Thank you for the dances

I asked my skis to the prom, and she showed up in an irresistible powdery gown.  We’ve shared dances at Lake Louise (1 day, cross-country), Crystal Mountain (2 days), Mount Hood (2 days), Hoodoo (1 day), Mount Bachelor (2 days), Telluride (10 days), and Crested Butte (2 days).  The bumps, curves, slopes, face-plants, and turns are exhilarating.  Our relationship is getting serious.

But, our relationship is an unusual, open one.  My skis must soon rest and yield to my fling with canyoneering ropes and kayaks.  I promise to return for another winter dance.

Crested Butte, Colorado

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An easy town to live in, and a beautiful place to be. Not as glamorous as Telluride, but so much more relaxed.

Skiing: Crested Butte is a medium-sized mountain: smaller than destination resorts like Telluride, and larger than locals’ mountains like Hoodoo. The runs are short but there are many of them. There’s plenty of parking for easy access. The weather feels wetter than it was in the San Juans.

Camping: Multiple forest service roads welcome (or at least, don’t prohibit) ski RVing. The Forest Service brochure on winter recreation has a helpful map that summarizes winter access.

Work: The Old Rock Library has charming vintage architecture, friendly librarians, and cozy chairs upstairs. Since it’s a small building, there are no group study rooms for teleconferences. Rumors coffee house has plenty of plugs, organic coffee and tea, and friendly staff.

Dining: The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin has creative cocktails, appetizers, and desserts. The “absinthe minded” cocktail blends fennel, absinthe, and pomegranate to delicious effect. The Thai mussels are savory with just the right amount of spice. The Sherpa cafe feels homey and authentic. The Momo appetizers are tender and the Tibetan soup is rich and satisfying.  Izzy’s offers great breakfasts and latkes.  One morning while Izzy’s was packed, we wandering into Bacchanale and found the breakfast excellent.  The eggs baked with parmesan, butter, and cream were delicious, as was the vegetable turnover.  Prices were reasonable, and the line was short.

I already miss Crested Butte.  There’s so much more downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and snow shoeing to be had in the shadows of the spectacular mountains.  And that’s just during the winter …

Hoodoo Ski Resort, Sisters, Oregon

On a clear day, you really can see forever. Miles of views at Hoodoo. We recommend the $19 lift tickets on “Tightwad Tuesdays”, the curving gullies of the Three Creeks ski run, and  the view from the Over Easy run. A beer at Three Creeks Brewing is a delicious way to finish off the evening. At the Best Western in Sisters, enjoy the view of the neighbors — Alpaca sheep.

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Telluride, CO

We’ve been in Telluride for the past week to catch some spring skiing. If you’re going to ski-RV in Telluride, or stay in town longer than a week, a few local tips will come in handy.

Services:

The nearest laundromat, barber shop, or car oil change facility is 40 miles away. High-end salons will do hair cuts, though even a basic men’s haircut is $35. Most large apartment buildings and motels have coin-op laundry, if you happen to have friends staying there.

For fuel and propane fills, we recommend Mike at the country store on highway 145 at the west end of town. He knows propane systems and does a good job. For fresh water, he generously let us use the tap on the east end of the building (near the door to the auto glass shop) for fills. Even in winter, this tap ran. It can be hard to get fresh water fills in Telluride in winter, so we sure appreciated it!

Food deals:

$3 local microbrew drafts every day at Tomboy Tavern in Mountain Village. They make their money on the food instead, so eat before heading over. Recommed the Left Hand Milk Stout on Nitro. The Nitro makes the head super creamy. If you wish to eat, the truffle fries or the Ahi burger are satisfying accompaniments

Breakfast at La Cocina de Luz. The entrees are big enough to feed two. If you’re solo, they’ll sell a half order if you ask.

Parking:

Telluride and Mountain Village are both very walkable, and the free gondola connects the two towns. Plan to park the RV once for the day.

Telluride: Free daytime parking at Carhenge on Pacific and Tomboy. Plenty of room for RVs and larger vehicles. The lot is open from 6 am to 2 am daily. The river trail makes a nice walk to the gondola.

Mountain Village: The gondola garage fits RVs and charges $7 per day.  A grocery store is right around the corner, and the garage has ski in/out access to the slopes.

Overnight parking:

The closest campground that’s open all winter is Caddis Flats outside Placerville. It’s a 30 minute drive from Telluride.

As the snow melts in Spring, forest roads become accessible. They can be muddy, though. The Telluride visitor center has a helpful map of the dispersed camping areas that are near town.

Mail:

The Telluride post office actually answers the phone (hooray!) and accepts packages mailed to General Delivery.

Shopping and Paring Down:

The 2-story hardware store is impressively well-equipped.

Need to get rid of stuff from your RV? The free box or animal aid thrift store accept donations. The thrift store has some great deals on designer clothes and ski gear, too.

 

Skiing in Telluride, Part 2

We recently spent a lovely week on the snow in Telluride. It was great to see family, share good ski runs together, and play in the snow. Here’s what we did and learned. Hopefully this will help a few other families to plan their ski vacations.

Snow conditions: Early season conditions. Telluride is a packed powder mountain with the occasional fresh powder day. The powder turns to crud in the afternoons, so the best skiing is early when the lifts open at 9:00 AM. We got a few glorious days of fresh powder. Prospect Bowl was knee deep on powder days. So much fun!

Routes: We love the classic cruisers like See Forever, Polar Queen, and Misty Maiden.  We love the expansive views from so many runs. Peter tried small bumps for the first time on Henry’s and Alta.

Grooming: Limited and spotty. About 1/4 of the mountain was open.  Grooming was not always done in a logical fashion. For example, the only exit out of the groomed Prospect Bowl was an ungroomed and cruddy Upper See Forever. Rock and ice chunks were present in the groomed snow, even during morning first tracks.

Unique situations: World Cup snowboard racing and a 750 person group from Kellogg School of Management seemed to absorb most of TelSki’s resources. Snow cats and snow blowers were focused on the World Cup course, and they didn’t seem to have enough capacity to fully operate the rest of the resort. The movements of the large group made it difficult to experience the “relaxed and unhurried atmosphere” that Telski promises. These two groups come to Telluride annually or semi-annually in mid December. It is exhilarating to watch World Cup athletes leap under your feet when you’re hanging out on chair 4. However, it’s not worth the loss of skiable terrain. We recommend scheduling your ski trip to avoid these groups.

Ski school: Telluride has a diverse and very experienced group of ski instructors. Ski instructors David Brown, Howard Davis, Kevin Edholm, and Shayne “Doggie” shared helpful tips. David had helpful advice on stance and balance. Howard’s toe movement trick makes rotary motion much easier. Kevin had great advice on adapting to crud and chop. Shayne helped Peter to ski more confidently in bumps.

The ski school has some new policies this year that are problematic for returning clients and for safety.

1) Addition of a “hot lap” to the morning clinic shortens actual clinic time by 25% without adding value for the client.

2) Modified treatment of returning students makes continuity of learning more difficult.

The ski school previously honored instructor requests from returning students. This attracted a loyal clientele and supported progressive learning. For example, our parents advanced from never-evers to black diamond skiers in a few years under the consistent training of Telluride ski instructors.

The new policy only honors returning business for consecutive days. So, if you take a rest day or a day to practice your newly-learned skills, you’re no longer able to ski with the same instructor.

Lack of instructor continuity impacts the student in two ways. a) Instructor teaching style shifts from coherent progression to a single overwhelming data dump. b) Skills conflict when taught by different instructors.

I started out the week as a confident level 5. Then each instructor modified my stance and technique, and each method conflicted with the other. By the end of the week, I was a confused and hesitant level 4, and well-meaning instructors were advising me to “relax and be more confident”. So frustrating!

3) Pressure for group size creates unsafe situations

We felt pressure throughout the week to advance to the next level when our skills didn’t support it. Advancing skiers makes larger lesson groups. However, it can also cause safety problems.

One day, we had a skier in our level 5 (intermediate parallel skiing) group class who had started out as a level 1 (never skied) skier 3 days ago. He was athletic and learned quickly. However, he didn’t know how to get off a lift correctly (a level 1 skill). When coming off of lift 5, he wedged his skis and kept his weight back in the chair. (Rather than having tips together and up and weight forward.) His ski tails stepped on top of mine, and we fell off the lift. Being advanced too rapidly proved embarrassing for this skier, and dangerous for his ski school classmates.

Locker rooms: This is a great service at Telluride. Mike is super friendly and keeps the locker room running smoothly.

Transportation:

United Express offers a direct flight from Los Angeles to Montrose. This saved a lot of time. We flew out of Carlsbad, which is the most relaxing airport we’ve ever been in. There’s a patio restaurant next door to the ticketing counter. There, we sat in the sun on comfy sofas and watched the plane arrive. Security doesn’t even open until 15 minutes before flight time, so we had plenty of time to enjoy a snack in the sun.

Flights went smoothly until United mishandled their baggage count on the last flight. Of course, having half the Austrian Snowboard Team did create an unexpected situation. The airline had accepted too many snowboards for the plane capacity, and didn’t figure this out until everyone was boarded. So after buckling up, we sat on the ground for an hour while the World Cup athletes negotiated snowboard transport.

Telluride Express offers timely and friendly van service from Montrose to Telluride. We appreciated the fact that they still served our incoming flight, despite the plane arriving an hour late. I was concerned that my seat belt was sliced halfway through, and that the driver seemed more irritated than concerned when I brought this safety issue to his attention.

Food: Try the chili mac at Poachers, the Detroit deep dish pizza at Brown Dog, locally brewed beer at Smugglers and Tracks, the organic and spicy migas with red sauce at La Cochina de Luz, and the fried calamari at Cosmopolitan. Good deals: 2-for-1 pizza night at Brown Dog and the half price happy hour at Cosmopolitan. Telluride Truffles and herbal tea blends at the Steeping Leaf make a delicious dessert. The tequila and rock salt truffle is unique and savory. Siam’s new fusion mango miso sauce was rich and creamy, and their extensive tea list completed the meal.

Lodging: Recommend the Columbine Condos. Walking distance to the Gondola and Siam. The large, open kitchen and living area were great for cooking meals together.

Ski Gear Review

We demoed some ski gear in the early season snow at Telluride. Conditions included fresh powder, packed powder, groomers, and crud. Temperatures were in the high teens to mid 30s. Here are our reviews:

  • Rossignol Temptation 78 women’s skis. Skier: PSIA level 4/5, single blues. All mountain skis with early rise tip and tail and a traditional camber underfoot. Gripped hardpack, western ice, and groomers beautifully. Improved my skiing by 1 PSIA level in these conditions. Floated fairly well in powder. Still did get shin deep into the fluff in Prospect Bowl. Need more skills for crud skiing before I can evaluate the skis’ crud performance. Ski is more forgiving than the Volkyl Attiva that I demoed last year. Overall: a great cruising ski
  • Rossignol Experience 83 men’s skis. Skier: PSIA level 5/6, single and double blues. Also an all mountain ski with 30% early rise tips and 70% traditional camber.  It took a few days to get comfortable with the skis, but I’m happy and look forward to having them underfoot again.  I expect these skis to last as my skills improve.
  • Leki spark S poles: The S pole line has a quick release between the pole and wrist strap. I love this quick release. Easy on and off at the lifts. Much faster to remove than traditional ski poles. The quick release didn’t work in the 3 falls that I took, though all the falls were fairly low velocity.
  • Boots: Bob G at Boot Doctors Mountain Village fit Peter for a pair of Atomic Live Fit boots and a footbed. We were very impressed with Bob’s assessment of Peter’s foot anatomy, stance, and boot fit. The Atomic Live Fit boots fit wide feet well, and they have an expandable toe box for added comfort. The boots are made of a thermoplastic that can be heat stretched, providing a semi-custom fit. Peter skied a whole week without a single “my feet hurt” moment. Thanks Bob!
  • Booster strap: Tightens the relationship between the boot cuff and the shin. Katherine used it to adjust the stance on her ski boots, which are angled too far forward. Improved agility and sensitivity to the snow. Supports a more neutral stance. Takes a bit of tweaking to get the right adjustment. There’s a fine balance between good fit and no circulation, especially as feet swell or shrink with temperature changes throughout different elevations on the mountain.
  • Base layers: While packing for the trip, we discovered that a few of Peter’s base layers got left in storage in Tulsa. So, he got an unexpected gear upgrade. Keen Targhee II hiking boots were warm and dry even on snowy 14 degree nights. A Smartwool long sleeve shirt performed well as a base layer. It was warm, wicked well, had no odor, and held up to daily washing.
  • Smartwool PhD ultralight ski socks completely changed boot fit, removing a lot of sore spots. Surprising, our feet were still quite warm. Katherine did miss the extra heel and shin padding that’s on the curvy mid-weight PhD Smartwool socks. We expect that in January, Katherine will be tinkering more with her boot set up.
  • Shipping of gear: Apparently, our shipping address was difficult to work with. REI, UPS, and FedEx all either ignored or goofed up our very specific shipping instructions. UPS sent back a package for “recipient moved” when that was not the case. Then, FedEx ignored their agreement with REI to hold a package prior to redelivery, and instead left the package in front of the house unattended for 4 days. REI reps were great about taking responsibility for problems and helping us to fix things. Whenever possible, we try to get our gear from REI because they stand behind their service and products. For the next REI shipment, we’re now trying out the My UPS Choice service to see if that will resolve shipping snafus.
Reviews and ratings from Real Skiers helped us understand and choose equipment.  We had fun testing this gear for a week. Look forward to getting back out in January. See you on the snow!

Ski Pass Deals

Some ski pass deals to check out for this season:

— The Colorado Gems pass: $10 gets 2 for 1 lift passes at many of Colorado’s smaller ski resorts

Descente Passport: Buy a ski jacket and get a lift ticket to 36 different ski resorts across the U.S. and Canada

Telluride Limitless Lesson pass. For the price of 2 group lessons, get an entire season of ski lessons. There are holiday black out dates on this.

Ski Utah Yeti Pass: Good for one lift pass at each of Utah’s 14 ski resorts. Since 13 of the resorts are within 2 hours drive of Salt Lake, this pass can be useful even for fly-in vacationers.