24 March, 2015

Spring Fling - Day Four

Today it was off to ski Breckenridge. I'm not sure quite why. Not a big fan of crowds, and over-hyped resorts. But, I was determined to maximize the value of my Epic Pass and hit another area. Of course, I'm cheap, so I have to look for where I can park for free. Seriously, paying for parking bugs the crap out of me. I had dinner and three beers for less than many of the Vail resorts charge for close-in parking.

A few inches of fresh snow had me hopeful. A Spring pow day? Awesome. Didn't quite work out that way. A couple of locals had told me that Breck "over reports" snowfall. They were right on today. It snowed just enough for them not to groom, but not enough to be interesting. Plus, temps dropped 10 degrees and the wind was WAY up. To say I missed on dressing for the weather was a significant understatement. I was COLD for much of the day. I'm finding my tolerance for being cold isn't great anymore. And, it didn't help that I'd consciously made some bad decisions. Spring gloves? Stupid. Lighter shell? Stupid. Note to self - it's colder on the mountain than it is in the parking lot, dumbass.

By lunchtime I was seriously contemplating bailing for Keystone. But, I stuck with it. Lunch was mediocre and pricey. Snow conditions varied from piles of pushed around powder to icy golf-ball sized pellets. 

Add to this Breck's terrain. It just didn't do it for me. Blues should have been greens, and blacks ranged all over the map. I had a lot of trouble finding runs I liked. I should offer a disclaimer -- at least out West, I love big, steep, fast blue runs. Skiing fast and steep is my thing. I'm to old (and smart) to ski bumps anymore. And there was none of this to be found today. To add insult to injury, I think I skied one of my favorite runs for a good chunk of the day yesterday at Arapahoe Basin. Steep. Fast. Smooth. And well-suite to blasting it. So, today was disappointing. By the end of the day I had finally warmed up and got in a few nice runs. But nothing that really lit me up. This is part of the skiing game though. Some days are epic, others mediocre, and still others disappointing. That's how it goes.

I did conclude one positive from today -- I'm in a TON better shape than my first visit to Colorado two seasons back. On that trip, I was reminded that I was the fat, out-of-shape guy. Now with three seasons of 2,000+ miles on my road bike, I am STRONG and ready to rock. That feels rewarding.

Tomorrow is my last day. Snow's in the forecast tonight and tomorrow. I think I'm bound for Keystone. Close to my hotel and Denver. And I really didn't get to fully explore it on Saturday due to my late arrival. 

A great trip all around, though I am eager to get home and get my road bike out. Funny how I enjoy every sport's season, but when it winds down, I'm anticipating the next one.


23 March, 2015

Spring Fling - Day Three

Hit some new terrain today -- skiing Arapahoe Basin. Really had a nice experience. I love the smaller local areas. Whiile I certainly have enjoyed places like Vail, Beaver Creek, and Deer Valley, I don't need the ammenities and the fancy treatment. I'm there to ski. But I was reminded of something even more important today - the value of the vibe. 

I've had a season pass at Michigan's Caberfae Peaks for at least a decade, and in addition to great terrain and solid snow fall, I think the thing I like the most is the vibe. People are chill, nice, and just fun to be around. That''s what A-Basin was like today. Super mellow (especially for a place with some of Colorado's most respected terrain) and really fun. 

But on to the skiing...

A-Basin, with a summit elevation of 13,050 feet, is one of the highest resorts in the Continental US. And that altitude makes for great Spring skiing. The snow at A-Basin was the best I've seen on this trip and surprisingly good for this late in what most locals told me was a disappointing year snow-wise. 

I spent a chunk of my morning on the Black Mountain Express lift. The Ramrod run was EXACTLY what I love -- an aggressive blue (that would be a black at most other areas). Steep. Fast. With really good snow cover. I enjoyed just blasting it at Mach One. And, yes, I will offer kudos yet again to the Blizzard Bonafides. These boards smoked.

By late morning, I needed some top-to-bottom laps, so I connected up the Lenawee lift. So, this is pretty cool as now we're above treeline. Ride Black Mountain up, ski over to Lenawee then ski top to bottom. Awesome. 

I had another revelation today - cycling has been really solid for me. My legs are strong all day, and even at the high altitude of A-Basin, my lungs held out. This wasn't the case on my first trip to Colorado two years back. I was SMOKED. Between the altitude and my lack of fitness, I was gassed after two runs. I'd be stopping halfway to catch my breath. Now - straight down runs are no issue. This feels reallly good.

Another day in the books. Tomorrow's challenge is where to ski. I made a visit to Breckenridge last night and it was a ZOO. Heard from a local that it was Spring Break for a lot of colleges. But, I feel like I need to ski several areas, so maybe I'll brave it. Of course, my cheap streak comes out here. One of the things I don't like about Vail ownership is the parking. I remember the first time I encountered paid parking. My first thought was "WTF - seriously? You want to CHARGE me to park?". At Vail, Beaver, and Breck you can park for free, but you have to ride a shuttle. So we'll see. There's also some snow coming in tonight and that could change my thinking totally...

For now, I'm happily enjoying excellent $3 craft brews and half-price appetizers at the brewery next to my hotel. A damn fine day.


22 March, 2015

Spring Fling - Day Two

BEAVER! To avoid the weekend crowds, I got up early today and rolled westward to one of my favorite Colorado ski areas - Beaver Creek. I've always found great runs here and it's a tremendous place to rack up the vertical feet. I got in 39,120 feet today. That's a personal record and it puts me around 50,000 feet only two days in on the trip. Pretty solid, I think.

Experiencing true Western Spring skiing for the first time has been interesting. You just need to plan your day. Early on, stay low on south and east exposed runs. It starts off icy, but softens fairly quickly (especially in late March). Today I spent my morning on Larkspur lift, followed by an early lunch and then heading back mid-mountain for some time on Centennial/Cinch Express. My early lunch paid off with the hill nearly to myself for a solid hour. Just rippin' laps! Even hit some black diamonds today.

After two days out West on my Blizzard Bonafides, I am happy to proclaim them my favorite skis of all time. These boards just RIP! They're decent on ice, awesome on groomers, and cut through late afternoon mashed potatoes at an obscene pace. I've never had a ski I felt so comfortable skiing fast over variable terrain. I think the 187 length was a solid choice. I've always liked a longer ski for the stability and the way it just cuts through whatever's in your path. I'm actually having serious thoughts of selling my Volkl RTM 84's. At 171cm, they're just too short. And now with the Blizzard's I'll likely never ski them much.

Over the past two days, I have crystallized one thought - the GoPro has clearly jumped the shark. I can't even begin to count the number of really weak skiers I saw with them mounted to helmets, on "selfie poles" (ugh -- nothing says 'tool' like one of those on a rookie) and elsewhere. If you're struggling to snowplow down a steep blue with your jacket fully unzipped and flapping in the breeze, no one wants to see that on video. Ever. I suppose some of this is must my mindset. Even though I love photos and camera gear, there's really no appeal for the GoPro for me. If you're ripping Birds of Prey at Mach 10, cranking cork 720's in the park, or blasting a foot of fresh pow -- them maybe. Otherwise, leave it at home.

Tonight I took a trek over to Breckenridge to check out the brewery. What a ZOO! It was insane with traffic and no parking. I talked to a local and she said it's all college kids on break. For me, it was just a reminder that I don't enjoy that scene. Though I did find a really nice microbrewery (Backcountry Brewing) in Frisco with one of the best amber ales I've had in some time on tap. And, at happy hour pricing, I walked out after two beers and a massive smothered chicken burrito for $20!

Tomorrow, I'm thinking I'll try Arapahoe Basin. This would enable me to put another ski area notch in my belt. We'll see -- I'm a bit intimidated by its bad-ass reputation. If I don't like it, I can always bounce down the road to Keystone and I'll be quite happy! Coolest part is that Keystone's 7 miles from my hotel and A-Basin is only 14!

Shaping up to be a solid trip. We seem to be headed into flirting with some sketchy weather with some rain/frozen mix and wind in the forecast. Hoping it holds for my next three days of adventures. More to come!


21 March, 2015

Spring Fling - Day One

Told myself I hadn't been blogging enough, so thought I'd commit to something each day during my ski trip to Summit County, Colorado. 

Rough start after my 8:03 United flight doesn't depart until 11:30. Maintenance issues, coupled with their inability to get a repair guy on site for almost two hours didn't help my mood to start off. But they bought me a beer on the flight, so that was a plus.

Landed in Denver, snagged the rental car and headed up to Dillon and the Dillon Inn. On the upside, by the time I got there, I was able to check in. Initially I'd thought today was just a loss. But, as I rolled up into the mountains, the stress of travel melted away and I decided, "Screw it -- Keystone has night skiing, I'll go there!". Checked in - Dillon Inn was a great choice for a home base. Affordable, clean, centrally located. Just what I was looking for! 

Dump my gear in my room, change into ski gear and off I go. Turns out Keystone is 7.2 miles away! NICE! As has become the Vail Way, there's paid parking, or free with a short walk. Being a cheapskate, I opt for the latter. This is my first visit to Keystone and I must say I really enjoyed it. Much of the mountain closes around 4pm, so I don't get to fully explore. But what I skied, I really enjoyed. This is also my first Western Spring skiing trip. Last year we went about three weeks earlier and enjoyed 3' of snow in just 4 days. This is a totally different, but very pleasant experience!

The best part of the day was the perfect bluebird conditions - the alpenglow and subsequent sunset were truly epic. After a few hours, I decided to call it and head down-valley to my hotel. An added bonus? The Dillon Dam Brewery is right next door. Great beers and an equally solid menu. 

A dam good day. Tomorrow, I think I'll head West to an old favorite to Beaver Creek. 

20 March, 2015

Spring Fling

Off to Colorado in the morning. Can't wait - my first time for Western Spring skiing! Even headed out on the first day of Spring! Looking forward to bouncing around on the Epic Pass at up to five ski areas. Hoping to notch Keystone and Arapahoe on my "areas skied" list. Stay tuned!

05 March, 2015

Product Review: CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer

This Winter I vowed not to spend the snowy season getting fat. Or at least not fatTER. I hate gyms. My knees won't take running. So, I had to come up with a solution.

This year, I decided to try combining some time on the trainer with more regular local skiing at Mt. Brighton, courtesy of my Epic Pass. I figured that between these I'd get some regular, aerobic activity and burn some calories in the process.

First things first, though -- I needed to get a trainer. Several seasons back I had a house-brand unit from one of the larger bike retailers. It was LOUD, didn't really have much of the feel of the road, and generally loathesome. I hated being on it, even with a TV to watch.

On the advice of a friend, I looked into CycleOps products. He was pleased with the ride of his and found that even living in a townhouse with shared walls he had no issue with noise. After some online research and a shop visit, I purchased a CycleOps Fluid2 trainer. The sales guy and the reviews both said that the fluid model was well-worth the extra money for quietness and a progressive resistance that would simulate real-world riding. And, the sales guy added that the CycleOps was really the "forever" trainer.

Right out of the box, the unit makes a good impression. A sturdy frame and a heavy, rugged cast resistance unit should make for durability and help keep things stable and quiet. Set-up is simple and straightforward with excellent directions. Off to a good start.

From the first pedal stroke, I notice something - the absence of noise. And in fact at higher RPMs the volume level really doesn't increase very much. This will enable me to ride whenever I want without fear of the ruckus.

But the best part is the resistance. Unlike the old trainer, it's silky smooth. And as you pick up cadence and/or increase load it responds by gradually increasing resistance. In short, it acts like riding a real bike on a real road.

And I'm finding that while it's nothing like the reward of a real outdoor ride, I'm actually enjoying the trainer. I like that it's MY bike, not just some spin machine at a health club. And I'm using the heartbeat and cadence sensing capabilities of my Garmin Edge 810 to manage my rides for maximum benefit. I've got the unit set up in my shop, so I have a good stereo connected to the iPod. I actually find that music helps pass the time (for me) better than TV did.

As an aside, I have found that some music motivates and passes the time better than other music. I've built a couple of training-specific playlists on my iPod just for rides. So far Bob Mould/Sugar/Husker Du and Black Flag seem to be some of my leading choices. But even seemingly mellow stuff like Band of Horses also works.

But I digress...

Great job CycleOps - the Fluid2 Trainer is an excellent product. Highly recommended!