The Retirees – Rocky Mountain High – Denver and Keystone Colorado for Xmas 2017 – Part 3

It’s Xmas eve and we are still provisioning for Xmas day feast. Xmas breakfast will start with sausages and eggs – oh we need some bacon too and some more wine oh don’t forget the vegetables hmm we will have to go shopping so after some research we are going to City Market in Dillon. Now research how to get there – shuttle which one what stop????

We identify that we need the blue line bus to Silverthorne with a stop off at Dillon and City Market. The bus is waiting at the bus stop across the ice skating rink from our Lodge, Kerry and I board and we are under way (by the way Ben and Jee have arrived grabbed their gear and gone skiing, Carly et al are preparing for the kids ski school etc). The trip through the valley showed just how big winter sports are in Colorado and just how pretty the valleys are. Dillon is a major centre in the valley and City Market is in fact a supermarket with a liquor store beside it in a group of shops forming what we know to be a shopping centre. Shopping complete we cross the car park groceries in hand and do the same trip in reverse.

Just as we approach River Run village the sounds of sirens from behind the bus and an announcement to the driver on his two-way tells us that there has been some disaster at the resort. Our bus pulls into the allotted space but the road outside Buffalo Lodge is blocked with two fire trucks, a fire tender and an ambulance but no one seemed to be in a hurry doing anything. A fuss over nothing it appears. We unpack the groceries and Kerry finds out that Carly and the kids are on the Summit in the snow castle. So that is where we go; through the village to the ski gondola up to 11,434 feet (3487m) to the Summit and there is the snow castle and the grand-kids running through it. Of course they could not play by themselves grandad (or step grandad as Mathis likes to tease me) has to join in (why me??). They get tired and hungry so they head off for lunch whilst Kerry and I go onto the Outpost on another peak again by gondola to inspect the sights and pick up some lunch. Fantastic views of the mountains and the ski runs the lakes and the valleys. Here are the photos.

By the time we get home Ben and Jee arrive and they have had a better day on the slopes enjoying the sunshine and the fresh powder snow. Tonight is the big pasta night at Luigi’s Pasta House where we all over eat some tasty pasta before retiring. On the way the boys enjoyed peppering the adults with snow balls rolling in the snow and generally having fun. Thus ends the day with us providing a carrot for Santa’s reindeer tonight.

Christmas Day and we both awake at 5.50am to a howling snow storm which is all it takes to convince us to stay in bed little knowing that above us two little guys were awake and awaiting our arrival to open presents. We had agreed an 8.00am start the previous evening so we were up ready to go and Kerry turned on her phone to a storm of messages from Carly telling us that they could not wait. We made our way up and were greeted by grandchildren holding presents and begging us to permit them to open them. Thus commenced the day, opening presents and trying out the new gifts. I cooked breakfast and then played some more, ate some chocolate and marveled at the continuing snow now inches deep on the balcony. We eventually ventured outside to build a snow man around 2.00pm. The drifts were as deep as my knee and it was no problem building the snowman it was decorating him that proved a test. Where do you find sticks for arms in such snow – answer the naked trees around you.

It was drawing near to time to start the evening meal and as I was the chef I had to break off, work out how to start the oven, put on the roast, peel the vegetables and a host of other things. Once cooked we carried it up to Carly’s apartment to find she had drunk a bottle of wine as her assistance with dinner. Overcoming that hurdle dinner was served after which we played a new card game then ate desert and made our way down to bed. Thus leaving a pile of dirty dishes with Carly ended our Xmas day. Here are some photos.

Tuesday was a day of little or nothing. The kids started ski school and the other kids (their parents) disappeared on the mountain. We took it easy until time to collect the kids from ski school when our attendance with a wagon for the gear was greatly appreciated. Ate in tonight as everyone was too tired to go out.

Wednesday was an early start for me. I was going to base camp at White Mountain for a combo – snow tractor up 1000 feet ride the 5 zip lines down to base camp then snow mobile around the mountain. The trip to White Mountain commenced with a bus ride through Frisco and Copper Mountain up to about 9,000 feet above sea level. Our driver was a character who had lived most of his life in the mountains except for his service in Vietnam. There were 11 of us in the bus and on arriving we found there were many bus loads like us. To start with kitted up for the zip line and snow tractor. We were directed to a tired looking old Ford van fitted with tracks and a ladder provided access to the cabin. The crawl up the mountain was laborious but safe and at 10,000 feet we stopped at a tent designed like a Mongolian yurt overlooking the Arkansas River. Here we received our helmets and harness and we were instructed on how to ride the zip line. The views were quite spectacular. Here are my photos.

The first line – Top of the World  – gave us an easy introduction with great views which continued all the way down through 1000 feet. Then followed Train Wreck,  Leap to Faith (over the chasm ), Grandma’s house (because it’s through the woods), Honeymooners (because you can hold hands with your fellow zipper), and then base camp tower. In between each zip line was a pretty hairy walk down some slippery paths carrying your harness like a convicts ball and chain. Here are my photos of each launching pad and landing pad.

After shooting over base camp to the base tower, I climbed down the six storey structure and into the shed to be handed lunch –  a huge sandwich, piece of mud cake, crackers, a packet of chips and a cup of chicken and vegetable soup. Too much so I stored the chips and cake for later. We were then directed to collect our helmets for the snow mobile adventure. As I stood admiring the snow mobiles, a bloke came up to me and asked if I had ever used one – I answered proudly Norway and Quebec. He turned and walked away and I thought I had been too much a smart arse until he returned and said that he had put me in the advanced group that I had been placed with the beginners who were boarding their bus to go to boot camp. 

After receiving some initial instruction, we were given our snow mobile and were lead to a track where we were given further instruction then told to go and practice. It was great fun and ended up being a race amongst the confident riders. We were then chosen for our teams. My guide was Hammer; a weather worn individual who could have been 50 but was more likely 35. Hammer has been a guide for 23 years mostly in the snow, even worked in NZ and had visited Australia. My other team member (I never was told his name) had been there yesterday and enjoyed it so much he came again today and specifically asked for Hammer. So whilst other teams had 5 to 7  in a group, we were two. We watched as the other groups headed off. Hammer leaned in close (the two stroke engines on these things are noisy) and said “we will let them go as they are not going where I am taking you”. And he was not wrong. We headed off up into the mountains following the path that the snow tractor had taken but at much greater speed, climbing 1000 feet in minutes. Past the yurt and through into a new valley rising up above the tree line to 11,000 feet where we sat on a small plateau of fresh unmarked snow below a peak rising another 2,000 feet immediately behind us. The view – unimaginable! The air chill and thin. The snow – well I climbed off my machine and it covered my knees. Hammer explained what we we could see – the two highest peaks in Colorado and the valley below with the Arkansas running through it and not a tree any where in sight. My photos don’t do it justice.

Hammer then said he was satisfied we could handle the terrain and he would take us through the next valley into further fresh powder. So he took off with us following across the partly stoney ridge with its bumps and lumps (we soon learnt how to handle the machines standing to ease over the bumps) down the slope of fresh powder turning right to run along the slope then a sharp left to again run straight down the slope reaching speeds of 60mph into the forest and winding through the trees tight bends and bumps and hollows – we had discussed how to launch off larger bumps and here was our opportunity flying along and launching through the the air to a cushioned landing in fresh powder and blasting free on the other side. This went on until we came out of the trees again into a canyon of mountains forming a “U” around us. Stopping briefly to consider what we were seeing we turned on heel and shot back down a steeper slope rutted by previous tours into the next valley where no one had been since the last snow fall. We still had not seen any other tour group as they were contained to the usual trails. We played in the snow exploding through the drifts  – going down one hill I accidentally hit the kill button and my machine momentarily stalled and I slide uncontrollably down hill. I turned the machine on started it and accelerated blasting out of the consuming snow and joined Hammer and friend. 

We turned to return to the first valley and joined the other tour groups to stand triumphant and stare at the beauty of the mountains. 

We were heading home but not by the traditional trails taken by the others, Hammer took us along the back trails with the steepest slopes the tightest ridges the most sheer drops off the scant little track we were following until we came out to the ridge above our “race track”. Hammer then went bush and we followed through virgin snowy undergrowth popping out onto the home track where Hammer decided to rush through the powder on the side of the track. This was almost my undoing as the machine lifted on the left side raising it ski out of the snow threatening to tip over but I saved it and with a blast of the engine blasted free only to be facing the wrong way. Turning these things around can be difficult – anyway Hammer came back to check on me and guided me back to where my tour companion waited and we rode victoriously into the base camp. Hammer stated that we had both surprised him with our ability to handle the machines in the unknown territory and we were both beaming with joy and the rush of adrenaline.

Farewell to White Mountain. I returned with the same salty old driver who took us through Frisco and up Swan Mountain Road so that we could get a better view of lake Dillon. This is a very large lake which provides the water supply for the various villages and to my surprise it freezes over in winter although at the present it is only partly frozen in the shallow ends and edges of the lake.

Thursday time to go home – it is always difficult to go home not cause I don;t want to go home but the logistics of doing so. You depend on arrangements made months before hand to link together and provide a smooth trip home. You have to be a f…ing magician to get it right and by and large Kerry has done that but she cannot account for United Airlines in Denver not issuing our boarding passes and leaving me in a quandary as to what to do next. The ever “right” Kerry insisted we go to Qantas and everything would be right which we did and of course she was right. As we waited in line for the Qantas kiosks to open Kerry receive an email form Qantas advising the fight had been delayed by 1 and 1/2 hours meaning take off at midnight. The only rough bit of our journey so far so I cannot complain. See you all in Brisbane.

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Retired Australian Lawyer having worked representing the innocent and the not so innocent in Australia and some of the remote parts of the world and having travelled widely through Europe, Western Russia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands northern China, Hong Kong and the UAE So now that I have the time I am writing about my travels present and past. Hope you enjoy exploring off the beaten track.