Canadian Rockies 2005 Chamonix 1993 In Search Of Eastern Skiing in the Great Thaw of 1995 JMK's Trip Bariloche, Argentina 1994 Panorama, British Columbia, March1998 PattiMac's Utah Avalanche Pictures The Matt Duffy Chronicles Todd's Utah Big Air Photo's Todds' Tahoe Trip 1996 Wes and the Boys in Colorado 2003 Wesley and Vickie's 2001 Swiss Adventure Whistler April 1999: Wesley, Jumpin Jimmy, mrrogers Back to Vermont Skiers Travel the World

Wes and the Boys in Colorado 2003
Duphy prepares for takeoff

JJ Air Closeup

JJ Closeup

JJ Glades 1

JJ at speed

JJ in the woods

Jim makes a turn

Jumin' Jimmy gets Big Air

Jumpin' Jimmy

Locomotive Breath

Matt Duphy Closeup

Matt Duphy turns 'em

Matt aims for the sky

Scott Danis, James Clapp, Wesley Wright

Scott Flails

Scott Skis the Trees

Vickie an der Schlitten

Wesley makes a turn


Every travelogue begins and ends with an airplane story. Mine is simple: I got on healthy and happy, I got off sick and miserable. I had a room reserved at the airport Motel 6. I checked in at 11:00 PM, by 11:10 PM I was hanging over the toilet puking my guts out. Rinse and repeat. And again. Fitful sleep followed but not until 1:00 AM or so.

My plan was to meet Matt Duffy at A-Basin Monday morning at 9. At 7 AM, I roused myself and started to dress for skiing. Ddin't get very far.My brain was certainly not engaged. But my digestive tract was in  full gear: by 7:10 AM I was hanging over the toilet puking my guts out. Rinse and repeat. And again. Somewhere in there I called Duffy and said, "Go back to sleep!" I called Vickie and she told me the same. More fitful sleep followed.

So here I was, in Colorado for six straight days of powder skiing and SkiVt-L research. And here I was, sicker than a dog. Altitude? Norwalk virus? Poisoned by  members of some rival ski discussion list? Who knows. Whatever the reason, I wasn't skiing: I was half naked in a dark and dingy Motel 6 on the outskirts of Denver tossing cookies down the toilet.

Next thing I knew, it was 10:30. I awoke. My head was clear. My stomach was calm. I dressed again. Still OK. I packed my bags. Still OK. I called Duffy, I checked out of the dive, bought a burger and Coke at the Wendy's next door, and raced onto I-70 West. Get the barf bags ready, A-Basin, here I come!

I met Matt on the Sundeck around 12:30 and bought a half-day ticket. The sun was shining, I was at 10,000 feet above the sea. Things were starting to click. And so there I was, standing at the ski rack clicking into my skis, when a guy comes up and says, "You the guy from the ski list?"

I got get me some new pants. No anonymity no more.

The guy was Reed, UVM graduate, roommate of ex-lister Rick Ando (Andor), Boyhood buddy of Jerm (see ). Reed had moved out to Dillon after graduation, fell in love, got married, moved to Westchester NY. Skiing Plattekill now, but missed the big mountains, so there he was, wife and kids in tow. He joined up with me and Matt as we gave A-Basin the once over.

Analysis: hard snow, by Western standards. Incredibly carvable bumps, by East Coast reckoning. Big blue sky, bright Colorado sun. Reed was complaining about his headache: I felt like a champ.

Dillon and dinner followed. Matt and I caught up on our life stories, then I was off the Breckenridge to secure lodging for the rest of the team. All I needed to do now was drive another 100 miles into Denver, pick up Jimmy and Scotty at America's most convenient airport at midnight, drive another hunnerd miles before bed.

Real skiing

The boys and I didn't get to sleep until 3 AM mountain time. Tuesday morning brought confusion and scrambling: Matt on the phone, Jeremy on the phone; Andrew Clapp, Jim's brother on the phone. Breakfast at the donut shop. Bro factor ski medallions were exchanged, gaining us free access to the lifts at Breckenridge. It wasn't until the disgraceful hour of noon before we boarded the lifts.

Breckenridge is a broad ridgeline of high peaks that you can't get to. The lifts run from town almost to the summits -- to get any further, you have to hike. Working on little sleep, that seemed out of the question. So we rode lifts and looked for snow. Surely there was some somewhere.

There certainly was none up in the bowls. We rode the so-called summit T-bar, talked to a patroller, and on his recommendation we traversed out to a big old bowl named Vertigo. And that it was: steep and wind scoured. The snow was firm but chalky. Slick but carvable, if you kept your wits. One of our party did not, and down he tumbled like a broken rag doll doing the slide for life. After two or three hundred feet, his ski tail augured into the firmament and he came to a stop, signaling Tree Time.

Trees are good. They hold powder Not today, but in general. Today they were bumpy but soft, skied out yet fun. Better than death slides in empty bowls, that's for sure.

Other than the Big Slide, the day was uneventful. We longed for the deep powder of Vermont. The Inspection was not going well: Matt Duffy has indeed been exagerating the truth, we thought. There was no powder to be found in Colorado, not at A-Basin nor at Breckenridge. Snow was in the forecast, though -- a whopping 30% chance. Duffy had one more day to come through and show us the goods. The clock was ticking.

Hot tub and showers, dinner at Eric's Sports Bar with Andrew and his family. Time for bed and powder dreams.

Jimmy's Birthday Present

During our pre-trip correspondence, I wrote to Matt something to the effect of. "I've never seen a group of 3+ skiers reach a consensus decision." But in SkiVt-L land, you never know. After about 14 phone calls between the various interested parties, Jeremy, His brother Jason, Matt Duffy, Scott, me, and fortieth birthday boy Jumpin' Jimmy Clapp rendezvoused at the base of the Super Bee lift at Copper Mountain. We rode that lift as far as we could to a summit poma and followed young Jason into the Enchanted Forest. Enchanted indeed: Poof! and he was gone. Jeremy said he'd go find and him, and Poof! he, too, disappeared. The three old men and Matt were left holding the bag, as it were. Day One of the SIbling Challenge had begun.

So Matt and I took the lead and away we went, this way and that, generally staying low and skiing long. That first run was way long -- all 2600 vertical feet. In and out of trees, using our Vermont honed powder snooping skills to eek out little turns here and there in a few inches of old snow. Making noise in the trees, terrorizing the tourons, filming our exploits for the 2003 video projects, hoping to eventually score big but knowing that we probably wouldn't.

Our meanderings delivered us to summit once again in search of Union Meadows, a run both Matt and I recalled from previous visits as being "out there." So Out There we went, clinging to the resorts norther border line, singing I Need a Miracle. BEEP! BEEP! The powder radar clicked in, and as Jimmy described it to me later, I dropped into a passing glade like a bomb out of a B-52 aiming toward Baghdad. Powder shots, massive cedar trees, lines of flight to be seen everywhere. Call it 8 to 10" of old yet undisturbed snow, lying right there in the midst of one of Colorado's most popular resorts perhaps for weeks on end just waiting for some big ol' Vermont boys to track up and scatter. Oh, yeah.

This far out powder route lead us all the way back to the bottom. So we went up and did it again, and lo -- it was still good. Good enough for a third time? Perhaps, but the hour was late and Matt had to check on dog WInter before she baked in his car forcing us to eat roast puppy burgers that night. So the Duffster headed home, and we headed back up the hill for some warm-down runs, ending the day with the 17 Glade. Finally, they shut off the lifts and we had to stop, and no sooner did we pull of our boards did Jerm and then Jason -- remember them? They came to ski with us -- reappear, having just diced 17 Glade themselves. "Who won," I asked. "I Guess I did," beamed Jerm, "I'm down first!"

So the five of us retired to our temporary condo home and welcoming hot tubs. We boiled a bit before heading up to Blue River and Andrew Clapp's house for birthday dinner and cake. I love January birthdays.

Hump Day at Keystone

The brothers Malczyk  were gone to see sister Malczyk in Steamboat. Matt dealt himself in, as did borther Andrew, and thus began Day Two of the SIbling Challenge. Destination: Keystone. If Copper still held untracked in the high far nether reaches, I reasoned, then Keystone, too, would have some untracked hidden somewhere in the Outback.

But to get to the outback, you need to ski the upfront. Welcome to Vermont: East Coast skiing at its worse. First time I saw Matt not having a good time. He and I were forcing phat powder skis to negotiate Killington terrain. Diceman Andrew put us all to shame, knocking of big GS carvers and clearly earning  Sibling Challenge points. The only thing that slowed him down was his cell phone, and Jumpin' Warren MillerJimmy's filming.

And what was there to film? We found the Outback all right, and followed two old guys through the gate and towards a norther exposure. "Any good out here?" we asked. "Yeah it's OK. I mean, no -- it sucks!" Words that engage the powder radar. They split left, I traversed another 2, 3 hundred feet and it was bombs away! Down, down down down powder turn left right left right over the log turn turn turn turn turn turn powder powder powder powder!

We sliced and diced those glades over and over. One thousand vertical feet of mostly untracked, undisturbed snow, laid down my Momma Nature perhaps weeks before our arrival, guarded by just those two old guys and waiting just for us. We skied and filmed and skied and filmed while Andrew made deals on his cell and waited impatiently until he could take no more and had to split for home and some real work. And we skied some more. We figured a half dozen runs, four with Andrew Diceman, accounting for some 28 tracks in the snow. Virgin glades no more: Colorado gang bang  Vermont style.

Finally, depleted of water, food, energy, and sun, we began the long trek back towards The Village, the Car, the Condo.The five of us (with Winter) retired to our temporary condo home and welcoming hot tubs. We boiled a bit before heading in for giant plates of beef flesh and subsequent comas. Good night.

hmmmmmmm.... Vail...

or DOH! Vail.

Underground parking garages. Only at Vail. Faux Fantasyland Alpine Villages. Only at Vail. Shoppers hustling with shopping bags and stylish furry boots. Only at Vail. Seventy-one dollars for a lift ticket. Only at Vail. Five thousand two hundred eighty nine acres of crappy snow. Only at Vail.

Well, mostly crappy. Thanks to Andrew's discounts and some old guy scalping his 3-day group ticket, we came in well below rack, so at least we weren't paying top dollar for house drinks.

We bee-lined for Blue Sky Basin, as well as you can beeline for anything across 5000 acres.  Meaning two, three runs down those immense back bowls. With 2500+ acres of back bowls alone, it was hard to find crappy snow everywhere, so we were forced to ski a bit of decent packed powder moguls, moguls that seemed to drop steeply away for ever and ever.

Pissed that he clearly lost the Sibling Challenge to little brother Andy on Thursday, and knowing he stood little chance of besting Andrew on home turf at Vail, Jimmy lashed out in unexpected directions. Thursday night he convinced Scott -- suffering from bone spur ankle problems -- to gamble on a pair of demo skis and Alpine boots. So Scott had traded his Scarpa T-Race for some indiscriminate Nordica Pincers. He nearly collapsed in pain on the first run, and after two runs in Blue Sky he had had enough. He dolefully wandered back frontside, alone and destitute, doomed to shopping and then solo reebs at the Red Lion while Andrew continued to show us how it was done.

But Jimmy had the last laugh. Scott was out of the way, and the weight of his cell phone dragged Andrew down, too. By 3 PM, it was just Jumpin' Jimmy and me, returned to the slightly less crappy north facing snow of Vail's Front side. We headed up for One Last Run, which turned into One and a Half as we boarded the Northwoods Express at 4:03 PM for One Last Run. By 4:25, he and I wound up 22,500 vertical feet of crappy snow skiing, 25% of it in the last hour. Only at Vail.

The three of us  retired to our temporary condo home and welcoming hot tubs, where we became six when we discovered Matt, Jerm, and WInter poaching our hot tubs. We boiled a bit before heading to Mia Casa with Andrew and family and giant plates of Tex-Mex and subsequent comas.

The Last Hurrah.

Every day since Tuesday the weather report was calling for snow showers, chance of snow 30%. Every day we got nada. Friday night came with predictions of nada. Saturday morning, 4" of snow blanketed our car.

After the customary 14 morning round-up calls, the Old Men opted to take the easy way out. Here we were, at a slope side condo in Breckenridge facing 10 AM checkout. and 4" of powder outside our front door. Why drive? We could pack the truck, aim straight for a lift, ski hard all day, and poach our own hot tubs like Matt and Jerm did the night before.

On the lift at 9 AM. Back down the Four O'Clock run at, well, 4 o'Clock. In between, 19 runs, 22,300 vertical feet, 10,000 powder turns on peaks 7,8,9, and 10. Vermont owned Breckenridge, if just for one day. great snow, everywhere and anywhere. Even the unpredictable, inconsistent windblown off the T-bar. Chair 6. Blues, Greens, Blacks, double blacks, glades glades and more glades. Powder Power. For this one day, we were the Masters of the Universe, He-Man of the Fluff, Kings of Kings.

And then it was done. Poached our tubs, loaded ourselves in the truck. One last burrito binge, gifts for the kids, white knuckle drive up to the Eisenhower tunnel and down, down down back to Reality Central: Denver International.


For me, six days, 5 resorts, 100,00 vertical feet. Snow like Harry Potter's Every Flavor Jellybeans. Good food, better friends. Giant breakfasts, Bigger dinners, and little more than tap water and candy bars for lunch. Not once did we eat in them fancy mountain restaurants, Forty minutes tops spent shopping, half of that in a single ski shop staring at phats. Bro factor discounts brought the total trip cost, air, hotels, food, lifts, entertainment to less than $650.

Thank you Andrew Clapp, James Clapp, Scott Danis, Matt Duffy, Jeremy Malczyk. Jason Malczyk? Yeah, thank you, too, Jason, for that quality time in our Hot Tub.

Same time next year? Over Vickie's dead body, so I am told. A lot can happen in a year...

Visit the Vermont Whale

Last modified February 12 2003 05:10 PM

Departmental Logo Graphic See the SkiVt-L Mobile!