It is the first winter in thirty eight years that I am not up to my eyeballs in tax returns. Yes, retirement is good. So what is a guy to do with this new found freedom? Go to the mountains of course. The thought of being able to ski after so many seasons on the sidelines was too much to resist. And so we were off, my wife Deb, my daughter Kathryn and her boyfriend Eli. For Eli there was the added excitement of skiing moutain terrain for the very first time. Considering Midwest skiing happens on hills not mountains and the serious elevation might be a whopping 600 feet of vertical drop, this was going to be mind boggling. And Eli was ready as were all of us.
We chose Winter Park for mutiple reasons. First and foremost, was a very fee reduced week at a condo provided by a former client and family friend. Second was the mantra I had heard. “You go to Aspen for the views, Vail to be viewed and you go to Winter Park to ski.” This was exactly what we were looking for and we found it.
We arrived on the Sunday afternoon of my birthday. Did I mention that this was also my birthday gift to myself. Having flown into Denver, we hopped a shuttle for the ride up to Winter Park, crossing Berthoud Pass at 11,306 feet of elevation. From there it was back into the Frasier Canyon area and into the village where we arrived at our condo. I owe it to my benefactor to sing the praises of her condo. Situated on the banks of the Frasier River and conveniently located in the center of town, we could want for nothing more. We can both see and hear the river rippling below our balcony and looking east we can see the front slopes of Winter Park Ski Area, beckoning us up. All around us the Rockies rise majestically to the deep blue Colorado skies. The condo is functional, comfortable and cozy all rolled into one. After a satisfying dinner at the quirky Henando’s Pizzeria and Pub, we are ready to plan our early morning rendevous with the ski hill.
Monday morning dawns clear and crisp. 10 degrees to start our day but promises of middle to upper twenties by midday. Absolutely perfect skiing conditions. The snow is fast and the air warm enough to ski in relatively light gear and the vistas, thanks to crystal clear skies….out of this world. From the top, we can see all of the Frasier Valley unfold below while the boundaries of the valley are encircled with 13,000 foot snocapped peaks. Thirteeners as the locals refer to them. We will start skiing at 9000 feet and reach 12,060 feet at the summit of Panorama Cirque. We refer to runs by the only measurement that makes relative sense to us, “that one was a three Cascade” This is a reference to the local ski hill back home and the only meaningful way we can compare the vertical drop.
The views are spectacular and the range of change from bottom to top can best be described by not only the elevation but the change in temparature. Shortly before noon we start our ride to the summit. At base the temperature is a balmy 29 degrees but by the time we approach the summit it has fallen to 2 degrees with a negative 10 degree wind chill. Of course we had cimbed 3000 feet to get there. Standing on the summit, we make the decision to take combinations of runs that will allow us to ski a continuous line top to bottom. Twenty minutes later we reach our lowest access point still a full “Cascade” above the resort base. We are winded and tired but smiling ear to ear. We skied non-stop for hours, each run evaluated for its nuances and our favorite features of the run. Closing time comes too soon but we feel we have skied hard and gotten everything we could out of our time on the mountain.
And this was day one. Tomorrow and for the next three days we will continue to soak in the mountains, the vistas and the skiing. Am I happily retired, at this point I can think of no better reward for a life long career of hard work than to be here in the Rockies on top of my world.