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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl


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Grand County Winter Love

This weekend, for the first time in the past few months, I’ll actually be in Denver all weekend long. Denver weekends have been a rarity for me this winter because my priorities get a little confusing during ski season. Well, actually, not that confusing. My priorities are skiing during ski season! Another reason my priorities have been confusing? I absolutely love winter weekends in Grand County and it’s been hard to tear me away.

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My boyfriend’s family has a cabin in Grand Lake, and it’s really in my opinion the best winter location in Colorado. Big statement I know, but let me back it up!

Top 5 Reasons Grand County in the Winter is Awesome

5) Serenity

Whenever people hear that my boyfriend, Graham, is working in Breckenridge for the year I think the image people get in their mind is not quite as cool as reality. While Breckenridge is picturesque, quaint and has a killer view of the Ten Mile Range, it’s also well known that it can become a madhouse during high season. Fact: one of our favorite past times is watching the tourists, unfamiliar with Colorado liquor laws, unknowingly stock up on 3.2 beers at the City Market in Breck. Grand County on the other hand? Not exactly the huge tourist draw in the winter, especially once you get away from the Winter Park area. Compared to the traffic jams of I-70, Grand Lake is as quiet and serene as it gets. Grand Lake is for sure more of a summer destination, and in the winter it’s incredibly peaceful.

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4) Steamboat

Skiing wise, I think Grand County has the best of both worlds. From Grand Lake it’s about 35-40 minutes to Mary Jane and an hour and a half to Steamboat, which suddenly makes Steamboat a completely reasonable day trip. Steamboat is definitely not a reasonable round trip from Denver, as it’s about 3 1/2 hours away. The other great part about Grand Lake > Steamboat is that Hot Sulphur Springs is conveniently on the way back. It’s not a particularly fancy hot spring pool, but that’s kind of why it’s great.

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3) Other things to do

I love skiing as much as the next person but what I am learning is that I also just love being outdoors in the winter. It’s nice to have other options sometimes, and Grand County offers ample snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing opportunities. On a side note, someone please explain what part of ice fishing is fun to me because I absolutely do not get it! Back to the point, after being hazed on a New Year’s Day cross country skiing trip this year with Graham’s family (extremely steep and narrow trail in Rocky Mountain National Park with boots that ended up breaking on the trip), I have since come around to really having fun on a pair of cross country skis. I now even have a pair of cross country ski boots in my size at the cabin! A few weeks ago, Graham and I decided to take the dogs on a walk by cross country skiing up and down a mini-hill behind the cabin. It was an absolute blast, and with the view of Shadow Mountain Reservoir ahead of us I dubbed it our own Lake Tahoe.

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2) Beautiful

Grand Lake is the largest natural lake in Colorado, and along with Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Lake Granby AND the Colorado River there are amazing vistas to be found everywhere. You’re surrounded by striking mountain ranges, like the Never Summers, the Indian Peaks and the Vasquez Wilderness in the middle of huge valleys, bordered by bodies of water. Last weekend as Graham and I were driving through Byers Canyon, the sun was setting and the light was dancing across the Colorado River. It was spectacular.

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1) Baby cows

Grand County is a fairly rural mountain county, all things considered. Have you ever been to Granby or Kremmling? They are both pretty no frills towns, populated mostly by locals. I think that rural nature of Grand County is actually a huge part of what makes it feel so homey and comforting. The best part of all? In the springtime, on your way to the Jane from Grand Lake or driving over Ute Pass from Highway 9, there are farms that line the road. And these farms, in the springtime, have baby cows running around everywhere. I will agree that adult cows are not the most attractive creatures, but if you try to tell me that baby cows are not the cutest thing in the world…them’s fighting words! Driving past baby cows on the way to go ski a spring powder day in late March? Heaven. It’s the best of Grand County without a doubt.

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When I asked Graham, a true Grand County kid at heart, for any input about this entry, he said, jokingly, that he was a bit worried about this because he doesn’t want GC spoiled. I mean I was just flattered that he thinks that many people actually read my blog! So if you are reading this, I would caution you to use the information from this post for good purposes only. Graham has a ferocious dog named Cooper that will find you in Grand County if you are misbehaving!

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Cooper at Shadow Mountain Resevoir. Ferocious looking, right?!

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Eiseman Hut: Trip Report

“It’s like a backpacking trip on skis,” I explained to my friend Joel last week when talking about my weekend plans for a hut trip. I was first introduced to the concept of hut trips by my cousin Jen who was nice enough to invite me on my first hut trip last year, where I learned, the hard way, that rental AT ski boots are never a good idea. Jen also introduced me to my first double black diamond slopes on the fourth day ever of my skiing career on the East Wall at Arapahoe Basin. She’s a good influence!

Needless to say, I was excited for hut trip round two this year, a little older, wiser and finally armed with my own AT set-up. The 10th Mountain Division Huts are divvied up by a lottery a year in advance for members, and for the past two years Jen has had amazing luck and booked her first and second choices for a prime weekend, President’s Day Weekend. This year we really lucked out with the Eiseman Hut all to ourselves, which is arguably home to some of the best skiing in the entire hut system.

IMG_0035My AT ski babies.

Graham could not make it due to a family event, but my friends Heidi and Chris were able to join the group. Next best thing, right? Based on my skinning experiences from my one previous hut trip, I knew it would probably take us forever to travel the 6.75 miles up the trail to the hut, so we left Denver at 5:30 a.m. to get to the trailhead outside of Vail early.

The hike in was exciting, mainly because perhaps I had packed too much food and wine, though I digress that such thing exists. I kept falling forward on some of the steeper hills, and let’s blame the 60 pound backpack for that. I don’t know if it was really 60 pounds but this is my blog so hey artistic license!

7_ZxjKuDNZvPt7DRfoiBcKc2pMawKnq3RQjZCA9H6ygThanks for the photo Heidi!

The trail description stated that the last two miles of the trail were steep switchbacks. When Heidi’s Garmin beeped 5 miles and we were on a small, rolling hill I was all “Cool, this isn’t steep at all!” Two seconds later we rounded a corner and there was Mount Everest. My backpack and I toppled forward, ejected out of my skis and had a grand old time getting back into my gear in the middle of the steep hill. Shortly after, Chris abandoned Heidi and me, which was probably good because we were a little whiny at that point. Eventually, we saw Chris through the trees ahead, and he had nicely come to tell us that we were almost at the hut. Huzzah!

TveNnotZ4cnLVbRlJi6CWTf81qYriJTHFpsLx8EAAlEUp and up and up.

IMG_0040The trail. At least it was pretty?

We weren’t the very first people to get to the cabin, but we were definitely not the last. This is really the way to do it folks. The chores are all done and you still get your pick of bunks! I was super impressed with how big the hut was too. It was all one level with an open dining room/living room/kitchen in one room and a large bunkroom with two private rooms on the other side. It was incredibly roomy, even with a hut full of 16 people. We feasted on burritos for dinner and went to bed fairly early.

IMG_0065I adjusted to hut life real quick.

The next day Heidi, Chris, Jen and I were on breakfast duty. I was still pretty wiped from the skin up to the hut from the previous day (and also we were waiting on snow to melt so we could do dishes – #hutproblems) and so Heidi and I stuck around the cabin all morning while everyone else went touring. It was kind of amazing. We did dishes, sat by the fire, read and just relaxed. Eventually Chris and and another hut tripper came back in from doing a lap down the slope in front of the hut, so Heidi and I rallied and played Cards Against Humanity with some “adult” hot chocolate for a few hours.

3PlaTTPUbX8BylaZjT_H3S07d5rw6L_61peIXSD0pkgBreakfast duty with your chefs Heidi and Paula.

After lunch, the Cards Against Humanity crew headed out with Jen for a mini-ski tour. We skinned up a hill for about 15 minutes behind the hut and then dropped in on some low aspect trees. Avalanche danger was very high over the weekend, so we definitely played it safe. The snow was heavy and I’m still getting used to the lightness of my AT set-up, but it was a lot of fun to be skiing in the backcountry. By the time we reached the bottom of the hill and skinned back up to the hut, it had almost been a couple of hours. It started to snow and I was more than happy to call it a day!

DhB7ucZCfQt37gofY_tuVdmfKmCV_rH_ECEXsNzXoaoTouring.

S6TqXUeRquptRB03AVPOrDKrjtKmJ9e2cEK64VYYG4ESee Vail in the background?

IMG_0003Pretty lines in the snow.

Back at the hut we again played games, and Heidi absolutely dominated at Uno. If you thought Uno was all luck, you’ve never played with Heidi. My goodness. Mushroom risotto with cheese was dinner, and after dinner we all started to nod off and head to bed.

The next morning blue skies finally greeted us. I was one of the last people to wake up, lured only by the smell of breakfast burritos, and when I walked out into the hut and saw the view all I could say was “Wow.”

IMG_0088Morning hut view.

IMG_0076And the other way.

We packed up fairly quickly, and again, Heidi, Chris and I were the first to head out. I was nervous about skiing out since the way down from the hut was steeper, gladed trees and I was unsure how it would go with a backpack. Luckily, my backpack was much lighter on the way down and a fresh layer of snow made the ski down a total blast. We had to put skins on for about 2 or 3 miles back, which was sort of a pain. Skinning with Heidi and Chris who are splitboarders has made it so I will never complain about AT skis ever. Splitboarders have it way harder guys. All we have to do is take our skins on and off, not assemble and dissemble our gear in addition to the skins!

nPqypRWFtamrdWY2Swo2htiFfGt_lknpAy9dFuV9uwASkiing down.

We were slightly fearful that we were going to hit traffic, but alas the journey back to Denver was a breeze. Another great weekend in the mountains on skis, what more could a girl ask for!