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Vail and Whistler - Back to Back!
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23 days ago

Vail and Whistler – Back to Back!

By Jim Kenney

My wife Kathy and I are in the middle of an extraordinary ski trip.  We just spent a week in the Vail Valley skiing Beaver Creek, Vail, and Breckenridge.  As I type this we are flying to Seattle.  We’re going to rendezvous with our son Vince and the three of us are heading to Whistler-Blackcomb for five days.  I feel like a schuss-booming glutton for packing to two tremendous resort regions in one ski trip, but this travel splurge was facilitated some credits my wife and I earned by taking a voluntary bump on a Delta flight out of Utah last year.  We had to make the best of $1000 of use-or-lose or it would expire in a few months.

The week Kathy and I just wrapped up in Colorado was fantastic.  We were based in Avon and I skied six days straight while Kathy shopped six days straight.  Snow conditions were good for my first ski day, Sunday, February 26, 2017 at Beaver Creek and the next day at Vail.  But then it snowed and when I got to Beaver Creek on Tuesday morning it was a full on powder day.  I estimated there was 14” of fresh snow when I hit the slopes and another 3-4” fell during the day.  It was good light snow and provided great snow conditions for the rest of the week under deep blue skies with seasonal temps to keep the snow powdery – the stuff that made Colorado famous!

Another important aspect of this trip is that we are attempting a challenging feat on the personal front.  Can Jim the ski nut and Kathy the non-skier both find interesting and rewarding experiences for two weeks hopping around ski resorts?  We stayed in Avon, CO for six nights.  Avon has a great network of local and county buses to make it quite easy to get to Beaver Creek and Vail.  This enabled me to use the buses to go skiing, while Kathy kept the rental car for shopping and touring during the day. 

We also did several fun afternoon/evening activities together such as a free snowshoe tour out of Beaver Creek’s Nordic Center and a very pleasant late night swim at the famous Glenwood Hot Springs.  We also enjoyed Sunday Mass at the beautiful Beaver Creek Chapel and Ash Wednesday services in Vail’s Chapel.  Both featured excellent inspirational music.  Kathy was in charge of selecting our evening dining venues and we enjoyed some memorable meals together in various Colorado locations.

On Friday we left Avon and returned to Denver for our Saturday flight.  But on the way we stopped for a shopping spree in Frisco and then spent the afternoon at Breckenridge.  We concluded our time in the Rockies with a romantic sunset dinner at the Chart House near Golden, CO.  This restaurant has magnificent views of the Front Range, Denver and the prairies beyond.  This phase of our trip couldn’t have gone better.

The following are highlights from the Colorado portion of our trip, Feb 26 to Mar 3, 2017: 

Sunday:  I enjoyed a fine day skiing at Beaver Creek.  This is the line of robust bumps under the Grouse Mountain lift line.

Some friendly locals let me follow them to a very pretty glade on Grouse Mountain.  I think it is called Black Bear Glade.

Rustic on the outside and elegant on the inside, this is the inter-denominational chapel at Beaver Creek. 

We ate at an interesting restaurant in Edwards that featured a lot of wild games.  Then we drove over for a late night swim at the Glenwood Hot Springs.

Monday:   I rode the Eagle County Bus from Avon to Vail for the $1 senior rate and started my day on Gondola One. It was a partly cloudy day and the snow was good.  I spent a lot of time in Sun Down and Sun Up Bowls. Kathy used the rental car to explore Avon and then drove over to Vail later in the day.  We dined at Pazzo’s Pizza in Vail.  Then we strolled the village and shopped.  Kathy wields a double black diamond Visa card.

Heading towards Ricky’s Ridge in Sun Down Bowl.  That is the Blue Sky Basin lifts in the background.

Ricky’s Ridge is left center in this photo.

Mid-Vail.

Tuesday:  This was an excellent 12-15” powder day, exceeding predictions.  I returned to Beaver Creek where there was easily a foot of new snow in the AM and it kept coming all day long in light accumulation.  Visibility was not bad for a snow day.  I must have skied the Centennial lift line 6 or 7 times.  The crowds were modest for a powder day and most folks were going higher on the hill.  That left the Centennial lift line and nearby runs lightly tracked well into the afternoon.  This part of the mountain has a decent single black diamond pitch for pow skiing with a few steps and drops.

This is Stone Creek Chutes at Beaver Creek.  The powder brought out the cliff huckers.

Later Kathy and I went for a terrific free Snowshoe tour at the Beaver Creek Nordic Center.  They supplied snowshoes and fed us hot chocolate and cookies upon completion of the one hour tour.

Wednesday:  I skied Beaver Creek for a half day and then we both went to Vail to attend an Ash Wednesday service at 4PM in the Vail Interdenominational Chapel.

This is the Centennial Chondola lift line.  I skied this run seven or eight times on Tuesday during the storm.  It was incredible and not even totally skied out for much of Wednesday.

This is Golden Eagle trail in the Birds of Prey section of Beaver Creek.  This run is used as a downhill course in competitions. I lapped it twice.  This photo was taken on the first one when it was still largely untracked.

I snuck in a run at Vail to record “two resorts in one day”.  This is Lionshead Village.

That night we had a nice meal in the Maya Restaurant in the Westin at Avon.  Afterwards we took a stroll and walked the dog at Beaver Creek Village.

to be continued…

23 days ago

 

Thursday:  Thursday and Friday were beautiful ski days.  Packed and loose powder snow conditions, temps on the mtns about 30 something degrees, and cloudless blue skies.  I switched to lighter ski clothing.  Fantastique!  On Thursday I returned to Vail. I met a nice couple from Massachusetts who were Vail veterans and they showed me some of their favorite runs in Blue Sky Basin.

L-R:  Jim, Steve, and Linda at the top of Blue Sky Basin.

Steve and Linda were fine skiers.  That is Vail’s world famous Back Bowls they are skiing towards.

No other word for it, Blue Sky Basin is beautiful

That bowl in the background is aptly called Lover’s Leap

The US Open Snowboarding Championships were taking place at Vail’s Golden Peak venue during our visit.  I saw some amazing athletes spin in the air like mad gyroscopes in the halfpipe semi-finals.

Kathy and I had some good meals in the Vail Valley.  One night we had wild game at The Gashouse Restaurant in Edwards. The waiter told us the walls of Gashouse are adorned with $80000 worth of taxidermy.  They had one of those deer tail sasquatch creatures hanging right above our table.  Another night we ate Mexican at the Maya Restaurant in Avon with a great view of the slopes of Beaver Creek.  We also had Pazzo’s Pizza and fried chicken at Yellowbelly, two fairly affordable places in Vail.

Friday:  After packing up and leaving Avon I took Kathy for a little shopping therapy in Frisco, CO.  She hit this boutique like I would hit a one foot powder day:-) 

Then we spent the afternoon at Breckenridge.  It was a great place for Kathy to stroll the main drag and I love the upper mountain ski terrain there.  My skiing highlight at Breck was the climb above Peak 6 to the Six Senses.  This fellow Alistair from the UK was a hoot.  We made the climb together and encouraged each other, then went our separate ways. I skied that nice white chute in the distance behind his left ski tip.

Three buddies dropped into it (North Chute) just before me, a skier, a telemarker (pictured here), and a boarder.  They honored me by clicking my ski pole when I skied up to them at the bottom.

We capped our week with a really nice two hour, three-course dinner at The Chart House near I70 about five miles west of Golden.  I called in a reservation about an hour in advance and couldn’t believe the great table we got.  The place was mobbed on a Friday night.  We saw the mtns, city of Denver, and prairie beyond go from daylight to sunset to darkness.  Awesome last image of Colorado! 

 

Now it’s on to Whistler.  I’m making this last post on Sunday morning 3/5/17 in Vancouver where 6” of snow fell last night.  Can only imagine what’s going on in the mtns.

22 days ago

Enjoy!  I am jealous!

MorganB

20 days ago

It’s been a few days since I checked in.  Busy having fun!  

Vancouver, BC:

University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology. 

Vancouver’s Granville Island Market

First lift ride ever at Whistler on Monday, Mar 6, 2017. Scenery shots hard to come by this visit, so much snow falling almost constantly since we got here.

 

The one and only JohnL

Our son has joined us this phase of trip, here in Peak to Peak Gondola, amazing feat of ski lift engineering!

 

20 days ago

These photos are from Tuesday, Mar 7.  Ski shots mostly from Symphony and Harmony Bowl areas of Whistler-side.  Tree skiing is a great option here on low viz days.

Then I joined Kathy in the late afternoon for snowshoeing in a beautiful area near the village.

 

19 days ago

You all look so sad, so miserable…must be because trip is close to coming to an end!?  And what a wonderful trip!  In fact, what a special season!!!!  

First:  Incredible shots following a huge dump in Utah’s Snowbird

Second:  A special week in vail-Beaver Creek with the Mrs!

Third:  Followed immediately by a fun excursion to the lovely city of Vancouver, then a spectacular drive along the fjords to Whistler/Blackcomb

Without a doubt this is the greatest ski trip ever chronicled in DCSki or Epic Ski.  Cannot wait to hear what you are going to do for an encore…oh that’s right, you mentioned another trip to Utah in early April!!!

SKI ON, Jim, KEEP CALM and SKI ON!!!!!!!!

MorganB

19 days ago

Great story Jim.  Thanks.  And yes, I’m jealous.

18 days ago

Vince in Blackcomb Glacier today, 3/9/17.  Great snow conditions here, but visibility an issue at times.

Snowshoeing up on Whistler Mtn around 330PM today, snowing to beat the band at that time.

Mrs K.

15 days ago

Picking up on my little travelogue…we had a fine trip and returned to VA on Saturday evening, Mar 11.  One thing I did not figure on is that it’s not so easy to find time to post ski pictures and trip commentary each night when traveling with a non-skier.  Whenever I was off the ski slopes my wife was raring to go shopping, sightseeing, snowshoeing, dining, etc.  She had her own agenda and I wanted to try to help accommodate that to a degree on this trip, so the blogging took a backseat to that. And no doubt, doctoring and posting photos takes some time.  Now I will try to catch up and share the best photos from our time in British Columbia and do a recap of highlights from all two weeks.

On Wednesday, Mar 8, 2017 I took a rest day and hung out with Kathy in Whistler Village. I had skied 8 out of the previous 10 days.

Village shopping mule:

This place thumped with disco music every afternoon beside the Whistler Gondola

Whistler had a good snowpack when we got there and it must have snowed about 15 inches altogether down in the village during our visit from Mar 5-10, more up on the mtn.

 

Photos from Whistler-Blackcomb, Thursday 3/9/17.

This was probably my best day on the mtn when I got in about 5 or 6 hours of skiing in good visibility conditions and covered a lot of ground.

Views from Whistler Bowl, good powder conditions up there this morning:

As mentioned in a prior post I got to make a run in Blackcomb Glacier on Thursday afternoon.  JohnL (right) led my son (left) and I down a steep route on skier’s left side of glacier.below cliff in background. Believe where the guys are standing is highest lift served point in W-B, approx 7500’ above sea level.  That relatively low summit elevation for western skiing makes W-B quite a bit easier for altitude adjustment than higher places like Colorado.

The grandeur of the terrain here reminded me of some stuff I have seen in the Alps.

JohnL dropping in…

Vince behind…

JohnL on a pitch that had sort of a convex shape, couldn’t tell exactly how steep it was going to get…

but believe me, it got steep, with some real consequences not far behind Vince here

They are the two ants in center, we came down towards the left.

After this adventure I went snowshoeing in a snow squal with Kathy at 6000’ near the Roundhouse Restaurant on Whistler Mtn.

 

These photos are from my last ski day, Friday 3/10/17 and I don’t think I have ever seen such variable conditions in one day on one mtn (technically two mtns).  Raw at the bottom, cold at the top, foggy down low, clear and mild at the mid-mtn, and snowy up high.  There seemed to be about 12-15” of new snow on parts of the mtn in the morning.  It went from powder to cotton candy to glazey all in the span of a few hours.  Crazy, but I guess representative of the unique climate of the Coast Mountains of British Columbia.  

Heavy new snow Friday morning at Whistler:

Then we headed to the 7th Heaven upper/mid-mountain trail pod on Blackcomb where it was mostly sunny for a few nice hours.

This view from 7th Heaven shows Whistler and the cable line (longest unsupported span in the world) for the Peak to Peak Gondola.  Not sure why it wasn’t running at this time?  I rode it quite a few times during the week and it operated flawlessly.

 

On Friday after skiing we drove to Seattle for flights home.  This is the view along the Sea to Sky Highway in British Columbia.

Miscellaneous trip highlights:

Best dining experience:  Three course dinner at The Chart House near I70 about five miles west of Golden, CO.  Got a great table with a million dollar view of the mtns, city and prairie. Honorable mentions:  Maya Restaurant in the Westin at Avon (classy ambiance and nice view of slopes of Beaver Creek), CO, The Gashouse in Edwards, CO (rustic ambiance with $80k of taxidermy adorning the walls), Cockney Kings Fish and Chips in Vancouver, BC (zero ambiance, but super comfort food). We ate in or at friends condos every night at Whistler, so I’ll have to reserve judgement on dining there, but they have some good chocolate shops:-)

Favorite non-ski activities: Glenwood Hot Springs at night (this famous facility is getting a little tired looking, but at night it’s still magical and only $10 from 9-10PM), the free one hour afternoon snowshoeing tour at Beaver Creek (contact the Nordic Center - free is good at BC and they lend you snowshoes too), touring Vancouver especially the Univ of BC Museum of Anthropology and Granville Island Market, romantic rest day in Whistler with Kathy.

Skiing highlights:  for pure good skiing in bright sunshine it’s hard to beat Colorado, but no doubt Whistler-Blackcomb has some epic terrain.  The problem was I couldn’t see it a lot of the time.  

Best runs in no particular order:  

Black Bear Glade, Beaver Creek, CO

Little Ollie, Blue Sky Basin area of Vail, CO

North Chute at Breckenridge, CO

Symphony Bowl trees on Whistler Mtn, BC

Whistler Bowl, BC

7th Heaven, Blackcomb, BC

Single best run was Blackcomb Glacier with my son and JohnL.  Grandeur with a capital G.

Wow.  What a trip.  Might post some more thoughts later.

15 days ago

Welcome Home!  Hopefully you brought some snow home with you!!!

MorganB

13 days ago

Nice!

12 days ago

Wow, what a trip is right! You made the most of a pretty fabulous itinerary.

4 days ago

Lov lov lovve! The Beav! Did you make it all the way over to Arrowhead Mountian? That place is the undiscovered country. There is never anyone over there.

Also a big fan of Presidents Ford… Love a skiing President!

 

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