Photo’s are here or you can just click on the photograph above.
Four days after returning from our favorite, sunny, winter wonderland in early/mid-March, we were hurled into COVID-19 world; our month-long visitors were packed off back home to New England weeks earlier than planned and we went into self-imposed isolation following the more cautious European “plan of action” on handling the pandemic. As our various foreign vacations for 2020 (Spain, England, Bhutan, Nepal and Qatar), our business trips to California and Las Vegas and our usual summer spent in New England all turned to dust within a matter of weeks, unsurprisingly, depression set in and writing a blog didn’t feature highly on my radar.
Now, other equally appealing (albeit different) plans have taken the place of the canceled trips all within the borders of the USA. So, as briefly unemployed chief vacation organizer, I found new employment. I cheered up considerably and realized that I didn’t want to forget the highlights of our 2020 skiing trip out west when we’re reviewing our travel lives from our rocking chairs in our twilight years … so here is the long overdue blog!
Skiing in Colorado without a selection of See’s Candies would be like Christmas in England without warm mince pies … utterly unthinkable … As luck would have it, the See’s Candy airport concession is directly en-route between disembarking and collecting our skis and snowboard in Denver airport … so we don’t even have to unnecessarily burn calories in acquiring our bumper sized gift box of chocolates 🙂
For once, the journey to Breckenridge was uneventful – no snow storms trapping us for hours on the I70 without sustenance or bathroom facilities – no near-miss collisions on icy roads – just a straight run through the mountain ranges glistening white in the midday sun against a backdrop of bright blue sky.
Barely an hour in Breckenridge and we’ve unpacked at our HGVC timeshare and are already back at Crepes a la Cart eating Funky Chunky Monkey crepes sitting on benches in the snow warming our freezing feet by the pit fire on the patio. Dinner at Relish and it was the perfect end to a calorie-filled day. Whilst I’m on the subject of food – Aurum Breckenridge is also excellent; we tried out vegan Piante Pizzeria for the first time and wished we’d eaten there before and La Française Bakery still bakes the best chocolate almond croissants and raisin brioche in town.
On to the slopes! There’s nothing quite like a couple of sunny days in the mountains messing around in the snow. A record level of nine feet of snow fell during the 2 months before our arrival draping the elaborately ornate Victorian architecture in town in snow and giant icicles. Even better, there was lots more snow than usual for us to play in on the mountain! Peak 7 conditions were the best we’ve had in Breckenridge. The powder swirled around us and Geoff spent his time frolicking through the glades without burying himself in the tree holes too often 😉
We sacrificed a day of skiing to try something we thought might be less energetic because we were feeling lazy. Wrong! Our first (and probably last) attempt at snowshoeing for a few hours on the Boreas Pass trail was no less exhausting than a full day of downhill skiing. Geoff was distinctly unimpressed. Snowshoes are unwieldy, uncomfortable and they flap and clack noisily against the soles of your hiking boots. They completely ruined the ambience of an otherwise peaceful hike through the woods – an experience which should be disturbed only by the barely audible crunch of snow underfoot and a gentle breeze blowing through the trees.
Whilst I persevered flapping and clacking slowly uphill, Geoff gave up and trudged through the snow carrying his snowshoes for the next two hours … that is, until he found their real purpose! They are as perfectly suited for mucking about like a couple of kids in the knee-deep thick, virgin snow on the meadows as they are unsuited for a hard-packed walking trail through the aspens.
En-route we were passed by a group of friends chattering excitedly. One was carrying a huge bunch of red roses ripping petals and scattering them on the snow as she passed; another was weighed down under a small bistro table and 2 wrought iron chairs; and others carried a collection of cameras and other inexplicable paraphernalia for a walk in the woods.
By the time we caught up with them, the group were dashing about in a hive of activity creating a little tableau – table and chairs and a vase with a single rose – in the snow against the backdrop of the snow-covered mountains in the distance. Intriguing!
All soon, however, became clear …
Welcome to the world of an Instagram marriage proposal. What used to be a private interaction between 2 people (and maybe a restaurant full of strangers) now involves at least 5 close friends hiding in the undergrowth with cameras after hours of chilly mountainside preparation. True romance has died and been replaced by a photo shoot 😉
The views from this hike over Breckenridge and the surrounding ranges are always spectacular – it’s our favorite hike. Highlights of our 2020 hike (aside from the Instagram proposal moment) were the designer snow-covered doggies bouncing around in the snowdrifts and hurling themselves at us for strokes. We stopped to play with a 4 month old St Bernard puppy frolicking in the snow. His paws were larger than a bear – if I could have dognapped him and been able to flap away fast enough in my snowshoes to have successfully escaped, I might have given it a shot. And then we met Bruce, an irresistible French Bulldog, who stopped for a stroke and a lick as we were taking a few photos. Whilst we cooed and clucked over how beautiful he was with his proud owner she suddenly bellowed “Bad Bruce!” He had shared his considered canine opinion of snowshoeing by peeing all over our rented snowshoes which were propped up in the snow behind us … we couldn’t have agreed with you more Bruce😉
The Sallie Barber trail is another unmissable favorite. As we puffed and panted uphill like a couple of geriatric pit donkeys, we were left in the powder by fat tire bikers powering past us and a considerably older couple who actually ran uphill on snowshoes at an impressive pace. They overtook us with a cheery wave … nothing like feeling old, fat and very unfit! We strayed off our usual route and wandered up into the Baldy Nightmare treeline trail as the snow was beginning to fall silently around us. It’s not a hard trail but veers uphill immediately which gave our pathetically underdeveloped Floridian lungs quite a workout. For reasons unknown, Geoff decided to meander “off piste” in his hiking boots by a stream and disappeared vertically down into a ditch up to his waist in snow. This is where the snowshoes might have come into their own, of course 😉 As it was, he had to crawl out on his hands and knees just as the super fit elderly couple ran back down the hill in their snowshoes looking on in bemusement at the ridiculously inept tourists.
Another epic skiing day on Peak 7 and then we headed off to our favorite ski town – Steamboat Springs – Ski Town, USA.
Before tackling the slopes, we decided that we deserved an hour and a half of pummeling from the ladies at Kneading Hands massage spa which was money very well spent.
Skiing was excellent at Steamboat as usual – the sun shone and the snowflakes gleamed and glistened. Conditions were so good that people were even happier and friendlier than usual, chatting away in the gondolas and on the ski lifts – the usual winter sniffles, coughs, runny noses and colds in evidence. Ironically, all of us no doubt completely unaware that we were likely coughing and sneezing COVID-19 all over each other. Less than a week after we left all ski resorts closed literally overnight.
Geoff tackled some jumps, dug himself out of various powder-soft snow drifts and I glided about sedately keeping out of trouble, as usual.
On our day off we took a drive out to Fish Creek Falls for a hike. It’s en-route to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. It was a veritable winter wonderland. It was hard work hiking uphill because the snow was slippery melting in the sun but the highlight – the frozen waterfall – was worth every effort. The waterfall and the rocks in the river bed were covered in a guesstimated 4-6 feet thick of undulating pristine snow. We followed footprints off track along the river bed. We could hear water flowing deep under the snow but a path had been packed down by previous intrepid off-track explorers, so you could leap over the giant boulders in the river bed and hike right up to the frozen falls. It was positively magical. I couldn’t end a perfect afternoon of hiking in the snow without hurling myself into the powder to cool off. My snow angels still need more work, I think!
Before we left Steamboat Springs and its world renowned “Champagne Powder” for another year, we tried out Aurum Steamboat which sits on the bank of the Yampa River with views over Howelsen Hill. Howelsen Hill is famous for sending more skiers to international competitions than any other ski area in the USA (including England’s own “Eddie the Eagle”). We ate dinner watching the next would-be Olympians practice their runs and jumps under the night lights on the slopes. Like its sister restaurant in Breckenridge, Aurum was excellent. Nothing ever surpasses Laundry, however, nor vegetarian/vegan friendly Rootz Cafe for lunch.
Despite all the calories burnt skiing, boarding and hiking, we never seem to return from Breck or Steamboat any more svelte than when we left Florida 😉
One final Chinese foot massage at Royal Foot Massage to recover from our energetic exertions before we headed home to the bizarre new world of pandemics, stay-at-home orders, a world shortage of toilet paper and soap and lives unceremoniously put on hold …