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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl

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Sibling reunion in Colorado

Last weekend I had the extreme pleasure of hosting my two brothers, Karl and Derek, and my “casi-hermana” (translation = almost sister) Kindra, my brother Karl’s better half, in the state of Colorado! We were missing a few members of our family, like my niece Harper, but it was still a blast to have my siblings visit. On a side note, Harper’s second birthday is tomorrow, so now that she is officially the minimum ski age I expect her participation in all future trips to Colorado.

1526902_624760439164_1200360238_nHarper = future Olympic skier?

Anyway, Karl, Kindra and Derek all flew in last Friday night, and we immediately caravanned up to the mountains. We stayed at Graham’s family’s cabin in Grand Lake for the weekend, and it was a blast to be able to share one of my favorite places in the world with my family. After making it up to the cabin and having a few celebratory beers, we went to bed in anticipation of an early ski day at Mary Jane the next day.

One of the things I appreciate most about have the Rocky Mountain Super Pass is the fact that you actually get real discounts on ski tickets for family and friends, unlike another pass that shall remain nameless but rhymes with “Bail Tesorts”. I was able to get passes for $59 along with half price on rentals for my siblings. Score! Because Graham and I always go to the Mary Jane side of Winter Park, we decided to haze my brothers on the steeps and moguls. After getting caught in a total white out at the top of the Panorama lift in the afternoon, we called it a day and headed back to the cabin.

IMG_0002K + K on skis

IMG_0007Derek shredding the gnar

Back in Grand Lake, I convinced my brothers it would be fun to take Cooper on a walk and check out the view of Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir from the top of the neighborhood. After postholing and crawling through 3 feet deep snow, we finally made it to the top and enjoyed the insane view.

IMG_0024Lake Granby

IMG_0026Shadow Mountain

At the top of the ridge, the view is 360 degrees with Shadow Mountain on one side and Lake Granby on the other. Definitely a killer view. Karl kept commenting how the Grand Lake area of Colorado reminded him of Montana with lakes, rivers, valleys and mountain views. I have to agree. It’s a pretty awesome part of the state! 

On Sunday, our last day of skiing, I did a better job of leading my brothers around the mountains with less getting caught in white out conditions and skiing down steep moguls. It was a gorgeous bluebird spring day full of skiing! Kindra had to head back early to the airport due to a work commitment, but Karl, Derek and I went back to the cabin for one more night in Grand Lake. Graham was able to stick around too, and we journeyed into the bustling metropolis of Grand Lake for Mexican food.

After packing and cleaning the cabin on Monday morning, my brothers and I headed down to Denver. We were able to get in some rock climbing at Earth Treks before starting the airport runs, which was a lot of fun.

IMG_0018Climbing at Earth Treks

It was a treat to be able to climb at Earth Treks in the middle of the day. I’m used to it being so crowded after work on weekdays that it was nice to have the place to ourselves! I reluctantly dropped my brothers off and headed home to do laundry and prepare for facing the real world again the next day.

Takeaways? If you come visit me in Colorado I might haze you and make you ski moguls but I’ll take you to pretty vistas! (And don’t worry, Graham received full brother approval!) 



Monarch Mania

If I had to choose one favorite thing from my ski trip to Monarch Mountain this past weekend it would probably be a toss-up between the Pueblo ski crowd or the Nascar bunk bed that I slept in one night. Don’t make me choose! On a more serious note, it would actually be hard for me to choose a favorite highlight from Monarch Mountain. The soft, powdery snow? The welcome lack of cell phone reception? What ski traffic?

denver-salida-map-485x402The details.

For my non-Colorado friends, Monarch Mountain is probably a relatively unknown destination. Heck, it is even a relatively unknown destination in Colorado! This all precisely why it is an awesome place to ski. It’s located about 2 1/2 hours away from Denver just past Salida, which means it’s just far enough away to not attract hoards of Front Range skiers every weekend. When the Rocky Mountain Super Pass announced it was adding three days of skiing at Monarch Mountain to the season pass this year, Graham’s family was all over planning a big cabin weekend with family friends to check it out. This is why I get along so well with Graham’s family!

This past weekend, 18 of us loaded up and headed to a house near Monarch to stay for the weekend. I rode up with Graham’s parents because it’s normal to go on road trips with your boyfriend’s parents right? (Hi Ray and Janie!) We had a lovely time driving on 285 to Monarch and stopped at a bowling alley in Fairplay for burgers. We ended up being the first people to reach the house we were staying at for the weekend, a “renovated” schoolhouse in Garfield, Colorado. I use the word renovated loosely, because we are fairly sure it was last renovated in 1972.

IMG_0002Shower curtain cats.

IMG_0003Living room view. Don’t worry, the fireplace is just for looks.

Luckily we’re all a pretty serious ski crowd, so the house was perfect for the group. It was five minutes away from Monarch and cheap enough for us to just find the cat shower curtains endearing. The beds we slept in were not as endearing, and I actually moved from an incredibly uncomfortable full-size bed to a bunk bed with a Nascar bed spread in the middle of the night to try and get some sleep. Good thing I love skiing!

On Saturday morning we all woke up ready to hit the slopes. Amazingly our huge group stuck together for at least the first three runs. Keeping that many people together on a mountain is an impressive feat! I was immediately struck by how big the mountain was. I mean it certainly was not the size of Vail, but it was much bigger than I had been expecting and we found a lot of fun terrain. About 5 inches of snow had fallen the day before, so the snow was soft and powdery.

IMG_0001Fresh lines.

It was actually still snowing all day on Saturday and a bit windy but conditions were great overall. The mountain really had a lot to offer all levels of skiers, and we found some really good turns off of a cornice at the edge of the resort. It was nice for a big group too because it was basically impossible to lose anyone. After a long day of skiing we headed back to the house for a big dinner of lasagna.

The next morning we somehow all managed to eat breakfast, clean the kitchen, pack up the house and still be on the ski slopes by 9:30. We only had a half day of skiing on Sunday which meant that we had a lot of mountain to fit in! The Mirkwood area, a hikable basin with trees, had been closed on Saturday because of wind, and I set out with Graham and a few others to check it out. I have hiked many bowls before but I definitely think this was one of the steeper hikes I have done. It also could have been the multiple glasses of wine and Coors Banquets from the night before talking.

IMG_0004Top of Mirkwood with Graham.

Mirkwood was a lot of fun but since we were on such a limited time schedule we didn’t want to spend a lot of time hiking. We moved on to skiing some trees near Mirkwood, which also had excellent snow.

IMG_0014Clouds briefly clearing over the Collegiate Peaks in the distance.

The sun came out for a little while, but the clouds never cleared all weekend. My one disappointment is that I never really got to see a complete view at Monarch. I guess I’ll have to return?!

IMG_0017Sunny trees.

IMG_0021One of the final few runs.

All in all, it was an awesome weekend on a newly discovered awesome mountain. And hey, next time you are sitting in six hours worth of ski traffic on I-70 just remember – you could be skiing right now at Monarch!