A Day in the Life

[ed. note: ski town content is finally resuming, courtesy of a friend in Vail. He’s a great writer and a better ski bum than I. His writing will run alongside my travel content as we move towards a more diverse magazine. Hope you all are enjoying your winters!]

Wham!  A slap of the snooze button and a groan, I’m awake at 5am.  Time to video chat with the now ex-girlfriend in Bulgaria, it’s already 2pm there.  After a shower and a quick breakfast I’m out the door by 6, just enough time to walk to work for my 6:15 shift.

I breath in the crisp Rocky Mountain air and start walking through 6 inches of fresh snow, thinking to myself – ‘Damn, too bad I’m not cruising this fresh powder instead of serving breakfast to tourists. . .’

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Soon after I get to work I devise a plan to get out early. Sure enough, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Working fast and talking faster, I’m out the door by 8.  Smell ya later, it’s time for some much needed snowboarding.  I’m heading back home and a friend, let’s call him T, excitedly calls me and asks if I’m going to shred the gnar.  Fuck ya.  Back home by 8:30.  A quick snack and the addition of some very warm socks later and it’s time to head to the village.  We meet up at Gondola One and by the looks of things, we’re among the first skiers on the mountain.  Hells Yes.

Excitement builds as we are comfortably lifted up the mountain in the padded and heated gondola.  Gloves, goggles, face mask, powder skirt and a pounding heart.  The trees are laden with fresh snow, and in some places, ice; a real winter wonderland.  The doors open, we strap in and off we go.  Cruising thick stacks of fresh snow, running my fingers through it as I’m rocketing down the mountain parallel to the ground.  I catch air and boom! A shot of cold champagne powder slams into my face, nearly choking me. In the ski world this is called a face shot.  In this town if you’re not taking fresh snow to the dome, it’s not a powder day.

If you’ve ever surfed before, riding fresh powder is very similar, however, I ironically think that snowboarding is much more fluid.  The waves are moving and pushing beneath you, exerting their force on you, but with snowboarding everything just flows.  It doesn’t matter how you move your board, it’s like sliding down whipped cream.  And the best part is that wiping out is fun.  Ever jumped into a pile of waist deep snow?  Might as well be falling onto a pile of feathers.  These are the days when you drop cliffs and try crazy tricks.

The deep snow also has a very surreal calming effect.  Sound is dampened and being surrounded by an entire world of white allows you to drift into a totally different plane of reality.  It’s just you, the mountain, and your board.  In some ways snowboarding has been one of the most spiritual experiences of my life (the exception, by far, being DMT).

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T and I meet up at the bottom of the lift, giant, stupid grins spread across our faces.  A fist bump later and we’re traveling up the mountain again, this time on an open chair lift, cold air on our faces, shouting playful encouragement at the skiers below us.  T looks over at me; ‘safety meeting?’  ‘You know it.’  We cruise into the trees, find a nice smoke shack to post up in and spark a bowl.  Taking full advantage of legal marijuana has been one of my favorite parts about living in Colorado.  At times I smoke too much – Ha!  But blazing up on the mountain (among other things) is always recommended.  I always feel a bit more connected to my board and the mountain after inhaling a bit of ganja and usually end up pushing myself just because I’ll get into sketchier situations, say ‘fuck it, let’s do this’ and flow through them.

T and I do a few more runs, zipping through the trees and traversing most of the front side of the mountain.  But soon enough, the munchies kick in and it’s time for the classic chicken & bean burrito at La Cantina, a very ski bum budget friendly Mexican bar not far from the slopes.

Then it’s time for the 10 minute walk home, a game of zombies with the roommate and a freshly cooked meal before getting ready to wake up and do it all over again.

 

This is my life.

I’m very excited to share it with you.  Stories of adventure, drugs, danger, love and life decisions.  Battles with depression and coming of age.  The joys and turmoils of a fast paced life.  The behind the scenes of what it really means to be a ski bum.  Of letting go and allowing life to take you where you need to go – whether it’s dropping out of college to follow your dreams or opening your heart to another human being.

I live, work and play in the resort town of Vail, Colorado, where everything revolves around the snow.  Whether it’s good or bad drastically affects the tourism business and can mean the difference between a lucrative season or going out of business.  For example, I-70 – the interstate that connects Vail to the rest of the world – causes millions of dollars in losses every time it is shut down.  That being said, living in a resort town allows you to make amazing money with very little experience; really, only the skill of being able to talk to people is required.  It also means 5 star meals and fresh seafood in the middle of the Rockies.  And, working for the company Vail Resorts means that you have the opportunity to snowboard 7 days a week for FREE.  Really can’t beat that.  Stay tuned.

 

– C

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Like it, love it, hate it? Tell me what to write about next in the comments below.

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Ski Video Sunday— “The Unrideables: Alaska Range”

On the heels of last week’s Ski Video Sunday, Red Bull has dropped a 45-minute documentary about speedflying (or speedriding, as they call it) in the Alaska Range. Featuring world-class skiiers Filippo Fabbi and Jon DeVore, “The Unrideables: Alaska Range” delves into the psychology of these daredevils. The video also takes viewers beyond the stunning vistas and thrilling POV shots which I showcased last week, pointing out the preparation and poise which these athletes must demonstrate when they venture into the realm of skiing untouched peaks.

You can view the whole video on Red Bull’s official website: “The Unrideables: Alaska Range.”

UNFORTUNATELY the full video is no longer available on Red Bull’s website. They are now asking $13 for the film on iTunes. The film is a great adventure film/ ski film, but ultimately nothing that breaks out of what is typical for the genre. I would advise you to pass on purchasing the film unless you are way into extreme sports or these sorts of films. 

http://www.redbull.tv/videos/1421813851882-1404708803/the-unrideables-alaska-range#autostart

2014 Vail Opening Day Conditions Report

Vail Opening Day conditions

I don’t think I can adequately express what an incredible day it is when the ski mountain in your town opens.

I have been thinking about Vail mountain almost nonstop ever since I moved to the town of Vail in August. When off-season hit in October, the mountain loomed larger. When we got our first tiny little snows, I started dreaming about skiing. I drove 40 miles to Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin on two separate days last week just to try and scratch the itch. The skiing was OK. It was nothing like today.

 Today, November 21, 2014, was opening day for Vail Resort.

I woke up at 8 a.m. and jumped on my girlfriend while yelling “OPENING DAY!” Somehow I didn’t get kicked. We leisurely made breakfast and got dressed for the day. We walked a few hundred feet to the nearby free bus stop, and rode a bus full of excited skiers and riders to the mountain. We arrived around 10 a.m. to an almost non-existent line at the base. The lift attendant pointed a RFID reader in our vicinity, and we were headed up. I can’t even explain THE FUCKING CONVENIENCE.

Vail Opening Day Conditions Report

The conditions for Vail’s opening day 2014 were all that you could ask for. Multiple skiers and boarders stopped us on the mountain to incredulously ask “Can you believe it’s this good on opening day?!” There was powder aplenty on the higher sections of the mountain, which is a real rarity on opening day at a ski resort.

Seven lifts were open:

Vail Gondola One

Napping between runs in heated Gondola One.

  • Gondola One out of Vail Village
  • Eagle Bahn Gondola out of Lionshead Village
  • Avanti Express
  • Born Free Express
  • Little Eagle
  • Wildwood Express
  • Lionshead Carpet beginner surface lift
Vail Ski Map

Vail Mountain Trail Map

VAIL CONDITIONS UPDATE DECEMBER 1, 2014: The Vail back bowls have begun to open for the 2014 ski season. The Sun Up Bowl and Sun Down Bowl are both open, with word coming from Vail Resorts that the China Bowl will be open soon! Get out there and make some trails in the Legendary Vail Back Bowls!

The full list of what ski runs are open on Vail can be found here.

The lower runs were fairly trafficked and icy. The trails down to the Vail Village Gondola One (which has wifi and heated leather seats, jesus) and the Eagle Bahn Gondola were all-bad, not-good, practically no fun. Transitioning out of some edge-of-run powder onto these groomers made me wince involuntarily, more than once.

All said though, conditions on the mountain were great. If you are considering paying a visit to Vail for opening weekend, I would aim to come on Sunday, as there’s a big storm which is supposed to start dumping on the Vail Ski Area around the end of the ski day on Saturday. Sunday should be a powder day, if there is any luck with us here on Vail opening weekend.

Luckily, I don’t have to make those sorts of decisions. If you don’t know already, let me tell you: commuting to ski is the absolute worst thing you will find yourself unable to stop doing. Short of cocaine.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive I-70

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder’s a great town, and relatively close to the mountains. When you live in Boulder and want to go skiing, here’s what you do:

  1. Pack all of your gear into the car on Friday night, and go to bed as early as physiology will allow.
  2. Wake incredibly early on Saturday morning— up way before physiology will allow.
  3. Brew three thermoses of coffee to try and overcome your unavoidable grogginess.
  4. Get in the car and start driving before the coffee’s even cool enough to drink
  5. Spend three hours in traffic up, because apparently even though you hit the road at 5:45 a.m., everyone else got an earlier start than you. Also none of them know how to drive in snow. Interstate-70’s 70 mph speed limit becomes a cruel joke.
  6. You really need a bathroom because you drank all that coffee but there’s no fucking way you’re getting off the highway.
  7. You finally arrive at your resort, where hopefully you don’t have to pay for parking.
  8. You pay $70-$120 for a life ticket, depending on where you’re going.
  9. You rush to the slopes, ski until last chair to make the interminable drive worth it
  10. Get in your car at 4, absolutely exhausted.
  11. Sit in traffic for four hours getting home (assuming there are no road closures or accidents)
  12. Hate your life/ wish you were still skiing

It’s horrid. People from out of state tend to ask “Oh, you’re from Colorado? Do you guys like ski and snowboard every day?” No. No we don’t because I-70 is where souls go to die.

Living in a ski town

None of that is an issue when you’re living in a ski town. I cannot overstate how much of a difference this makes.

We took a bus into town, got to the mountain late, left early, and were out only $5 for a coffee break. Not that this is normal for Vail (as I’ve discussed before, Vail is very good at making you spend money), but it’s also totally possible.

Living in a ski town is awesome. Period. Full stop.