get to admire this 14,114-foothigh summit from portions of the 18-mile Garden of the Gods loop. It gains 1,200 feet of elevation and visits the city’s other “rock star”: The Garden of the Gods, a pocket of blazing red-rock spires and cliffs tucked among the foothills west of downtown. To taste this eye-candy, get an early-morning start (to avoid crowds and traffic heading into the famed Garden) and head northwest out of downtown via W. Bijou to N. Walnut to Mesa Road. Continue north past Garden of the Gods Country Club and then bike south on the bike path, which parallels N. 30th Street and offers motivating panoramas of Pikes Peak and the Kissing Camels rock, which looks exported from Utah’s Arches National Park. Enter the Garden of the Gods to pedal the one-way loop among its sculpted rock pinnacles, separated from the traffic by a wide bike lane. Exit via a plunge down Ridge Road, then left on W. Pikes Peak Ave., and right on 21st St. to connect to the Midland Trail. This former rail line slopes downhill as it heads back to Colorado Springs. Wheel Deals Criterium Bicycles maintains a big fleet of low-mileage road bikes for riders of every shape and stripe. Refuel The Irish fare at McCabe’s Tavern rewards hard effort with homemade shepherd’s pie, pretzel bread and smoked salmon served on a shady outdoor patio. Recover A Colorado icon, The Broadmoor pampers athletes with therapeutic massage and facials performed in treatment spaces fitted with chandeliers and fireplaces. 

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Amalfi Coast Italy

Make Yourself at Home:  Make Yourself at Home Aspen Inspirato’s Signature Residences put you a short bike ride from the racecourse with six homes to choose from including the striking 4,103-squarefoot Castle Creek property along the popular Ute Trail with its four bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms, and the spacious 5,793-square-foot, fivebedroom, five-and-a-half bath Roaring Fork property in the. Aspen Highlands area.  
Snowmass Village Wake up among the aspens groves that blanket the Snowmass ski area from a bedroom in the luxurious Goldenleaf property, one of three Inspirato Signature Residences in the valley. With room for 12, this mountainside retreat features five bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms spread across 4,465 square feet. Ski and hiking trails are a mere 75 yards from its front door.  
Vail Vail Village will be packed with spectators for the start of the pivotal time trial race up Vail Pass. And Inspirato’s Signature Residences at The Solaris will put you in the middle of it all with three- four- and six-bedroom properties ranging from 2,260-square-foot condominums to 4,985-square foot penthouses, all located right in the heart of the village. They’re just a few of the 24 Signature Residences available to members in Vail. 

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The Sierra’s Crown Jewels

The Sierra's Crown Jewels

August 2, 2019

Look out over the north shore of glistening Lake Tahoe this August and you’ll undoubtedly squint. The vast body of crystal mountain water shines, as do the nearby snow-topped Sierra Mountains. And then there’s the impressive glare generated by sunlight reflecting off the 20 or so coats of varnish applied to many of the dozens of pristine and fabulously expensive, show-ready, wood speedboats. The boats you see are here are at the end of their annual migration to the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, a highly contested competition, now in its 42nd year, that features some of the world’s finest and most beautifully preserved waterborne craft. While judges begin their duties on the preceding Thursday, the show is open to the public all day on Friday and Saturday, August 8 and 9. Walking the docks, as well as chatting with these prized boats’ restorers and owners, instantly transports a viewer back to an earlier era where vessels were as prized for their meticulous details and handcrafted workmanship as their size and speed.

San Franciscans reverently speak of the lake and its surroundings simply as Tahoe, and the term has been in the Bay Area vernacular for over a half-century. Lake Tahoe, which lies approximately 200 miles northeast of San Francisco (or about an hour’s drive from the RenoTahoe International Airport), straddles the California-Nevada border and is the second-deepest lake in the United States with an average depth of 1,000 feet. At 22 miles long by 12 miles wide, the lake is also vast, and it sits amid many small towns and communities as well as 72 miles of shoreline.

Native Americans were early Tahoe inhabitants, and by the beginning of the 20th century mining and railway industries brought more attention and people to the pristine, high-elevation (6,200 feet) waters. Many of the first Tahoe enthusiasts to build vacation homes on the lakeshore among the granite boulders and evergreens were the Bay Area’s elite and very wealthy. They also brought boats, including the wood speedboats that enjoyed a heyday from the 1930s to the 1950s. At the time the boats were costly— they could be as expensive as a house—and would ultimately become toys for silverscreen celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot. Helping fuel the boom; Tahoe’s dry alpine air proved hospitable to the wood boats, which in more humid conditions were susceptible to rotting. Time ticked by, Squaw Valley’s Winter Olympics in 1960 came and went, and fiberglass emerged as a superior material for making speedboat hulls. Then in the summer of 1972, a dozen or so owners of wood boats along the lake brought their old rigs together for drinks and a casual gathering along the shores of Homewood, a west Tahoe community.

Since then, the meeting place, the scope of the meeting and the Tahoe area have all changed. Now called the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, the threeday affair is yet one more compelling attraction in a summer playground that nowadays tempts visitors with worldclass mountain biking, lake-view golf courses and spa treatments at the RitzCarlton. The Concours is currently held at Homewood’s Obexer’s Boat Company, which coincidentally became Tahoe’s first wood-boat dealership back in 1928. The Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation, the nonprofit organization that hosts the Concours, saw about 60 boats entered last year and expects roughly 50 entries this year. In 2013, approximately 5,000 people gladly paid $25 to $35 each to enjoy intimate looks at the exotic collection of polished wood and gleaming chrome. “We had entries that came from as far east as Florida and as far north as Seattle,” says Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation president Dave Olson. “The Tahoe show is known as shutterstock one of the most prestigious of all.”

Floating Artifacts

Spend an afternoon or two at the wood-boat show and your eyes will encounter beauty that’s as seamless as the massive lake. The Tahoe show stands apart from the dozens of other woodboat shows held annually across the country because much of the watercraft you’ll encounter are a step far beyond what are called “user boats,” or boats that may be well-loved but are also regularly used. Many of the Concours boats, courtesy of careful restoration and/or preservation, are really pristine objets d’art and are judged appropriately. Boats don’t necessarily win awards at Tahoe when they’re better than the competition. They win for having been preserved at—or more likely returned to—showroom condition, even if those boats haven’t seen a showroom for a century. Walk down to the dock during the show and the first thing you’ll notice is the deep, rich wood used on the boats’ decks and hulls. You won’t find prettier wood on a Steinway. Whether it’s Spanish cedar, Honduran mahogany or timber from the Philippines, the vessels’ wood skins glisten under layers of marine varnish. The silhouettes are equally diverse and fetching. Some boat transoms are squared off , while others are rounded or shaped like torpedoes. There are many types of boats on display, from lakers, launches and runabouts to commuters. The boats can come with one, two and even three “cockpits,” or compartments with seats. Entries run as small as 16 feet and well over 30. Spotless chrome and brass hardware and trim shine brilliant against the deep blue sky. The engines gleam, as well. In fact, it’s really the unseen and seemingly prosaic mechanicals inside the motors that command the most attention and respect from the Concours connoisseurs and judges. 

“Engines are the biggest challenge to restore. Back when these boats were built there were a wide variety of manufacturers,” says Terry Fiest, who’s been the Concours d’Elegance’s chief judge since 2008. “It’s hardest to come by the old parts.” Between the efforts made to scour docks, marinas and barns for usable parts, and the time and labor involved in custom fabrication of whatever can’t be found, Fiest says that an engine rebuild can cost upwards of $100,000. Complete, Concours-ready boats can take years to prepare and are valued anywhere from $40,000 to more than $700,000. Some boats featured at Tahoe are one-of-akind. Others might only have been made for one year as part of a limited edition, 100-unit production run.

Like Tahoe itself, some of the Concours boats seem almost too good to be true, and occasionally, in fact, they are. For all of the owners’ painstaking restoration eff orts, their boats may no longer carry the identities they once did. Sometimes engines are “overrestored” according to Fiest, with brass and copper parts that have been polished to look better than the original stock. “We always have to ask, ‘How close is it to how it left the original factory?’” Fiest says, who has competed in the Concours himself, and knows the anxiety of a snooping judge deducting points on a score sheet. “What we’re always looking for is authenticity.” The best in show is therefore the craft that best captures a very special place in time on the lake, back when it was less crowded, slower, quieter, but no less spectacular. If you’re lucky enough, you will be there when an owner fi res up the engine, and if you close your eyes, listen to the simple, throaty rumble of the engine and breathe in the crisp, clear air, you’ll transport yourself back to a simpler, and dare I say, more elegant time on Lake Tahoe.

Playground of the Fit:

Bike: Rent a mountain bike and ride the spectacular 22-mile (round-trip) Flume Trail high above the east side of the lake. 
Golf: Tee off at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, on Tahoe’s south shore.
Spa: Choose from the skin, water, touch and nail therapies available at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, located at the
Northstar California Ski Resort near Truckee, Calif.
Dine: Make reservations cat Zagat-rated Evan’s American Gourmet Café, in South Lake Tahoe, for excellent seafood entrées and its wine selection.
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ike: Local favorites include hikes around the lake’s iconic Emerald Bay and up,-foot Mt. Tallac in the Desolation Wilderness. “Gamble: The casino at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, situated along the lake’s gorgeous northeast shore, is a scenic drive from either of Inspirato’s luxury destinations in the area. 

Make Yourself at Home: 

Lake Tahoe Squaw Valley or Northstar at Tahoe? Members can take their pick. The 5,000-square-foot Apex Signature Residence in Squaw Valley hosts 10 guests spread between five bedrooms in a secluded mountain-side setting. At Northstar, three Inspirato Signature Residences with two- or three-bedroom options await members who want to be at the center of the ski area’s summer activities. Both locations are a scenic drive to the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe.

Andie Johnson’s picks Inspirato Personal Vacation Advisor  

Eat: Drive a car or rent a boat and cruise to the dock for lunch at Sunnyside Restaurant on the lake and take in one of the best views you can find in Tahoe.
D
ay Trip: The aerial tram at Squaw Valley takes you to 8,200 feet and the High Camp Pool and Spa. Take a dip, soak in the hot tub and breathe in the crisp, cool air.

Year Round Adventures; Aspen, Colorado

Year Round Adventures; Aspen, Colorado

August 1, 2019

During the year-end holidays, Aspen’s busiest week of the winter, “Campo Dave” Ellsweig works round the clock, managing Aspen’s popular Italian eatery Campo de Fiori. Tall, dark and handsome, he choreographs one of the most popular spaces in town with ease, sending plates of crispy frutti di mare to impatient patrons and decadent espresso martinis to the bar’s loyal following. Does he mind working and not skiing? Not at all. Ellsweig knows much of Aspen’s best skiing happens in March. That’s when he hikes up Highlands Bowl in a T-shirt to ski deep north-facing powder and wrap up a morning session on the slopes with a wine-saturated lunch at Aspen Highland’s mid-mountain restaurant, Cloud Nine

Back in town after lunch, he can pull up a chaise lounge at the Sky Hotel on Sunday afternoon when the poolside DJ is in full swing. Or say he decides to ski Aspen Mountain: He’ll take the slow Couch quad, ski down sun-softened bumps before joining the lift operators for a barbecue at the bottom. From there it’s a couple of steps to check out the band outside at Ajax Tavern. For dinner, there’s king crab tempura at Matsuhisa a few blocks away. Every day, Ellsweig can set out to do something different: click into alpine touring skis to skin up Aspen Mountain, Nordic ski around the town golf course or ride a fat-tire’d snow bike up the unplowed road to the Maroon Bells.

It’s springtime in Aspen and anything’s possible. No, Ellsweig doesn’t understand why anyone would go to the beach in March. There are plenty of other months perfect for sun bathing, like December. March boasts the deepest base depths of the winter and more open terrain than at any point in the season. Colorado’s snowiest month of the year intersperses spring storms that bring deep powder days with abundant sunshine that create idyllic spring snow conditions, forgiving moguls and groomed runs made for carving turns. And the atmosphere on the mountain warms with the temperatures. Groups mingle on gondola square or atop their favorite run. And the deck scenes come alive. “In spring, you don’t have to get up early in the morning to get the best tracks—the ski day starts at 10 or 11 a.m.,” says Aspen-based pro skier Chris Davenport. “It’s all about timing in the spring.” 

What Davenport means is that the snow that freezes overnight is rock hard in the early morning, perfect around midday and slushy and sticky by late afternoon. You’re looking for the daily harvest of “corn,” a granular snow surface that turns mediocre skiers into phenoms, and you’ll find it by following the sun as it warms up the snow from the southeast to southwest, lower mountain to upper mountain. And with four ski mountains—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk—you can hunt for corn on a different mountain each day or on the same day thanks to complimentary shuttle rides between each area. 

On Aspen Mountain, Davenport recommends skiing the steep, east-facing aspen trees off the top of F.I.S. chair, known collectively as “The Dumps,” as soon as they’re warmed by the morning sunlight. “Ski a groomer like North American to test the snow and see if it’s transforming,” he says. “If your edges grip into the snow and hold a carve, take F.I.S., ski a perfect lap in The Dumps, go up the gondola and do it again.” “If it hasn’t changed,” he says, “swing into Bonnie’s midmountain restaurant for an oatmeal pancake.” 

At Aspen Highlands, longer days and warm sunshine motivate skiers to make the 45-minute hike up to the 12,392-foot-high top of Highland Bowl. It’s a long way to shoulder your skis, so bring a backpack or purchase a ski strap at the Aspen Highlands ski patrol shack near the start of the hike. While blustery conditions often limit summit time midwinter, March’s plentiful windless, sunny days allow hikers to linger atop longer and take in the most dramatic alpine views in the area. Depending on your skiing pleasure, you’ll ski down 1,500 vertical feet of wide-open steeps or flow through tree glades. When the sun has overcooked everything on the mountain, the Bowl’s north-facing G-Zones can still harbor good snow.

If it’s your first time skiing the bowl, hire a pro like local ski mountaineer and ski instructor Ted Mahon to find the best stashes. Beginners and kids love Buttermilk’s gentle terrain year round, but in spring, its two terrain parks soften up enough to make jump landings a little more forgiving. At Snowmass, where intermediate groomers reign, it’s hard to beat cruising any of the runs accessed from the Elk Camp chairlift on a perfect spring morning. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, head to the Sheer Bliss run and look for one of the gates leading to Hang On’s or Buckskin. Spring storms blast the high elevation terrain at Snowmass. After a storm, head to the top of the mountain to ski spring powder before the sun’s rays bake the snow. 

By March, conditions in the backcountry also grow safer and Aspen offers plenty of ways to ski beyond the resort boundary, no matter your experience level. Ride a luxury snowcat to the backside of Aspen Mountain with Aspen Mountain Powder Tours, where you’ll score fresh tracks down gentle alpine bowls with expansive views of the picturesque Elk Mountains. Aspen Expeditions’ guides lead clients to lift-accessed backcountry off all four of Aspen’s resorts. Ski wide-open intermediate terrain off Snowmass Mountain or black diamond steeps off Aspen Highlands. Take it even farther off the map and to a higher level of luxury with one of Aspen Expeditions’ Epicurean Hut Trips. Ski on alpine touring equipment to one of Aspen’s many backcountry cabins for a lavish meal prepared by a gourmet chef, sleep to the sound of a crackling fire and enjoy fresh powder the next morning after another over-the-top meal. 

After months of sitting vacant due to the freezing cold, the decks around the mountains and in town defrost and host the liveliest scenes in Aspen and some of the world’s greatest people watching. The famous two-tiered deck at Bonnie’s on Aspen Mountain should be your first stop. Grab a cup of white bean chili, a mug of warm red wine, a slice of authentic apple strudel with hand-whipped cream and take a seat in the sun to experience Aspen’s best patio atmosphere. At Aspen Highlands, Cloud Nine’s deck turns into a Euro disco. At Snowmass Village, Viceroy Snowmass offers ski-in/ ski-out sushi at Nest and a vodka bar steps from the pool. For something more posh and quintessentially Aspen, suss out the orange umbrellas of The Little Nell’s pop-up champagne bar, The Oasis, located mid-slope on Aspen Mountain. Once there, raise a glass of Veuve Clicquot and toast the fact that right here, right now, this is the best that Aspen gets. 

Sustenance, Well Deserved 

Spring Café: Start your day out right with a hearty and healthy breakfast, including energy packed smoothies. Warm up with a chai latté made with their homemade nut milk.
Ajax Tavern: An Aspen icon for decades, Ajax Tavern’s open deck at the base of Aspen Mountain is a must. Order the restaurant’s famous double burger served with truffle fries and kick back as local bands offer a live soundtrack to the end of your day on the slopes.
Burlingame Cabin: Once a sheepherder’s cabin, the Burlingame is a short snowcat ride away from Snowmass Village, but thanks to its secluded location tucked among an aspen grove, it seems a world apart. The menu is decidedly cowboy with barbecue pork, fresh chili and mac and cheese served family-style. Local storytellers and musicians entertain guests throughout.
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro: Book an outside table for the last seating of the day at this mid-mountain institution at Aspen Highlands. When you book the reservation, order the raclette, a melted cheese that you can slather over baked potatoes or air-dried beef. That way it’s ready as soon as you sit down. The extensive wine list and unmatched views of the iconic Maroon Bells mountains will keep you occupied until ski patrol signals last call.  
David Burke Kitchen: The celebrity chef opened a spinoff of his eponymous New York City restaurant in downtown Aspen that features locally sourced dry-aged meats (think elk, venison, wild boar) and a seasonal menu.
Richard Brasseries & Liquor Bar/Bia Hoi Southeast Asian Street Food: A Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” Tim Goodell from Los Angeles has partnered with Related Colorado to open two new restaurants in Snowmass Village this winter. Ricard Brasserie serves classic French fare such as prime steak tartare, oysters and house-made charcuterie. Bia Hoi’s draw is an extensive drink menu that puts a Colorado spin on tropical cocktails thanks to AJAX spirits and beers from local distillers and brewers.

Make Yourself at Home: 

Aspen Members can choose from one of five Signature Residences ranging from the 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath, 3,800-square foot Encore home that sits one block away from the Aspen Mountain gondola to the 7-bedroom, 7.5-bath, 7,988-square-foot Blue Spruce manse located alongside Hunter Creek on the sunny side of Aspen Valley. Aspen Highlands skiers can settle into the 5-bedroom, 5.5-bath, 5,793-square-foot Roaring Fork residence and walk to the lifts. After a day on the slopes, guests have acess to Ritz-Carlton Club spa.

Logan Taylor’s List; Personal Vacation Advisor 

Shopping: Downtown Aspen is the Madison Avenue of the Rockies—and arguably the chicest shopping town between Chicago and Las Vegas— due to its cluster of upscale boutiques. Find the latest from Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Ralph Lauren and more among local faves such as Goruch.
Spa: Remède Spa at the St. Regis offers customized treatments.

Adventure with Altitude

Adventure with Altitude

July 26, 2019

If you’re looking for a departure from beaches and boardwalks this summer, consider an unconventional mountain escape that’ll have you oohing and ahhing over expansive vistas. Fill your lungs to the brim with fresh air, and feel your heart pound with exhilaration. However you prefer to balance exercise and adventure, your family will cherish these unforgettable experiences forever. 

Get Here: Trips depart from Aspen Paragliding’s downtown Aspen office mornings at 6:45, 8:30 and 10:30. Arrive 15 minutes early, and plan two hours for the experience.  
Be Prepared: Bring a wind jacket, sunglasses, walking or running shoes, and your camera.  
Suitable For: Children 3 and older, and adults who can run 20 steps. aspenparagliding.com $225 per person.

You’d think soaring through the crisp, mountain air mere feet from the peaks as the sun peers over 14,000-foot summits is an experience exclusive to red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and the occasional helicopter or small jet. But when you sign up for a ride with Aspen Paragliding, you too can take flight on the Rocky Mountain thermals. This is as close as you can come to truly flying as you step off a cliff, arms spread, to catch the updraft and ride the breeze. In Aspen, the experience begins when you pile into a four-wheel-drive truck for a winding drive up the Aspen Mountain service roads as marmots and deer and even the occasional bear or elk scamper out of the way.

Step out of the Jeep onto one of two well-manicured grassy runways—high-altitude greenbelts that in the winter are Walsh’s and Ruthie’s ski runs. Enjoy the sights while your pilot lays out the paraglider and helps you into your harness, which doubles as your seat while you’re in flight. The pilot attaches himself to the paraglider and to you with Kevlar straps called risers. When the wind is right, he says, “Go,” and you sprint 10 to 20 steps downhill. Seconds later, you feel the tug of the wing above you, you run faster, and then your legs are moving but they’re not touching the ground. You lift off and you’re floating above a maze of snowless ski slopes.

The wind is brisk but not overly so, and the smell of earth is quickly replaced by fresh air and ozone as the ground sinks below you. The pilot scoops you onto a wooden plank seat, and your hands are free to snap photos as you meander and serenely glide 3,000 feet down to Aspen Valley. Spot a hawk playing in a thermal, and your pilot will steer you to join the bird as it hovers in the sky. Panoramic views in all directions let you pinpoint Aspen’s famed Wheeler Opera House, the craggy Maroon Bells, the cleft of Independence Pass and precipitous Highlands Bowl, which still hides snow in its gullies.

Alex Palmaz, owner of the company and its lead pilot, learned to paraglide in Aspen 20 years ago from the school he now owns. Since then he has flown more than 4,000 tandem flights, and 6,000 flights in all. If you’re game, he’ll let you steer. Brake toggles control the wing overhead. Lean left, look left and pull the left toggle, and the wing sweeps left. It’s the same to the right. Lean; look; brake. Best of all, you needn’t worry about the landing as each passenger harness has a bottommounted airbag to make your return to Earth gentle. You may not spend more than 20 minutes in the air, but the memory will last a lifetime.

Get Here: Tyax will pick you up in Vancouver or Whistler and fly you via float plane to the start of the trip.
Time Commitment: Ride for one to seven days. For the true hutto-hut experience, we recommend spending two to three nights.
Equipment: Bring your own hydration pack to carry water, snacks and an extra layer, and a sleeping bag liner for the huts. Tyax provides breakfast, lunch and dinner, and transports your bags each day.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced riders, teenage and older.  $1,980 per person, two-night trip.

As the float plane skitters to a splashy stop on Lorna Lake, or perhaps one of the other puddles sprinkled throughout Canada’s South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park—150 miles, and a 90-minute flight, from Vancouver—your skin prickles with delight at the silence and serenity of having millions of acres of virtually untouched wilderness seemingly to yourself. There is no hum of other planes or cars; not so much as the braying of an odd farm animal. You’ve flown here because there are no roads or rail lines into the park. Lorna’s waters lap gently at the shore as you wait for your guide to retrieve your bike from the bowels of the five-seater Dehavilland Beaver. Helmeted and ready, you mount your trusty steed and ride off into the mountains. 

Wind your way over shale-littered passes with sweeping views of the jagged Coast Range, snow occasionally crunching beneath your bike tires. Then race downhill through sprawling meadows—a rainbow of endless azalea, Indian hellebore, arrowleaved groundsel, Indian paintbrush, Sitka valerian and lupine quivering as you whiz past. You’re in the capable hands of the Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa’s expert mountain bike guides, and you’re pedaling toward the first of as many as six simple and comfortable huts—each with its own personality, but all with soft beds, hot showers and hot, hearty meals—that will be your home each night. Bike for three, four or seven days, three to eight hours a day. Awake each morning to snow-capped peaks reflected in a mountain lake, with a lone heron gliding silently by. If you’re truly adventurous, skip the shower and take a frosty dip in the glacier-fed lake. After breakfast, it’s another quad-burning climb to the top of a pass followed by the sweetreward of a sweeping descent through mineralstained soils, the crumbling remnants of old lava flows and breezy groves of iridescent aspen. 

You might see a string of packhorses delivering your bags to that night’s cabin or possibly a faraway grizzly digging for grubs or chomping on fireweed. The single-track isn’t technical—it was beaten in by gold-seeking prospectors and their stock animals, and First Nations hunters in pursuit of deer, bear and mountain goats. But the adventure is remote and hard-charging—the kind of experience that creates an iron bond between you, your fellow travelers and a special place few people get to experience.

Get Here: Drive 90 minutes from Park City to Ogden to meet your guides, who provide harness, helmet and lanyard.  
Be Prepared: Bring sunscreen, a small backpack, light snacks and lots of water; and wear light hikers, approach shoes or running shoes.
Suitable For: Children 8 and older. Pass on this adventure if you’re afraid of heights. mountogden viaferrata.com $100 per person. 

Have you ever imagined yourself scaling a cliff Stallone-style, your fingers pinching barely-there ledges as you athletically slither your way to the summit? If it sounds exciting and ruggedly romantic, yet you lack the skills, (rock) face time or Sly’s catlike reflexes, don’t sweat it. You can book an afternoon at Mount Ogden Via Ferrata in Utah, a 90-minute drive from Park City, and experience the thrill with much less risk. Italian for “iron road,” via ferrata is a semiassisted way to traverse rock walls using fixed iron cables and ladders that let you StairMaster your route up a cliff; no technical rock climbing skills, knots or ropes required. The technique originated in the Italian Dolomites during World War I as a way for troops unskilled in mountain climbing to move quickly and efficiently through Italy’s peaks as they fought the Austrians on ever-higher ground. In the U.S., via ferratas are purely recreational. The Mount Ogden routes are some of the best in North America, designed by American alpinist, climber and Ogden resident Jeff Lowe. If you’re fit enough to climb a long ladder, agile enough to clip a carabiner to an iron rung and comfortable with heights, you’ll scamper up mountainsides with relative ease whether you’re 5 or 65.

Ogden’s Waterfall Canyon, at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, can be steamy hot in the summer. It’s a short and dusty walk to the shady grove at the base of the demonstration wall, where your guide fits you with a climbing harness and helmet and issues you via ferrata’s signature hardware: a shock-absorbing Y-shaped lanyard that connects your harness to the route’s metal rungs. Your shoe rubber grips the rock as you carefully choose slabby foot holds and navigate from rung to rung. You work one side of your lanyard then the other up the iron ladder so that you are always attached at one point or the other. Once you have the basics, it’s a 15-minute hike through a boulder field to the waterfall for which the canyon is named. Cool off with a splash in the water; then it’s time for your first ascent. Your focus is sharp as you carefully pick your way around loose cobbles, reach your foot for the next rung and pull your hips toward the next secure clip. Three routes meander 350 feet up craggy Mount Ogden. The rock is hot and dry, but a light breeze cools you as you wrestle your way to the summit, where you’re greeted by bird’s-eye views of the Great Salt Lake basin and the jagged Wasatch Mountains. 

Why the Tetons in Wyoming Are a Must-Visit for Adventurous Travelers

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Why the Tetons in Wyoming Are a Must-Visit for Adventurous Travelers

June 21, 2019

Reaching the summit of Buck Mountain, the hard work should be done. Over two days, you’ve climbed 5,000 feet from the valley floor. Last night you camped—in a tent, in a snowfield—near one of the highest lakes in Grand Teton National Park, Timberline Lake. At sunset, you watched the Teton Range throw its profile—a shadow of it—down on Jackson Hole. This morning, you tackled the final 2,000-some feet to Buck’s summit, negotiating a knife-edge ridge that, to the north, fell away thousands of feet. It was as exhilarating as it was terrifying. 

Now standing on your school bus-sized aerie with the dozen other members of your group, the South, Middle and Grand Tetons loom to the north. To the east, on the far side of the valley, mountain range after mountain range stretches into the distance. Winding through the valley floor, the Snake River lives up to its name.

Of course you want to take photos. Using a trick learned two days prior, on another, less-exposed but equally beautiful summit elsewhere in the range, you carefully take off your backpack and secure it to the slope using webbing and a carabiner. It’s important your backpack doesn’t go over an edge. You don’t want to lose the snacks in it. More importantly, you don’t want to lose your skis, which are tightly lashed to its exterior. You didn’t climb 11,938-foot Buck just to climb it. You’ve climbed Buck to ski its East Face.

One of a handful of skiers in Exum Mountain Guides’ annual four-day Live to Ski Camp, you’re already a seasoned backcountry skier, able to handle 6,000 feet a day of climbing, familiar with the use of an ice axe, crampons and basic knots, and confident skiing steep slopes with pitches of up to 45 degrees. You’ve applied—all applicants have to submit a skiing résumé, and Exum guide and camp co-founder Zahan Billimoria says less than half are accepted—to this camp because there’s even more out there you want to explore. But this exploration you want to do requires climbing and skiing skills beyond what you currently have; the Tetons provide an ideal setting for such a high level of education.

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“There’s a huge gap between being a proficient backcountry skier who hunts for powder all winter long and developing the skills to go ski steep, high-consequence terrain that might involve a rappel or some belaying,” says Billimoria. “That’s what this camp was designed for—to help backcountry skiers bridge that gap to becoming solid ski mountaineers.”

Ski mountaineering, as its name suggests, combines skiing with mountaineering. General backcountry skiing involves skiers skiing up (also known as skinning) a mountain before skiing down. Ski mountaineers do the same, but often rely on technical gear such as ropes, harnesses, crampons and ice axes to navigate the trickiest parts of a route. While ascending, ski mountaineers might transition from skinning to carrying skis on their backs so that they can climb up an ice waterfall. (For the final 2,000 feet up Buck, you have your skis on your back; not because you had to ice climb, but because it is too steep to skin.) Skiing down, ski mountaineers might rappel a section that is unskiable (such as a cliff band or ice waterfall). General backcountry skiing has little objective danger aside from the current avalanche hazard and obstacles such as trees. Ski mountaineering is often in high-consequence and steep terrain where a slip or fall, on the ascent or descent, may result in serious injury or death.

A ski mountaineer might ski on belay, with a rope attached to her climbing harness while a partner above works the other end to prevent significant sliding after a fall. Mail Cabin, a lovely valley on the west side of Teton Pass that has tree skiing and numerous open bowls (and where Exum does single-day guided trips) is backcountry skiing. The North Face of Spalding Peak, which you skied on day 1, Skywalk above Avalanche Canyon (day 2) and the East Face of Buck, your final exam for the camp, are all considered ski mountaineering.

“The reason we’re so stringent about participants’ experience and skill level is that we’re really committed to delivering an A+ experience for the people who are ready,” says Billimoria, who grew up in Switzerland and has been rock and ski guiding for Exum for six years. “There are lots of learning and skill-building opportunities for intermediates, but really none for high-level people who want to take it to the next level and eventually tackle alpine-style objectives like Denali, Shuksan or the Grand Teton.” The applicants who made the cut for the camp range in age from early 20s to early 60s. The majority are in their 40s. In my camp, I was one of two women.

While Buck involved a night of camping, the first two days focused on instruction and skill development like constructing anchors or skiing on belay. Each of these days we were back in Jackson in time for dinner. We could have learned about anchors to belay off or rappel from in a conference room, but that’s not how this camp goes. Instead, guides found a giant boulder in the middle of the Meadows, a flattish area at nearly 10,000 feet up Garnet Canyon and beneath the Middle Teton, and had everyone practice building anchors. 

First, though, we climbed 12,240-foot Spalding Peak and skied its 1,500-foot North Face, practicing skiing on belay at its very top, where the pitch approached 50 degrees. Skiing on belay, one end of a rope tied into your harness and the other end in the hands of Exum guide and co-owner Nat Patridge above, wasn’t as burdensome as you expected. Patridge asked that you count out loud to three. “Turn every time you get to ‘three,’ ” he said. (Turning at consistent intervals sets up the belayer to smoothly feed out the rope, rather than getting hung up and having the rope pull you backwards.)

The next day we learned more about skiing on belay—and got to belay some of our fellow campers—while skiing runs off the north face of Albright Peak. Each day, camp guides challenged us to think more and more for ourselves, a skill necessary in the mountains. “There’s no one correct way to do this stuff,” Billimoria, and the four other instructors, repeated over and over. “We want to show you several different ways and then you can make the choice that works for the specific situation.”

Stepping into your skis on the summit of Buck, you know the hard part is not over. Also, you’ve decided that skiing the top part of the face on belay works best for you. Considered one of the classic ski mountaineering routes in the Tetons, the top of the 1,200-foot East Face nears 45 degrees in pitch. About two-thirds of the way down, the face is bisected by a 200-foot- tall cliff band. To the left of the cliff band there is a break in the rocks you can ski through, but a fall high on the face, when you’re still above the cliffs, is disastrous. There’s little likelihood of being able to self-arrest before flying off the cliff. You’re fairly certain you’ve got the skills to ski the top without falling, but, since falling has such high consequences, why take the risk? “A rope isn’t a weakness, but a really valuable tool,” Billimoria says.

Making your first turns off Buck’s summit, you’re smiling. Actually, no. Smiling doesn’t do it justice. You’re beaming. A goofy grin owns your face. You’re still concentrating and focused and don’t want to fall—being on belay saves you from the cliffs below but not from the ribbing of fellow campers— but missing is the steely taste of fear you’ve had before at the top of intimidating lines. You’re going to enjoy this. Four turns in you let loose a yelp. The Haute Route was great and so is heading out of bounds from the top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s tram, but carving turns through the corn snow—spring conditions, when avalanches are less likely, are the best for ski mountaineering—on a ginormous mountain face, that from the valley floor looks vertiginous, is something else entirely. You wonder if you’ll ever be truly happy skiing “usual” runs and routes again. You want to climb and ski every peak and line in the Tetons.

And that’s the stoke Exum is hoping this camp brings you. “Every big mountain skier wants to ski the Tetons. They are kind of without comparison. They’re certainly the greatest of all the accessible ranges in the U.S.,” Billimoria says. “Pair that level of terrain with the history of Exum Guides and also with skiers who have the desire and curiosity to learn how to safely explore serious mountains and you’ve got something unlike anything else offered anywhere.”

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Ski mountaineering has no single inventor or father, but, in the U.S., Bill Briggs, who first moved to Jackson Hole in the late 1950s, is pretty close. In the 1960s and early 1970s, he did first ski descents of the Middle Teton, South Teton, Mount Moran and Mount Owen. But it was his 1971 ski descent of the Grand Teton that really showed what was possible with the sport. In 2008, Briggs, who still lives in Jackson, was inducted into the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Closer to the present, few people have done more to promote and celebrate ski mountaineering in the Tetons than Steve Romeo, who, before his death in March 2012 at age 42 in an avalanche in Grand Teton National Park, blogged about ski mountaineering adventures big and small in the range on TetonAT. com. (Although no new “trip reports” are being added to the site, Romeo’s family and friends maintain its archives.) “He helped put the Tetons on the map for our generation as the premier destination in North America to test your skills as a ski mountaineer,” says Billimoria, who was a former ski partner of Romeo’s. This camp took its name exactly from Romeo’s motto, “Live to Ski.” “We wanted to be part of Steve’s legacy,” Billimoria says.

Back on Buck, you’re past the section where a fall would take you over cliffs and about to enter the couloir that lets you ski through them. You feel like you’re doing nothing so much as living to ski. Pointing your skis into the 15-foot-wide swath of snow, you vaguely remember responsibilities and to-dos and meetings and annoyances, but those intrusions last a mere millisecond. You’ve still got nearly 3,000 feet of turns before you’re back in the real world … if you can ever fully be in it again after having had your eyes opened to what you’re capable of.

Experience Summertime In Aspen

Experience Summertime In Aspen

April 18, 2019

Known as much for its world-class culture and cuisine as its pristine, majestic surroundings, it’s easy to nurture mind, body and spirit in Aspen. The best- summer event is likely the Aspen Music Festival, which draws renowned classical musicians and top students for eight weeks of daily concerts, recitals, operas, master classes and other events.

Under the guidance of new music director Robert Spano, who previously oversaw the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the festival’s focus this year is “Made in America,” highlighting works by American composers and European immigrants. On Thursday nights, join Roaring Fork Valley locals who convene on Fanny Hill at the Snowmass ski area for free concerts programmed by Jazz Aspen Snowmass. The regional and national acts range from folk to funk. Pack a blanket and a picnic, and plan on buying a bottle of wine at the concert.

The Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival brings world leaders in politics, science, technology, the environment, health, education, and the arts to town for lively discussions and seminars on today’s current issues. Passes generally sell out in advance, so plan ahead. And keep an eye out for familiar faces around town during the fest. You might spot Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton dining at an outdoor patio.

Aspen’s budding restaurant scene is continually evolving, with classics like Cache Cache, Matsuhisa, and Pinons joined by at least one newcomer each year. Among this year’s freshmen is Justice Snow’s in the Wheeler Opera House. The Colorado-inspired menu reflects the current trend for local ingredients. The extensive vintage cocktail list is part history lesson, part inspiration.

Finbarr’s Irish Pub has quickly become a local’s favorite since opening in late 2011, with updates on traditional pub fare like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips as well as specialties like curried prawns and potatoes. The Ajax Tavern at the base of the Aspen Mountain gondola has a well-earned rep as the see-and-be-seen place to lunch. A hip alternative is poolside dining at 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel, one block away. Pair the tuna wonton tacos with a Corpse Reviver 39 and while away an hour or so on a warm, sunny afternoon.

This summer’s hottest table—and most intriguing new concept—will be at Chefs Club by Food & Wine magazine, the brand-new restaurant at the St. Regis Aspen slated to open during the annual FOOD & WINE Classic. The seasonally-inspired menu will be created by select recipients of the culinary magazine’s annual Best New Chefs awards.

The town’s casual dress code extends to all facets of the town, as locals bike to Music Festival concerts, sip a margarita on an outdoor patio after rock climbing near Independence Pass or grab an early dinner on the way home from a hike. Classic Aspen hikes such as the ones to American or Cathedral Lakes or to the base of the Maroon Bells are justifiably popular. A favorite locals’ workout is to hike up the lung-busting Ute Trail, which starts off Aspen’s Ute Avenue and switchbacks up 1,700 vertical feet in the first mile, then snakes across Gentlemen’s Ridge on Aspen Mountain before connecting with ski-area service roads. Acclimated hikers reach the summit in about an hour and a half, though there’s no shame in taking longer. Save your knees and ride the gondola down for free. (Dogs are allowed, too.) For a mellower workout, take the gondola up to join one of the thrice-weekly yoga hikes—downward dog at 11,212 feet, anyone?

After hiking, Aspen’s biggest summer sport may be road biking. A veritable peloton heads up daily to the Maroon Bells and the Ashcroft ghost town, two of the most popular rides. To really get in your mileage, hit the Rio Grande Trail, a 42-mile multi-use path from Aspen to Glenwood Springs; other than a few-mile packed dirt section near Woody Creek, it’s paved.

With stores like Gucci, Fendi, Burberry and Louis Vuitton—along with longtime favorites such as Distractions, Nuages, and Pitkin County Dry Goods—Aspen can cater to the most sophisticated fashionista. But there’s more than designer labels to hunt down among the many boutiques within the town’s historic core. Two Old Hippies combines a comprehensive selection of guitars with an eclectic mix of home décor and fun clothing and accessories for the whole family—even the dog. Many of them embody the store’s motto: peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll. 

Aspen women in the know go to Harmony Scott to stock up on delicate handmade jewelry with colorful gemstones and pearls. Don’t miss Souchi, which offers gorgeous women’s knits in silk, cashmere, linen, cotton and bamboo. All are hand-loomed in Portland, Oregon, where designer Suzi Johnson lived until recently when she relocated to the Roaring Fork Valley. A few blocks away, Danemann-Pure is the only U.S. outpost featuring the fresh, modern looks of German women’s wear designer Petra Danemann. The Little Bird has a carefully curated selection of vintage women’s clothes and accessories from every A-list designer you can think of, plus some new items.

The Dream Skiing Destination with 8,000+ Acres to Explore

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The Dream Skiing Destination with 8,000+ Acres to Explore

February 26, 2019

North America’s biggest ski area has more than 8,000 acres of terrain that’ll take days to ski. The stats attributed to Whistler Blackcomb boggle of the mind. To wit: an average snowfall of more than 38 feet, a top-to-bottom vertical descent of a mile (on Blackcomb), 2,200 acres of expert terrain alone, 7-mile-long ski runs, year-round skiing on groomed glaciers, and a gondola between the two mountains that carries skiers and boarders 1,427 feet above the valley floor (by comparison, the Empire State Building tops out at 1,454 feet). For skiers and boarders in North America, Whistler is as close to a sure thing as can be found on the continent.

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Superlatives aside, what makes Whistler truly special is its village, a compact, pedestrian-friendly town that handles the influx of winter and summer visitors with charm, elegance, and a good deal of mountain-people authenticity that draws thrill-seekers from around the world.

One could argue that its international vibe, outdoors-minded population—helped, no doubt, by hosting 2010 Winter Olympic alpine events—makes Whistler the closest Canada and the U.S. have to Chamonix, the legendary capital of adventure sports located in the French Alps.

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Both amateur and experienced skiers can appreciate the grandness and variety Whistler has to offer. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors can enjoy snowshoeing, tobogganing, and several other winter activities. Domestic and international travelers alike can seek adventure, relaxation or a combination of both in this versatile mountain town.

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But perhaps Whistler Blackcomb’s most appealing attribute is access: The ski area is little more than a two-hour drive north from the international airport in Vancouver, British Columbia. Rarely does going this big come so easily. With only a flight and a short drive slowing guests down, it’s a wonder this little-known destination hasn’t quickly climbed the ranks in popularity.

Vail and Beaver Creek Welcome Ski Racing’s Best

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Vail and Beaver Creek Welcome Ski Racing's Best Athletes

February 11, 2019

Keep an eye out for Bode Miller or Lindsey Vonn today. Or maybe slalom wunderkind Mikaela Shiffrin. And we don’t mean on television. Over the first two weeks of February, these Olympic gold medalists—two of whom, Lindsey and Mikaela, call the Vail Valley home—will be among the 700 athletes from 70 countries racing at Vail/Beaver Creek in the biennial FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. It’s the first time alpine skiing’s biggest race (outside of the Olympics) has been in North America since 1999.

Other U.S. resorts might try to compete with Vail and neighboring Beaver Creek in grooming, views or terrain, but neither Jackson Hole nor Telluride nor Tahoe can claim the only U.S. stop on skiing’s annual World Cup racing circuit—Beaver Creek can.

“At all levels, Vail is in many ways the center of the ski racing universe today,” says Aldo Radamus, a former U.S. Ski Team coach and 1990 USSA Domestic Coach of the Year and, for the last 13 years, the executive director of the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV), which counts Shiffrin, Vonn and at least eight other Olympians among its alumni. “Ski racing seems to be ingrained in this community’s DNA, and we’ve got two resorts that have the terrain and willingness to make it happen on the highest level.”

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And that’s why you’re here, to watch the best alpine skiers in the world race on some of the world’s most challenging courses. The only other North American resort to ever host the Alpine World Championships is Aspen. And that was back in 1950. 2015 is Vail and Beaver Creek’s third world championships (they previously hosted in 1989 and 1999).

Why does the international circuit come back? To race among some of the country’s most rabid skiing families, families much like Sounia Chaney’s. “This is the chance of a lifetime,” she says about the upcoming World Championships. Chaney, who, with husband Michael and kids Skylar, 18, Cameron, 15, Roxy, 13, and Dylan, 9, all skiers or snowboarders, moved to Vail in 2010 from Reston, Virginia. Roxy, herself an alpine racer, says, “Here I get to see pros skiing a lot, sometimes next to me, and it always makes me feel inspired that I can achieve my goals. I can’t even imagine how inspiring it will be to have all of the world’s best racers here.”

“When our kids started outgrowing the mountain closest to our home, Vail was a no-brainer,” Chaney says. “We didn’t think twice about selling our house, our ski boat, our RV—everything. Vail offers the best training and the best coaches and challenging academics, and it has 300 days of sunshine. It’s not just our kids who ski. It’s a dream come true for all of us.”

Get back to your own racing dreams on Vonn’s namesake run, Lindsey’s. A groomed ribbon of ice on the front side of Vail Mountain, Vonn has described it as, “definitely the most challenging run on the mountain.” As you look down from the top of the run, its pitch elevating your pulse and slowing your breathing, you won’t be surprised to learn it was the site of the women’s speed events during the 1989 and 1999 World Championships, when it was still named International.

As a teen, Vonn skied the run that would one day bear her name, but, more often, like SSCV racers today do, she did laps on Vail’s Golden Peak. “That’s where we did so much of our training and raced for girls and boys Nor-Am,” says Paula Moltzan, who moved to Vail from Minnesota to train during her junior year of high school and now, at 20, is on the World Cup tech team.

Abby Ghent, an SSCV racer who was 6 the last time the valley hosted the World Championships and this season has a World Cup spot for Super G, suggests you try Centennial at Beaver Creek. “We’d have Nor-Am downhills there. It’s a classic course,” she says.

And then, of course, there’s Beaver Creek’s famed Birds of Prey course and its new women’s course, Raptor. (Before the World Championships, the former hosts its annual World Cup race, The Audi Birds of Prey Men’s World Cup, Dec. 6-8.) The pros own both during the World Championships, but, at other times in the season, the public can ski them. Fair warning, “Birds of Prey is terrifying,” says Moltzan. “I just can’t imagine flying off any of those jumps at the speeds the guys are going. But watching it is something else.”

Skiers to Watch

“The Norwegians have always done well here,” says Radamus, who coached for the U.S. Men’s and Women’s ski teams, and was named USSA Domestic Coach of the Year in 1990, before taking over as executive director at the SSCV. “I’ll be watching for Aksel Svindal, Kjetil Jansrud, and their new young technical threat Henrik Kristoffersen, who exploded onto the scene last year. Past world and Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn, working toward a return to competition following two years of injury, is undoubtedly looking to add to her World Championship medal tally,” Radamus says. At the last FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, at Schladming, Austria, in February 2013, Vonn tore her ACL/MCL and fractured her tibial plateau in a horrific crash. By August, a month and a half ahead of schedule, she was back on the snow. But then in mid-November, she crashed during a downhill training run at Copper Mountain in Colorado and reinjured herself. “Lindsey has something to prove and she’ll be racing at home,” Radamus says.

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“Among the Americans, our six Olympic medalists are medal threats at Worlds. Any one of them could win,” Radamus says. “Julia Mancuso because she always steps up when it counts. Ted Ligety owns this hill (he has won four straight giant slalom events on Birds of Prey) and is working hard to become a threat in [slalom] again; the snow suits him here in Colorado. Bode Miller for his last hurrah. Mikaela Shiffrin to defend her title. Keep an eye on (two-time Olympic Super G medalist) Andrew Weibrecht too. He loves the hill and has done well here.”

Designated Speeding Zones

Unlike pretty much every other resort in North America, Vail and Beaver Creek have runs where going as fast as you dare is the whole point. Vail Resort’s social media/ski tracker app, EpicMix Racing, partnered with Vonn to design a course at Vail and a second at Beaver Creek. Vonn practiced on both until she had them dialed. Then the geeks at EpicMix timed her.

Now anyone with the EpicMix app open can race down either course—the Black Forest Race Area just east of the Avanti Express Lift at Vail or beneath Beaver Creek’s new high-speed combination lift that just opened at the beginning of this season—and measure themselves against Vonn’s time.

Good luck catching her; few skiers on the international stage can come close to her. EpicMix claims that the average racer is about 5-7 seconds slower than Vonn on either course and that it’s a rare skier who comes within three seconds of her.

Find Your Adventurous Side in the Colorado Mountains This Winter

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Find Your Adventurous Side in the Colorado Mountains This Winter

December 17, 2018

There comes a point when the speed seems natural. Cruising through the open valleys, banking turns and floating through powder, the snowmobile no longer feels like a separate entity but merely an extension. And that’s when things really get fun.

Vail, the largest ski mountain in the U.S., has the kind of invigorating terrain that draws people back year after year, generation after generation. (And the fleet of non-stop groomers helps.) But beyond the ski runs is a whole Rocky Mountain playground for those who want to venture out of bounds. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing all have cult followings.

Whether you call them snow gos, snow machines or snowmobiles, the ones available for rent can fit two people — the driver and the hanger-on. There are advantages to both roles, and it’s easy to swap back and forth. 

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Nova Guides is the largest touring outfit in the Vail Valley, and in this instance, bigger really is better. Headquartered at Camp Hale just a few miles down the road from the Continental Divide, they have a full-service restaurant in their lodge that dishes out hearty lunchtime fare, warm drinks and ambiance from a two-sided fireplace that is perpetually stoked. Though the point of snowmobiling is, in part, to get out there — really out there — it’s easy enough to hightail it back to the lodge if you need a warm-up drink or if you’re done with the adventure before the rest of your group is. Nova Guides has a secondary base camp on the outskirts of Minturn for shorter excursions, too.

There are a couple of ways to take to the snowfields: by-the-hour rentals for do-it-yourself touring, as well as guided tours with full and half-day options. Guided tours are a good way to get used to the machines, which have a kicky burst of power as soon as you rev them. They also eliminate the need for trail finding, as the guides know exactly where they’re going. And where is that, exactly? Why the top of the Rockies, of course.

“We’ve got 80 miles of trail to choose from,” says Drew Fortner of Nova Guides. “No two tours are alike.”

Guides take the pulse of the group as a whole — who’s gone where before, how fast people want to travel, what they want to see — and then create an itinerary. Camp Hale is a natural starting place, as it’s right out the front door and is a wide-open valley peppered with history. At Vail’s Covered Bridge stands a 10th Mountain Division ski trooper sculpture, replete with M1-Garand semi-automatic rifle, 7’6” skis and white ski suit. During World War II, American soldiers trained at Camp Hale so they could fight the Germans in Italy. They were known as the 10th Mountain Division, and they took the Germans by surprise at Riva Ridge. Though most of the infrastructure that was at Camp Hale is now gone, folks can still cruise by the ammunition bunkers, firing range and the foundations of the barracks. And for those who don’t have much of an interest in history, the endless views and jagged peaks provide some eye candy.

That same valley is an excellent spot for dialing in your snowmobiling technique. Though it’s fairly simple to turn the key, give it gas and make some turns, there is a bit of finesse that comes with experience, especially when you’re dealing with fresh powder. Just as you do on skis or a snowboard, snowmobiles float and swoosh in the powder. Given the size and power of the machines, it seems incongruous that they’d feel so light and airy, but that’s part of the draw. Tours dip up and down over the Rockies, peaking at 12,700 feet above sea level. The wind-scrubbed, open terrain is testament to how harsh the conditions are.

“There are often non-skiers in a group,” Fortner says. “And sometimes, this is the only chance they’ll get to see what it’s like above tree line.” Though the machine certainly does the lion’s share of the work, snowmobiling is more physical than one might expect. Because they respond to conditions, snowmobiles dip and lurch just like your muscles. It’s what makes it more interactive and fun. For those with itty-bitties in the group, or people who are sensitive to the cold, Nova also has snowcat tours, what they call “snow coaches.” Heated, the coaches allow for anyone to tour the highalpine Rockies, though they’re not as exhilarating as the snowmobiles.

Experienced backcountry travelers extol the virtues of the sheer distance the snowmobiles can travel in such a short period of time. From Camp Hale it’s easy to cruise over to Vail Pass or Shrine Pass on a snow go and check out the lay of the land. Mount Elbert and Mount Massive — two of Colorado’s tallest peaks — keep watch over the world. Mount of the Holy Cross, a talisman of sorts for Wild West settlers and adventurers, almost always holds snow in the cross, made by crevasses, on one side. Groups can end up in Red Cliff, a funky town at the end of the Shrine Pass road. Red Cliff doesn’t have any stoplights, but it does have dogs galore, a single liquor store and Mango’s, a multi-story restaurant that specializes in, of all things, fish tacos. And beer, or course. There’s also a rock in the middle of town, which played host to the entire settlement during the mid-1800s. Word of an Indian revolt to the east made its way to Colorado, and the town of Red Cliff ran to the rock, sleeping, eating and drawing water from the river below with a bucket on the end of some rope. The wild Indians never showed up, and eventually the settlers left the rock and went about their business. But the rock is still there, one of countless bits of history scattered throughout the White River National Forest.

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Before skiing became a downhill sport, it was transportation. Scooting across miles and miles of snow, both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are time-honored ways to get exercise and cover some ground. In Norway, there are miles and miles of trails between villages, with little huts along the way that offer spiced wine and lunch, sometimes reindeer. In the U.S., the two activities are more specialized. As such, they require specific trails.

Many golf courses in Eagle County allow both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter months. Some of them, such as Vail, even cater to them. But inside the county lines there is no better place to fall into the groove than McCoy Park at Beaver Creek.

“Most ski resorts have their Nordic courses down in the valley,” explains Nate Goldberg, Beaver Creek’s director of hiking. “But McCoy Park is at the top of Beaver Creek. With a five-and-a-half-minute chair ride you’re there, and it’s so quiet and beautiful. You’ve got three mountain ranges to look at.”

Other than during the occasional snowshoe race, McCoy Park doesn’t see a lot of action. Located at the top of Strawberry Park Express, you can’t see or hear the interstate that runs through the valley, and there’s not much in the way of human company. It is, for the most part, a solitary activity along the crystalline paths that spiral out from the course’s center. A yurt along the way allows for shelter from inclement weather — or simply a rest stop to reapply sunscreen, stretch the hamstrings and relax. The trees are more sporadic up at the top of the world, and the occasional porcupine can be seen propped in those trees every once in a while. Bark eaters, porcupines are oddly comfortable in the snow, and have called Beaver Creek home for longer than the resort has been around. Foxes, weasels and snowshoe hares can also be seen at McCoy, though they often like to stay out of sight.

For those who have both the time and inclination, a morning, afternoon or full day at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center is unforgettable. Located at the base of Ski Cooper — the only ski resort in Colorado that is publicly owned, this by the town of Leadville — Tennessee Pass Nordic Center is a secluded network of cross country and snowshoe trails cut into a daddy-pine forest. Loops meet up with other loops, making the breezy 25 kilometers of trails feel like full-on backcountry, albeit with an easy escape. Rated green, blue and black just like downhill runs, folks can choose their own adventure. And anyone who eats, ever, should include a stop at the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse on the itinerary.

It was a picnic table that started it. Nothing special, just a wooden rectangle with benches where cross-country skiers would sit and nosh, taking in the wide-open views of the Sawatch Range across the way. But it got Ty and Roxanne Hall, owners of the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, thinking about “expanding” the picnic table. And they came up with a gourmand’s yurt.

The Tennessee Pass Cookhouse has long been a local favorite for birthdays, anniversaries, and run-of-the-mill hoopla among friends. It’s the epitome of living large in Colorado: gorgeous views, alpine activity, good food and excellent friends. There’s even the possibility of a little live acoustic music later at the Nordic center.

“Part of it is our location — the view is exceptional,” Roxanne says. “But it’s also the yurt. It wouldn’t be the same if it were a cabin. It’s so quaint, plus we feel really far away.”

The Cookhouse serves dinner seven nights a week and lunch on weekends. Lunch is a la carte and has two seatings. The four-course dinner only has one seating. Both have cult followings.

“It’s scratch cooking,” says John Fulton, head chef at the yurt.

Though the Halls have a snowmobile that can run people out to the yurt, people are encouraged to get there on their own steam. Snowshoes and cross-country skis are the most popular choices, though lucky children have been known to be dragged in their sleds by parents with moxie (and energy) to spare. The most direct route from the base lodge to the yurt — Cooper Loop — is about a mile. There’s a 300-foot elevation gain. As often as not, though, folks opt to cruise around on some of the other trails, such as Larry’s Loop, The Woods or Griz, before sitting down to a cookhouse feast. Remember that law about food eaten while camping always tastes better? It seems to apply under these circumstances, too.

The feta-stuffed buffalo burger is a lunch highlight that will tempt even those who prefer to skip the red meat. At dinner, wild sockeye salmon is grilled on a plank, giving it a lightly smoked flavor. Colorado rack of lamb is roasted to tender succulence, while the elk tenderloin is seared and served with blueberries and sage. Roasted chicken and curried tofu are also on the menu. 

All the food and water used at the yurt is schlepped in by snowmobile. That means the “facilities” are two outhouses, riding high above the snowpack. Sometimes it can be an adventure, dashing out into a snowstorm to use them. But coming back into the yurt afterwards is rather friendly. Heated by an old pot-bellied stove that came from Camp Hale, the cozy space is filled with antique tables and mismatched chairs. If meteors obliterate the world or global warming washes away the continent, that solid stove will remain intact. It keeps the yurt downright balmy even on the coldest of nights. Those in the know usually bring house slippers or booties to wear during mealtime, as heavy winter boots aren’t necessary — or particularly comfortable — inside. 

The trick is not to eat too much for the trek back to the car. Primarily downhill, it’s easy to make it to the base lodge as long as you stay awake and upright. Otherwise, all bets are off. And those who decide to nap in the forest will certainly awaken to a different type of adventure entirely. But hey, at least it’s an adventure. And that’s the stuff memories are made of.