A father-son Colorado ski odyssey " with chili cheese fries
April 26, 2009
Even though the snow is still falling outside, we’ve started to shift gears. Dylan, my son, is all about baseball, not to mention trying out a hands-free move on his new Pogo stick. We’re still planning on some spring days at the Basin, but when we talk about the season, it’s already in the past-tense.
It was a good one for us. Dylan had his fifth-grade passport, courtesy of Colorado Ski Country USA, and I also enjoyed access to nearly all of Colorado’s amazing resorts, thanks to a press pass issued by the same organization. Through this serendipitous combination of circumstances, we set out to ski at all of the state’s ski areas this winter. We made an all-star effort but didn’t quite complete our quest. Basically, we just ran out of days, but we had a great time trying.
Our season started, as it always does, at Arapahoe Basin in late October on unforgiving man-made snow. Dylan kept a journal of our travels, and his entry for Day 1 described the skiing surface as “slick as a banana peel.” Not to worry, I said, knowing there would be plenty of soft-snow days ahead at The Legend.
One of our best early season days was a pre-Christmas session at Copper Mountain. We walked from our home in Frisco to the Summit Stage stop near town hall and rode the bus, feeling smug about not having to deal with parking, and thankful for our county’s great free public transit system. Our best runs of the day were on the steep east-facing runs off A-lift. That side of the mountain had just opened for the season. With no moguls in sight, we screamed down the steep pitches again and again, and enjoyed the lazy ride back up through the shadowy blue winter dusk.
On the bus back to Frisco, some Copper employees offered their seats to a family from Texas and even ended up holding the family’s skis during the short drive back on Interstate 70. Listening in on the conversation, we heard that it was the first-ever ski trip for the kids, and their rosy faces were beaming after their day in the sun and snow. Dylan and I looked at each other, both realizing how lucky we are to live where we do ” a gentle reminder not to take anything for granted.
As the snow piled up in January, we expanded our range, heading for Ski Cooper on one of those frigid bluebird days. With temperatures hovering in the low single-digits, we rubbed some speedy green wax on our boards and explored one of Colorado’s coziest mountains. It hadn’t snowed in a few days, but the trees on the back side of the small area were still loaded with generous dollops of powder.
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Skiing some of the state’s smaller areas was one of the biggest treats this winter. When our fingers turned numb, we headed into Ski Cooper’s family style lodge and ordered up lunch. Along with trying to ski as many mountains as possible, we were determined to find Colorado’s best chili cheese fries, and plaster our skis and helmets with as many ski area stickers as possible.
We rated Ski Cooper’s chili-cheese fries at four-and-a-half on our French fry scale, marking them down slightly only because the chili was slightly watery. On the drive home we talked about how bigger is not necessarily better. Even the small hills, with only a couple lifts, offer plenty of ski adventure.
And it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, as we discovered at Ski Sunlight, near Glenwood Springs. I sent Dylan to the cafeteria with a $10 bill to buy our lunch (yes, it included chili cheese fries) and he came back with a full tray of food, along with a few bucks in change!
Ditto for Monarch, where we hit an amazing powder day, snaking fresh lines through the trees non-stop and exploring the steep hike-to terrain in Mirkwood Basin. From the summit, near the geographical center of Colorado, the view ranges from Pikes Peak to the Sawatch, the San Juans and the West Elks, spanning nearly all of the state’s highest peaks. Literally and figuratively, we felt on top of the world.
As the season started winding down, we ramped up our travels. Setting out early one morning, we managed to hit three of Aspen’s four mountains in a single day. Starting at Aspen Highlands, we managed to get up into Highlands Bowl, carving chunky snow through an eerie mist in Deep Temerity. At Ajax, we bounced through the bumps and munched apple strudel at Bonnie’s before winding up the day searching for powder stashes at Buttermilk in the golden glow of a spring sunset.
Looking back, it’s hard for us to come up with any one “best day.” Instead, we’re looking forward to sampling the rest of Colorado’s resorts next season, with Colorado Ski Country’s $99 sixth-grade passport.
But we have decided it will be tough to top the chili cheese fries we sampled at Keystone’s Outpost. We’re not sure why they’re so good, but we think it’s the cheese.
Bob Berwyn has been reporting on Colorado skiing from his Summit County base since 1996 and has been known to cook up a mean batch of chili cheese fries at his Frisco home. Check out http://www.coloradoskiwriter.com for more cool ski stuff.