10 April, 2015

Roll On - Roval Rapide CLX 60 Wheels

Got the new wheels out for a first ride last weekend. Josh had a 40+ miler all planned out for me. Despite some pretty serious wind, we headed out in the afternoon.

I'd read a lot about aero profile wheels and the wind. A number of online mentions expressed concern over 60mm profiles like my Roval Rapide CLX 60's. More profile = more exposure to crosswinds, etc. So, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

What I found was that while you could definitely feel the impact of the wind, it really wasn't that big of a deal. Not bad per se, just different. Cross-wind gusts were noticeable, primarily with the front wheel, but not completely scary.

One thing I will say is that my bike looks BAD ASS with these wheels. As Josh commented, "It's like a completely new ride." And, he's right. Just looks tough.

Giant Defy Advanced with Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 60 wheels
Giant Defy Advanced with new Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 60's

As to the performance and handling of the wheels and their impact on my ride, it's really hard to say. Between ripping winds, and the fact that I haven't got a lot of road miles in yet this season (Winter hasn't really wanted to give up in Michigan) I don't think it was an optimum situation to evaluate. By the end of almost 45 miles, I was pretty much cooked. But, I survived those miles, and I think the new wheels made that easier.

More to follow as I get in more miles. Early impressions are that I like 'em.


07 April, 2015

It's Back...

At $579, the Epic Locals Pass is just an awesome deal. Plus, for just a $49 deposit, you can lock in the season's lowest price and pay for it this Fall. Easy decision - done like dinner! Next year's goal will be a long weekend (probably Keystone and A-Basin) as well as a longer week, perhaps to Utah. Can't wait!

03 April, 2015

Spring Fling - Ten Lessons Learned

Picked up a few things while skiing in Colorado:

  1. Some pretty damn good beer there. Both the Dillon Dam Brewery (try the Brown) and Backcountry Brewing (easily one of the best amber ales I've ever had) delivered great beer and mighty good food. 
  2. It snows in Colorado. Even in Spring. Might want to think about that when offered the $80 SUV upgrade on your rental car. And factor it into your commute time to the mountain.
  3. Staying slopeside is cool, but it was equally nice (and way cheaper) to stay at a hotel in a central location. Dillon Inn was great.
  4. Seriously getting back in to cycling has really helped my fitness and my skiing by leaps and bounds. Long runs at high altitude were no issue. I owe that all to thousands of miles on a bicycle.
  5. Paying for parking at a ski area is bullshit. Vail's model is quite clearly "pay to park close", but I was able to park for free with only a short shuttle ride at Beaver Creek and Breckenridge, and within easy walking distance at Keystone and A-Basin.
  6. Arapahoe Basin is awesome. A true local gem. Reminds me of places I love like Solitude and Powder Mountain in Utah. Great terrain, cool people, and a great vibe. Plus, Ramrod is one of the best blue runs I've ever skied (should be a black easily). Fast. Steep. Scenic. I will definitely return to the Basin.
  7. Breckenridge just isn't my cup of tea. Crowds. Tons of pretentious dining. Traffic. And their blue runs would be greens anywhere else. 
  8. Still love Beaver Creek, and Keystone will become a new favorite. I really learned from chatting with the locals that all of the area can be great, but you have to consider some key factors. For example, chatting with one of the locals at the bar on my last night in town revealed that A-Basin is awesome, but you don't want to be up there on low-visibility days. Having a third of the resort above treeline makes it really disorienting.
  9. My Blizzard Bonafides rule the mountain. They also got a lot of compliments on their appearance (they are a sweet-looking ski).
  10. Pack for nearly everything in Spring out West. After two days of bluebird sunny skies and temps in the 50's I thought bringing the colder weather layers was a waste. Wrong. I ended up needing everything I had with me.
  11. (Bonus Round) The Epic Pass is awesome. I had my choice of five mountains in Colorado, AND I got a pass to ski Mt. Brighton back home and stay in shape. Perfect!
Next year, who knows? Maybe I pull of two Western trips and get to both Colorado and Utah. Sure would be fun!

02 April, 2015

Spring Fling - Day Five

Day Five started off  solid -- with an easy 6-7" of powder atop the fairly crappy Hyundai Elantra rental car. A powder day in CO in late March? AWESOME!!!!

Check out of the hotel, load up my gear, clear the snow and ice off and away I go. Keystone is only 4 miles away and I'm dying to explore it some more as my first day was a short one. Well, some days, nothing is ever simple...

Did I mention that the Elantra needed new tires? Badly? As soon as I hit freeway outside Denver International Airport I could hear -- that sound like a semi was following me. I glance at the odometer to see it's got nearly 50K miles on the clock. Should have turned around right there. In fact, should have turned around and spent the extra 80 bucks to upgrade to an SUV. Dumb.

I get out of the hotel just fine, but the road from Dillon to Keystone goes up a hill. A relatively steep one. And there's been no sign of snowplows and not a lot of traffic. Within 15 feet, I'm finding I can barely get the car to move at all. Traction control is on, I've got it floored and I'm barely moving. Not only not good, but friggin' scary as I'm on a boulevard with nowhere to turn around. I've got the flashers on and I'm watching the rear-view mirror the whole time to see if I'm going to get rear-ended. I white-knuckle it up to the first light, bang a left U-turn and head back downhill to the hotel.

Back at the hotel, reality starts to sink in. Not only might I not get to ski today, I wonder if I'll be able to get over Loveland Pass and back to Denver for my flight? Ruh-roh. A quick chat with the hotel owner reveals the Summit Bus, which picks up just down the street and runs to Keystone. Sweet! After sitting at the bus stop with some other folks for a half hour, a local sticks his head in and informs us they've shut the Summit Bus down due to weather. Crap.

I wander dejectedly back to the hotel, where I run into the owner. He thinks that since the plows have now been out, and traffic's picked up that I can make. So, what do I have to lose? I came out here to ski.

I set off and immediately, things are better. Not perfect, but manageable. Still a little spooky, but I get there, score a good parking spot in the River Run lot. I'm HERE! And it's only 10am, so I didn't lose much skiing! My day is turning around!

What I arrive to is 6+" of fresh powder, with some fresh tracks still to be scored and now crowds. YAHTZEE! This is an awesome way to cap off my trip! Some quick calculations about travel, rental return, etc. and I figure that I can ski until 2-2:30. Not a full day, but a solid one!

I'd skied Keystone a little on Day One (after arriving late thanks to a delayed outbound flight) and I liked it well enough. But today it was just awesome. Great variety of runs, easy to get around, fast lifts with little or no line. All good! Snow is still falling, filling in tracks, but it eases up (reducing my panic about Loveland Pass) as the morning goes on.

 I know I've said a bunch about my Blizzard Bonafide skis, but let me take a moment to compliment them one more time. These are hands-down the best ski I've ever owned. They're smooth, initiate turns easily, and seem to handle everything from powder, to chop, to hard-pack with grace and style. This ski makes it easier for me to ski fast and in control, no matter the conditions. I genuinely love this ski! And the 187cm length has proven to be perfect. It really lets the ski run fast and cut through whatever you encounter with power and confidence.

And now on to Keystone. As I've mentioned before, I'm a low-maintenance skier. Great skiing doesn't mean the mountain has to be HUGE, or that I need 8,346 gourmet lunch choices. I want good skiing, great scenery, and most of all a cool vibe. This is part of what I like so much about Caberfae Peaks here in Michigan. Cool people and a mellow vibe. That's what Keystone's like, only with some really excellent terrain!

Around 2pm, the snow picks up and I realize it's time to beat it back to Denver. I've got a two hour drive that could involve some sketchy conditions. Plus, after 130,000+ vertical feet skied in 5 days, I'm feeling pretty satisfied.

The drive back is OK, with the exception of coming down the eastern side of the Continental Divide. Visibility is roughly to the front bumper due to snowing and blowing, but fortunately the roads aren't especially slick. I make Denver in time to have dinner and a couple of very tasty beers at the New Belgium Hub at DIA.

5 days. 4 ski areas. 3 breweries. 130,000+ vertical feet skied. And one brain cleaned out, re-energized and ready to dive back into work!