Monday, February 23, 2009

Aspen Day 4

We woke up this morning with the expected aches and pains, but ready to do some more skiing. We headed back to Buttermilk, but decided to skip additional lessons, and instead focus on practicing what we learned yesterday and just having some fun on the easy and intermediate slopes.

We got there shortly after 9am. At the base of Buttermilk it was raining pretty steadily all morning, making things cold and uncomfortable. Once our lift was halfway up the mountain, the rain turned to big heavy snow flakes. It was a pretty different experience than the previous two days. For one thing, we could barely see, with the mountain top covered in clouds, and the snow coming down pretty hard. Each time we went back up there was a LOT more snow on the ground. Within an hour or two there were several inches of fresh powder covering the top half of the mountain.

Skiing in fresh snow was a bit harder than we expected. For one thing, it's slower, meaning we had to work harder to push ourselves along the occasional flat area. Also, the powder masks the underlying terrain, so an area that looks smooth might actually be bumpy or rough. Once the snow got deep, it was also harder and more tiring to steer and control our skiing. After a couple hours we both decided we were done for the day. The combination of the declining conditions and our tired muscles convinced us to "end on a good note" rather than push ourselves too far. Most people appeared to feel the same way since Buttermilk was just about deserted all day, we had each slope almost completely to ourselves.

Mike and I headed back to the condo to clean up and relax while our friends continued skiing at Snowmass today. Once they got back that afternoon, we unanimously agreed to get food delivered to the condo instead of making dinner or going out (three of them had tackled Longshot, a 5.2 mile long ski slope that afternoon). We all noshed on pizzas then played poker until bedtime.

Overall a fantastic vacation. Aspen has some breathtaking views, especially while on the chair lifts. The skiing is a lot of fun and the weather is gorgeous. Strangely 35 degrees in Aspen (with the sun out) feels a lot warmer than in VA. Aspen is small enough that you can walk to just about anything around town. Unfortunately it is also not a cheap vacation spot (Course we already knew it was going to be expensive so we just enjoyed ourselves and really had a great time). The restaurants are expensive but the food is mediocre. The rentals, ski lift tickets, and lessons aren't cheap but with the type of skiing available in Aspen it shouldn't be a surprise. The lessons were great since the groups were so small and our instructor really did help each of us improve our skiing.

I'm hooked, I'm ready for more west coast skiing now. Course I'm eager for East Coast skiing too (preferably New Hampshire or Vermont).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Aspen Day 3

Mike and I are really enjoying Aspen so far. The weather has been absolutely wonderful this week: mid-30s with sun (it actually feels close to 60 degrees when the sun is out), it hasn't been crowded, and we've completed adjusting to the altitude change.

Today we headed to Buttermilk Mountain (smallest mountain here, a lot of greens and blues, couple of blacks, no double blacks) for our lesson. We signed up for a full day lesson (10-3) at Level 5 (Levels 1-9, 9 being double-black). Our friend Dan suggested taking lessons at Buttermilk instead of Snowmass Mountain since Buttermilk has better slopes to learn on and it's a lot less crowded. There were a fair number of skiers taking lessons this morning but the school provides a lot of instructors so each little group was no more than 4 people (ours had 3 people).

The class ended up being a huge benefit to both Mike and myself. My biggest issue with skiing is not turning or edging but slowing down properly on steep slopes without doing an emergency brake/turn. George (our instructor) said it best: "On the black slopes you're not skiing, you're surviving". I wasn't finishing my turns properly and instead of turning and edging together, I would turn sharp, edge, then speed up. The lessons taught me how my feet needed to feel, the proper way to edge, and how to complete the turn. By the end of the day I had made huge improvements to my skiing and I was very happy with my form. Mike learned how to turn properly and edge so by the end of the lesson, he looked very confident and quite good at his turns and stops. The lesson ended up being pretty much a private lessons, since our third person only did a half-day so after lunch it was only Mike and I with George.

We both had a fantastic time today. We started on greens and did a few blues through the day. If we do another class tomorrow, it would be concentrating on tighter narrow turns and going on some black slopes.

The view at Buttermilk is quite breathtaking. One of the chair lifts passes right by Pyramid Peak through the valley and a fantastic view of Aspen Highlands (another ski mountain in Aspen). Unfortunately I ran out of space on the camera right before we went through the valley so I wasn't able to get a picture of the view.

Tomorrow is our last day of skiing, we're not sure what we're going to do yet. We may head to Buttermilk Mountain again since there are a lot of intermediate slopes, it's not crowded and we might do another lesson. Otherwise we will go back to Snowmass since it also has a fair number of blue slopes, while Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands are definitely for more advanced skiiers (not for us).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Aspen Day 2

If I had to put our Day 2 into just a few words, it would be: huff huff, puff puff, ow, Ow, OUCH!!

Now for the longer version. We started our day pretty early at 6:30am, rest of the group was up by about 7-7:30. We did an informal breakfast of carbs, fruit, and coffee in the condo and headed out to Snowmass mountain (the furthest mountain from Aspen). The weather was absolutely gorgeous today with a high of 38 degrees at the base and about 28 degrees at the high elevation. There was very little wind and since it was so sunny outside, it was fantastic skiing weather. Snowmass' base elevation is 8,100ft and the summit elevation is 12,500ft. We were already having some issues adjusting to the Aspen altitude so we knew skiing would be quite a challenge.

We got our lift tickets and rentals for the next 3 days (whew, Aspen is not cheap), got fitted for our stuff, and headed straight to the top on the high-speed chair (14 minutes to the top). Our experienced friends started with a blue slope while we headed for a green slope. Since the mountain is so tall, there are a lot of mid-point chair lifts so you only go down half the mountain, then go back up. Right after the green, Mike and I ended up taking the lift to the blue section (very few greens at Snowmass, especially at the top of the mountain) and skiing those until lunchtime.

Skiing in Pennsylvania/W.Virginia vs Colorado is quite a difference. First big difference is that all the slopes in Aspen are snow, real snow as opposed to the man-made snow/ice created on the East Coast. Second is the height of the mountains. In Aspen, it takes us much longer to ski down the hill than waiting in line and riding the chair back up to the top. In our area, it is the exact opposite. Aspen's green slopes are comparable to blue at home, and their blue slopes are comparable to the black slopes at home. Lastly, the views at the bottom, top, and skiing are breathtaking in Aspen.

We met our friends for lunch at the top of the mountain and relaxed for a while. After lunch, both of us were pretty tired due to the thin air and amount of skiing we've done. My feet were also pretty painful due to blistering under the ankles. We decided to do a green slope down to the rental place so I could get a more comfortable pair of boots. Unfortunately the way down took a VERY long time and I ended up in a fair bit of pain. We made it back to the rental place with Mike chivalrously taking my skis for me. I got another pair of boots to try for tomorrow but we decided to call it an early day for today since my ankles were pretty sore.

Our friend Dan (his parents own the condo) had been here for a week with his family already. Earlier in the week he took a skiing lesson to help weed out some of his bad habits. He really liked the class, so Mike and I have decided to take a skiing lesson tomorrow at Buttermilk (the smallest mountain in Aspen) to help us improve our skiing and make sure we're doing everything the right way. Mike hasn't had a skiing lesson since he was a kid, and I've never had a skiing lesson so we're both interested to find out the correct way to do things.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Aspen Day 1

The parents of a friend of ours owns a condo in Aspen and he invited us (with a few other friends) to spend about 4 days there so Mike and I jumped at the chance to do some real snow skiing.

With Scott acting as our chauffeur, we headed to Dulles this morning. We were shocked to find Dulles was almost completely empty on a Friday morning. We zoomed through check-in and security and our plane took off on time, it was a red-letter day for traveling!

Once in Denver, we took a quick food break and got on a very small plane to Aspen. The trip only took about 30 minutes but the view from the plane was quite amazing. We could see the ski slopes as we started our descent. From the air the slopes didn't seem so overwhelming but once on the ground Kathie realized how much difference perspective makes.

The condo is a nice 2-bedroom suite with pull-out bed couch. There's six of us staying but since Mike and I are the only couple here, we lucked out with the master bedroom (king-sized bed w/NO DOGS!!) From the balcony we can see one of the gondolas going straight up the mountain.

Surprised to see how small Aspen is overall. There are four different mountains to ski on and the village at the bottom. We can walk to a fair number of places in Aspen and the condo transport will take us pretty much anywhere else.

Since most of us trickled into Aspen this afternoon (and one comes in close to midnight tonight) we won't start skiing until tomorrow at Snowmass mountain (good to start here since it has more green slopes so we can warm up). The weather here is supposed to be wonderful tomorrow too, about 35 degrees and sunny.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stitching pictures

I've said it before and I'll say it again. My blogging has seriously lagged since I've discovered Twitter since it's just so easy to do quick updates there instead of blogging. While twitter is great for microblogging the daily stuff, the blog is good for pictures and updates, especially regarding stitching. I do hope to have more to blog about in about 2 weeks. Mike and I are headed to Aspen to try our hand at west coast skiing (ok, not really west coast but definitely not east coast skiing). I'm really excited about doing some skiing on "real" snow and I think Mike is just pleased to go on vacation.

Since my sister is pregnant (yay!), I've been doing some knitting for the baby but I don't plan to show those pictures online since Jen is one of the few who reads my blog, so those will just have to wait for a while. I have been alternating between knitting and stitching so I've finally been getting more progress on my cross-stitching.

Naughty Sue enabled me (she is good at it) to buy Frises & Alphabets from Nouveau Encore as a reward to myself for making it a month sweets-free (LONGEST month of my life!). She even helped (& supplied) me choose fantastic colors for the sampler. I LOVED stitching on it and got the corner border, A, and B finished. Then I realized I miscounted somewhere and frogged out the part I screwed up. Unfortunately the silks I used bled into the fabric so I tried to spot-clean it which made the whole thing worse. The water travelled to the other floss on the fabric and that bled everywhere so I had to rip it all out, wash the fabric, and start over again. Needless to say, I have NOT started it again yet but I still have the urge to work on it soon.

In the meantime, I've also been working on various other works in progress so I'll just post those pictures here:

Celestial Dragon (TW) has been hibernating for a while but recently I had the urge to work on it so I pulled it out. I finished the left corner and lettering and I'm very pleased how it's turning out so far.

Spanish Bleu (Sampler Cove) is also quite enjoyable to stitch. It's very different for me since I'm only using one strand of floss so my tension has been be really light.

Red Velvet Inscription Sampler is another fun one using Belle Soie silks. So far I've finished A-E and G-K (each one of those blocks contains a letter disguised in the design).

So those are my stitching updates so far. Hopefully I'll have some great snow pictures in a couple of weeks to post.