Winter Trip 2014
Feb 1st The start of Pam and my ski trip from Denver and then all the way to Canada and back. We are using the Monarch Ski pass that is good at 31 other areas and the Quality Inn Choice Privilege card for our stays, where we can on both accounts.
When I set this trip up in November I didn't realize that Feb.1st was on a Saturday or that the Bronco's were going to go to the Super Bowl. If you live in Denver you are born with the idea that any travel on the weekends towards the mountains is almost suicidal. The long lines of traffic moving towards everyone's favorite ski area is a mind blower. Then if you add the Super Bowl being televised the next day was a double trouble for any weekend warrior. The parking lot traffic almost started in front of our house, on Feb 1st. We left at 6:20 am and the sight on I-70 was a slow moving caterpiller working its' way up over the mountains. Our living hell ended when most of the Olympic hopefuls headed towards Summit County and we turned our truck towards Winter Park in Grand County over Berthoud Pass.
We could tell that this was going to be a good ski day, because as we drove over Berthoud Pass, we couldn't see highway signs along the road because they were covered with the fluffy white stuff. As we approached Mary Jane ski area, the twisted sister of Winter Park, a long line of cars was pouring towards their parking lot. Maybe I heard a little voice telling me to pass up this parking lot and drive towards the main ski area, or it was the other voice in the truck, Pam. The vehicles were like pieces on a chess board moving in front of us. One piece drove straight, then the second one would go turn, everyone had their own plan on getting to the slopes the fastest.
Our parking lot was a sea of humanity covered with expensive clothes and carrying even more costly equipment. In the next row of cars was a small girl that was at the end of her rope, either because of the traffic or the cold weather. Her screaming could be heard all over the mountain slopes as it bounced off the helmets of skiers. Everyone except her parents was paying attention to her melt down, so the idea of jumping on the hood of the car parked next to them seemed logical. The sound of the car alarm was loud enough to drown out this girl's wails, which was followed by a sound of applause coming from fellow skiers like myself.
Pam and I haven't been to the Winter Park ski area since skiing was invented and it has come way up in the world. Where the old parking lot used to be is now a high end shopping street, which is certain to lighten the load in our wallets. There is also a people mover in the shape of fifty gallon drums connected to a long moving cable that feeds you towards these shops that skiers can't live without. Pam and I stood on a platform as our drum came closer, then at the right time half of the drum opened and we stumbled into our mover. We had a grand view of the surrounding area as we moved towards the ticket windows. Getting out was a tad tricky with skis and poles and the slippery floor of the drum.
With our Monarch Pass we had one free day of sking and that went without a hitch. As we stepped into our skies we were back to the realization that we weren't the only people wanting to ski today. The lift line was hundreds of people deep, but the chair held four so the line moved fast.
With lots of new snow, the conditions were ideal, except for the extremely low temperature for some people,that I will not name!
At 2:00pm, the perfect time for old people to stop sking, we headed to Kremmling, Colo our first night of rest. With a population of 500 tops, we didn't have to worry about traffic anymore, maybe a moose or two, that's it.
Feb 2nd Pam and I woke to 20 below in Kremmling, it was so cold my tongue stuck to the metal plate in my head!! As we drove out of the Colorado River drainage a heavy frozen fog hung over the valley, we thought we had been cast into a remake of Dr. Zhivago. Today we are headed to Steamboat Springs but first we have to go over the high pass named Rabbit Ear's. The rock formation on the pass resembling a jack rabbit's ear seemed to get closer as we drove north, and I swear he was wearing ear muffs.
A snowmobiler that was staying at the Super 8 in Kremmling told me there was over 5 feet of new snow on the pass, and as we got closer he was spot on. Luck was with us and fellow snow lovers, for the highway dept. had dug tunnels in the snow that led to a small parking area. This snow was piled up to three times the height of the truck. Pam wanted to snowshoe in a flat area, not on any mountain's sides and not near any avalanches. This is why women live longer, than us men. On the south side of the pass was a large open meadow with enough snow to cover New York City three feet deep.it looked like hundreds of weekend warriors on powerful snowmobiles had made tracks all over this area. You could tell these people where very independent, as no one stayed on the same path. If we would have had a hot air balloon and looked down on the site it would have looked like a bowl of limp spaghetti had been poured onto a large white table. We were going to use these snow tracks to our advantage, since one false step off the packed snow and we would have been up to our arm pits in the white stuff.
A slight breeze was coming out of the south and with the temps at close to zero, it put a nice color to our cheeks, Compared to Kremmling's 20 below zero this was like a balmy. Our plan was to snowshoe over to the crop of pine trees about 1/4 mile away. The skies where completely blue, not a cloud to be seen. Only occasionally we would hear a distant snowmobiler coming towards us, appear out of the trees then race across the open field, like enemy under fire as they ducked back into the trees. After an hour of pushing along through the snow we reached the trees and turned around, now with the wind at our backs. Since we were wearing three layers of clothes and taking quite a bit of work to walk with the snowshoes, I could finally start to feel several body parts.
As we decended into the Yampa Valley which would be our home for a few days, the snow was still piled high along the highway. Steamboat Springs could be seen in the distance with the ski slope off to our right. We checked into the Steamboat Hotel and unloaded all of our gear and found out the most important information that a snowshoer needs, the best place to eat. Trying to keep the truck under the speed limit, we found our lunch spot, the Creekside. I don't need any stinking creek, I want food. The place had a few people waiting for a table, but we were seated lickety split. The fellow sitting at the next table was from Florida, West Palm Beach, and he needed a sounding board to listen to his stories. He told us about the period in his life that changed his outlook on everything. He met a preacher while he was riding his bike and later went to his church and found Jesus. From that minute on until now everything looks differnt he reported, even the look of leaves on the trees. I thought of the Forest Gump movie, when Lt. Dan asked Forest if he had found Jesus? "I didn't know he was missing!" says Forest.
After eating enough food to fill two stomachs, we drove to the world famous Steamboat Hot Springs. Not the hippy dippy Srawberry Field hot springs, located in the mountains, no these are right down town. The Strawberry Hot Springs are bathing suits optional after dark, which everybody and their dog tells you with a wink and nod. We soaked up to our eyeballs in the 103 degree hot springs. The talk at the pool wasn't the snow depth, or nudity, it was the Super Bowl. Denver verses Seattle Seahawks.
We drove back to the motel with the thought of watching a close game with our home town of Denver giving a good show. Someone forgot to tell the Bronco's the game had started because we got our butt kicked, slaughtered, pushed into the astro turf-48 to 8. After all the hype generated in Denver about the Super Bowl, I don't want to hear about football for a whole year. Even the shape of a watermelon at the grocery store is going to send me into orbit.
Feb 3rd Woke to a potential snow storm and from our vantage point, gazing up at the ski slope it looked like we were in for a whole day of a winter wonderland. The town has a free bus and a bus stop was right out front of our hotel. The bus delivered us right up to the ski slope within minutes of pickup. After a short walk we were able to show our Monarch Pass and get a free pass for Steamboat Mtn. This mountain has a gondola that is completely enclosed, which made for a nice warm ride up the mountain. After sking to another lift we found ourselves right smack dab on top of Storm Mountain. What a great name and so fitting, since it was storming. The depth perception was down to five feet in front of us, due to the lack of sunlight. Even the crazy snowboarders were cutting down the hill at a snails pace. After fighting these conditions for several hours we wised up and moved down the mountain, where the condtions had improved greatly. We did four runs on this long slope which had all kinds of different challenges.
By 2:00 pm our legs said uncle and we headed down towards the base and our bus ride home. We got on the wrong bus but we sure got to soak up all the sights of downtown Steamboat Springs. A woman on the bus who had just moved to the area kept telling us that the bus would finally reach our motel. Five miles out of town the bus driver came back and told us, " You're on the wrong bus!" He dropped us off at another bus station and thirty minutes later, after going back to where we had started, we saw our motel.
Pam wanted to spread the wealth around so we drove ourselves back downtown and did some serious shopping, Pam did anyway.
Feb 4th Time to drive to Wyoming, the cowboy state by way of going back over Rabbit Ear's Pass, for the last time on this trip. Snow was also our companion as we made it up over the pass and into the Medicine Bow Mountain range. The higher we climbed in the mountains the higher the snow was packed on the side of the road. This was good, since we wanted to ski this area the next day.
Laramie, Wyoming could be seen in the distance as we decended out of the mountains. The winds were blowing snow squalls across the road in front of us, but it didn't seem to upset the hundreds of antelope that were racing across the plains. We drove downtown and I noticed a sign for a musuem plus a mansion that might be interesting to visit. Since it was winter, the place was closed but we managed to find a woman that agreed to show us around in a few hours. We headed onto the main street to check out the shops and to find a good place to eat. With out bellies full of Thai food it was back to the mansion. The Ivinson mansion was full of period pieces and chuck full of interesting tidbits about the family who had lived there. Mr. Ivinson was the ultimate baby crib robber, his wife was 13 years old when he at 23 years old married her. He must have known what he was doing because they stayed married for 61 years. The mansion has three floors with 12 foot ceilings and measures 3,600 square feet. Every room had something interesting to look at and our tour guide explained every little detail.
Feb 5:th Woke up to 20 below zero temps with snow falling, "Lets go sking!" yelled Pam or was that me. Anyway we headed back up the mountains towards Snowy Range ski area, another free area on our Monarch Pass. The snow got deeper the farther we drove into the mountains. At the ski area it was a balmy 15 below zero but no wind, there is a God! We made a few runs and the sun occasionally made an appearance. After a small lunch it had warmed to 8 degrees and it wasn't bad compared to 20 below. I hit the slopes for another hour while Pam had her skis resting in the rack.
We made it back to Laramie with enough time to visit a musuem of Anthropology on the University of Wyoming campus. What a great and very informative display the university had set up.
Feb 6th We left Laramie with a snow storm in our rear view mirror and temps 20 below zero. The interstate I-80 would lead us to Salt Lake City after traveling thru many small snow storms. By 2:30 pm we drove into the parking lot of our next home at Econo Lodge just west of downtown.
I had been to this major town just last year and kind of new my way around. The south and north vistor center could be a command central, for info about the Mormon religion. The temple in the center of the square with its' huge stone towers would be impossible not to notice. The only way to get inside the temple is a permission slip from your Mormon priest, if you belong to the church. Knowing this, the church has a model of the temple in the visitor center. Probably the number one question about the temple is the story with the baptism room that is held up by 12 golden oxen. The Mormon"s have an answer for the number one question for all true believers. If I am baptised and going to heaven, what happens to the people before baptism was invented? Now with the Mormon religion you can have your friend that bit the dust or your family member that is wearing wings in the sky baptised after the fact. While a church member is totally being dunked in the baptismal water the priest can read off a list of dead folks that are in limbo because they weren't baptised in the Mormon church. From that moment on if your dead friend excepted the baptism they go directly to heaven. This was all explained in the south visitor center. In the north center it is set up to explain all about how Joseph Smith found the golden tablets and then wrote the Mormon bible. With this bible he was able to convert millions to the Mormon religion.
We needed a way to end our educational learnng of religion so we went to an ice cream shop and pigged out.
Thumb nail sketch of the Morman religion from what we have learned in our 2 hour visit.
1) Joseph Smith had a lot of questions about religion as a young man, so he went out in the woods to pray. God and Jesus came to him and told him they would give him the right answers at the right time.
2) Joseph Smith, 4 years later had a visit from the angel Moroni. He let Joseph know that he had buried some golden tablets right near his home. On these tablets Moroni had written the gospel given to him by his father Mormon.
3) The tablets told of the story of America a long time ago, way before Walmart. Two Isralie tribes following a compass given to them by God came to America. Jesus visited them after his day on the cross and told them how to behave and be good. One tribe didn't follow the rules and killed every cotton picking member of the other tribe except Mormon and Moroni.
4) As you might imagine God wasn't real happy with the remaining tribe but how would God know which tribe was what, so God turned them red. The only way these Indians could get back into God's good side, was to help the Mormons.
5) Joseph Smith translated the golden tablets into the Mormon bible.
I imagine it's like any religion there are folks looking for answers in life's confusing twists and turns.
Feb 7th Woke to balmy temps in the 30's but a big storm in the mountains, above Salt Lake City is predicted. The road that led up to the Alta ski area got steeper and snowier as we climbed into the mountains. When we pulled into the Alta ski area parking lot a cold wind was blowing up from the west. A very steep mountain was attached to a ski lift that shadowed the ticket window. Since we had our mighty Monarch Pass we only had to pay half price for our ticket. Pam and I studied the area map with a eye for maybe a tad bit easier ski slope than the one that was in front of us.
We found a long lift that led us along the valley floor which was made up of long ropes, being pulled by a cable. As the ropes went by we grabbed onto them and within ten minutes we were delivered to a slope that we could handle. When I bought our tickets instead of having a tag hung onto our jacket, the ticket master gave us a ticket to be scanded before the gates would be open to the lifts. Each time Pam and I would fumble with the ticket and in fact one time Pam's blew away and we had to ski after it. Then a kind attendant told us to keep it in our pocket or glove and the scaner would pick it up.
The snow was over 12 inches deep with new powder and what a treat to ski it, I can't begin to explain how good the sking was. The only down side to our pleasure was the higher we got on the mountain the higher the winds. My mother is part Cherokee Indian but I think she is Eskimo because I love the cold weather, the biting temperatures are my friend. Pam's mom must have been from the French Riveria because her tolerances are a tad bit lower, or normal.
By lunch time Pam had enough of the wind and cold so I continued on for another hour. Then I stopped to see how Pam was doing at the restaurant and took off my mittens and forgot about my ski ticket. Frosty the snow man must have found my lost ticket because I sure didn't. That was the end of my sking which was just as well since my legs were ready for a break. Wrong wording!
After driving back to Salt Lake we decided to take in a movie and "The Monument Men" was a great choice, what a movie, primo baby cakes.
Feb 8th For a change we didn't wake up in the middle of a snow storm, no it's raining. Today we are heading to Boise, Idaho. The drive was very direct on I- 85 and with a rain storm as our traveling companion my truck is squeaky clean. We got into Boise about 2:00 pm and after a quick meal at a restaurant next to Sleep Inn we headed to downtown Boise. Pam and I are suckers for all musuems and Boise has a great one. Lots of historical objects about, you guessed it, Idaho. A whole big section was on the Native Americans that had lived in Idaho and how they influenced Lewis and Clark exploration thru Idaho.
Tomorrow we head north to Mccall, Idaho and rent snowmobiles that will take us 20 miles to Burgdorf Hot springs. Pam and I will rent a cabin for 2 days with plenty of back country snowshoeing and the hot springs to soak our aching bones for as long as we don't turn into Sunkist raisens.
Feb 9-10-11 Pam and I drove north out of Boise Idaho during a rain storm, which I was hoping wouldn't follow us to Mccall. Every mile that we put behind us the snow got deeper and whiter. By the time we spied the sign reading Cheap Thrills Snowmobile rentals the snow was knee deep. There is a husband and wife team running the snowmobile rental business. The wife runs the office and her job was to make sure our snowmobile outfits fit well and where warm enough. The husband meet us at the trailhead and made sure we had enough knowledge of the machine to not run it into a tree. We also rented a sled that was attached to the back of our snowmobile and we had no problem filling it up with food, sleeping bags and warm clothes.
We left the parking lot about 10:30 am with the thought of the soothing hot springs on our minds. Pam had a nice soft seat behind me as we cruised 30 mph towards our cabin for 2 days. A old forest service road that is closed to vehicle traffic during the winter would be our path. The snow along the road was waist deep and the surrounding hillsides where covered with tall pine trees. Our rental agents told us not the take our machines off the road and we passed plenty of hot dog snowmobilers that had their machines buried up to the windshield.
After 22 miles of cruising along our winter wonderland we could see the Burgdorf Hot springs in the distance. The where a number of wooden buildings that where decorated with several feet of snow. We followed a sign to the check-in lodge and was meet by Caroline a lovely lady and with her husband, they manage the hot springs. A cabin named Ann Marie would be our home for 2 days. We jumped back on our mighty machine and drove right up to the cute cabin. After unloading our gear we started a fire in the wood burning stove. Then with our swim suits and towels in a small back pack it was back on the machines for a return to the lodge and the hot springs.
The main pool was between 95 and 100 degrees and was the size of a 1/2 of a basket ball court. Two smaller pools feed this large pool and they where both 115 degrees and they where called the lobster pots, wonder why? A group of five fella from Seattle had been in the pool for a hour before we arrived and they sure knew how to handle the booze. A 1/2 gallon apple cider container held more then just apple cider. The recipe called for apple cider, apple juice, cinnamon sticks, sugar and 120 proof Everclear. This concoction was called Apple Pie and Pam said it tasted just like it. When they finished that and a case of beer it was time for a metal flask that was the size of a NY city phone book(not kidding!) that was filled with apple flavored whiskey. They had bought the flask at a restaurant in town called Lardo's, it should have been wino's. Another couple people joined us with more booze and what a good time we all had just talking and making fun of the Bronco's since they where from Seattle. Everything outside the hot springs was covered with several feet of snow, including the logs surrounding the pool. One of the these 1/2 pickled Seattle fellas kept trying to walk across the snow covered log, along side the pool. Each time he would get half way and loose his balance and fall into the pool, I thought of a you-tube moments. But there wasn't any broken bones! When everybodies hands had turned into wrinkled prunes from the hot springs we all got out.
Pam and I went back to our cabin and had a candle lite dinner, since there isn't any electricity. By 8:00pm with the only light we had was from the wood burning stove we called it a night. Then every 2 hours I would get up and feed our mighty stove with more wood.
Feb 10th Pam's birthday yipeee. We started with a breakfast of oatmeal and off to our very own hot springs for a hour soak, life is tough. Our host showed up and we ordered a special birthday dinner, wieners and burgers, to be served tonight. She told us some history of the place, the Indians used the hot springs for centuries until the trappers, miners and then cattleman showed up, with their dirty back sides. A Dr. from McCall now owns it and he got it from his family after they bought it in the 1900's. There was a mine in Warren and a road ran right by the hot springs and mule skinners and the like use to stop in the 1800's from hauling ore from there.
We found out about a mountain that is covered with quartz and it's called Crystal Mountain. Pam and I decided to snowshoe up the trail that lead to the top of this mountain. The trail had been beaten down by a snowmobile, so it wasn't to hard to follow. On top of the mountain we didn't find any quartz but we had a great view of the valley and surrounding mountains.
After lunch we fired up our snowmobile and decided to head to the ghost town of Warren. It was 16 miles away and the road cut thru a couple small mountain passes. Within a hour we where zooming through downtown Warren. I noticed a small ranger station with a few signs explaining local history so I drove off trail. Then after reading the signs we got back on the machine and the snowmobile didn't move. The snow as like granulated sugar and we couldn't get any traction. I thought why not just grab this machine and spin it around, except the machine was heavy as a car. We tried to back the machine up without any success. Then in the distance a man appeared carrying a shovel. I didn't know if he was a ghost and I didn't care at this point. With 20 minutes of shoveling and three of us turning the machine around we got our frozen butt out of the snow bank.
The soak in the springs before dinner, completely nicked out our snowmobile problems. The burger and chip dinner was followed by a brownie with a candle for pam's bday. We found out our hosts, had gone to school in Boulder Colorado and had meet in Jamestown. For the last 10 years they have maned a fire lookout station with limited access to see each other during the summer. Caroline only got 2 days off the whole summer.
Feb 11th Woke to colder temps and lite snow fall. We loaded up our gear on the sled and headed back to the real world, without hot springs. We turned in our gear and headed to Spokane. Pam's mom is needing some tender loving care so Pam headed down to Lousiana from the Spokane airport.
I drove onto Castlegar BC after answering a thousand questions at the border crossing. Do you have guns, pepper spray, tasers, A Bombs? The mountain pass just before Castlegar was snowy and icy but that didn't keep a tractor trailer from passing me going 80. Finally I could see the Quality Inn and it made everything A OK.
Feb 12th I woke last night and looked outside to a true Canadian sight, snow coming down, covering my truck. Well this will work out perfect because I have down hill ski on my mind. I had bought a discount ski pass for Red Mountain and that's where this old boy was headed. With all the new snow the area couldn't have been better. All the slopes had something for everyone's ablity. My first run was down a slope cover with boulders that where covered with snow on a 45 degree slope. I was working very hard to make my way through this puzzle and sweating so hard I fogged up my googles. I had to go back to the truck and take off a layer of clothes. By 2:30 my legs told me enough already, so home I headed. It had been foggy driving up this morning but now it was clear and quite beautiful.
Feb 13th Today I would head back up into the mountains and snowshoe. I asked around Castlegar and no one seemed to have any knowledge of hiking trails. The grocer at Safeway told me to go to the Canadian Tire store, they may have some maps, I think he was trying to get rid of me. I did find a nice trail called 7 Summits and found it to be very good for snowshoeing. I actually found 2 A frame cabins that I used to sit and look at the distant mountains. After eating my lunch at Sunset A frame I headed back down the hill with a windy snowstorm on my back side.
Just thought of a couple funny things I didn't add to the blog. Yesterday when I was skiing I was riding with a student from South America. He reminded me of Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite movie, he even looked like him. He told me of the last time he snowboarded Red Mountain. " I was taking this sweet jump, when I caught a edge and woke up in the hospital!" Pedro said. He had dislocated his elbow and had just got out of a sling. Next funny is at Alta ski area. Pam didn't like looks of the steep ski runs and was very nervous just thinking about them. As we stood looking up at the slope and I was trying to convince her everything would be alright, the ski patrol set off a series of explosions to break up avalanches. The sound bounced off the valley and rattled my filings in my teeth. The third explosion last was the last straw as I looked at the Alta ski map to find a kinder slope.
Feb 14th It's my job today to drive to Canmore Alberta. The weather is a mixed bag of really snowy conditions to white out conditions. My aim is to make it over the pass from Radium Hot Springs before they close the road for avalanche control. Two years ago when I was on the same road, I drove up to the hot springs and a road workers was standing in the middle of the road holding a big coal shovel. "The pass is closed!" he yelled. "I bet the department of roads couldn't find a bigger guy to stand guard!" I yelled. He laughed and agreed. The hot springs was just over the hill from Big John, so I told him to honk his truck horn when the road opened, which he did. This time there was no road blocks but the road was something out of the North Pole, especially when I saw a road sign telling us to watch out for reindeer. I wouldn't have been surprised to see old Saint Nick, it was that kind of day. Snow was piled up along the road 8 feet deep and all the pine trees where covered form top to bottom. I sure was glad to get to the valley floor, because the snow didn't follow me down there.
The rocky mountains along this valley are beyond all description, the best camera will not capture the breath taking beauty also. These mountains are a lot steeper then the ones we have in Colorado. As I drove in the Econolodge lot, my home for 3 days, my neck hurt from looking at the scenery all around. After checking in I took a drive downtown Canmore and tried to get some good pictures. Standing in the doorway of the Safeway grocery store looking up at the mountains was unbelievable.
Feb 15th My goal today is to ski Lake Lousa ski area, but I also noticed this area has what is known as Family weekend, to kind of go along with our Presidents day holiday. My hotel clerk told me that the ski area will have between 5-7 thousand skiers. Knowing this I got up real early and was down at the breakfast room 30 minutes before it opened. The night clerk opened it ahead of schedule just for me. I drove in the dark to the ski area and I was the first one in the huge parking lot. Got all my gear and walked up to the lodge and was able to buy my ski pass, from a vending machine. The ski lifts don't usually open until 9:00 am so I was surprised when the attendant let me on at 8:30. I went to a back bowl and skied 4 runs before a lot other skiers showed up. By 2:00 pm there where between 5-7 thousand skiers so I headed to my truck. The parking lot was full and the road leading to the parking lot was covered for a solid 1/2 mile both sides of the road.
My room had a whirlpool, which I used to sooth my aching legs.
Feb 16th Pam called this morning her mother had passed during the night at he ripe old age of 93. So I started the long drive from Canada to Denver at 1,200 miles, than another 1,200 miles to Lousiana.