Pretty spot on the ski hill roadOriginally published by DK on June 5, 2020 at 9:59 pm
“Sleep at the Fairmont Banff Springs” has been item #34 on my bucket list for quite a long time. As we looked to conclude the year of milestone birthday trips, Marisa and I decided we would make ours a combined ski trip (and invite Colleen and Sasha to tag along). SkiBig3 had some good sales after Thanksgiving, so we picked the week between our two birthdays and made reservations. Airfare between MSP and Calgary wasn’t too terrible on the Delta nonstops and I reserved my normal Emerald Aisle rental with National.
We planned to fly on Monday and Friday, with ski days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The drive from the airport to downtown Banff only takes about 90 minutes and we purchased the required park passes ahead of time, so we didn’t have to stop at the park entrance. Sasha and Marisa brought their own skis with, so we had one large ski bag, four large suitcases and a bunch of carry-ons. Thankfully, National had a Mazda SUV for us that really held up all week with the extreme winter conditions (heated steering wheels are awesome).
Speaking of conditions, the Canadian equivalent of the National Weather Service warned: “Temperatures will plummet to values not seen in years.” Air temp was -30C (-22F) during the early part of the week, closing two of the three ski areas completely on Tuesday. That was the day Marisa and I got to experience the Canadian health system with a morning visit to Banff Mineral Springs Hospital. She had flu symptoms the night before and they did a great job helping get her back in shape for skiing the last two days. Everything was pre-pay for service, so we are now working with our regular insurance to get reimbursed for the hospital and doctor fees (which weren’t outrageous).
What can I say about the hotel? The Fairmont Banff Springs is one of the most iconic hotels in the world, built as part of the Canadian Pacific Railway network in 1888. The “Castle in the Rockies” was just perfect – historic, great amenities and flawless customer service. It’s not cheap, but in the overall scheme of world-class hotels, very competitive. Tipping was included for most services, so that was different (and convenient, since I didn’t exchange for any Canadian currency this time). The valet was wonderful all week – we’d just call down to the concierge (“How is the Kingsbury Family doing today?”) and they would pull our warmed up car to the front entrance. The bellmen were great – somehow loading up everything at the end of the trip back into the SUV. Maid service also went the extra mile to line up shoes, organize things on the desk and generally pick up after our daily mess.
The hotel has at least three known ghost stories. Our favorite was the Ghost Bride, who was commemorated with a postage stamp and coin by the Canadian government in 2014. Sasha and I spent one night searching for the staircase, where the hotel has a picture hanging (along with the stamp and coin). The ghost of Sam the Bellman and the alleged murder-suicide in room 873 are tales that added an extra element of suspense every time the lights by the elevator would flicker when the doors opened. There was a cool museum-style area off of the lobby that was loaded with historical pictures and artifacts. The old pictures of the golf course and visits from Queen Elizabeth and Marilyn Monroe were highlights for me.
We ate at two of the twelve hotel restaurants: Castello Italiana and the Swiss-themed Waldhaus Pub & Biergarten. Both were high quality with great service. I think the Waldhaus might have been the original golf course clubhouse, as it was set down a hill from the main hotel along the river (and near the current 15th hole). Colleen and Sasha both enjoyed time in the Willow Stream Spa, which included the semi-spooky indoor pool. There were also outdoor pools that amazingly had people in them, despite the extremely frigid temperatures (how exactly did they get out there?). The hotel also had several very nice stores, a free ski storage room (with overnight boot heaters) and a uniquely Canadian five pin bowling alley (which is really difficult to master).
The actual town of Banff is a short ride or walk from the hotel, across the Bow River. It was a wonderful little mountain town, full of shops and restaurants and surrounded by the most amazing mountain vistas. On our arrival on Monday, we picked up my rental skis at the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub and had lunch at Tommy’s Neighbourhood Pub. Other stops over the course of the week included a great dinner at the Maple Leaf Grill (with the bison tenderloin recommended by my friend Chuck), poutine at the local McDonald’s, shopping at Roots and Hudson’s Bay and a visit to the largest rock store I’ve ever seen in my life. I also wanted to try out the famous Beaver Tails, but they didn’t really have any indoor seating and it was just too cold to stand around outside for any length of time.
As far as skiing goes, there are three different resorts near Banff: Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort. Norquay is the closest to town, but we elected to skip that one when we found out we could only ski two days. We decided to go to Sunshine Village on Wednesday, as several people told us that Sunshine sometimes gets temperature inversions that make it warmer there compared to town. The other unique thing about Sunshine is that the base area is just a parking lot in front of a building with a gondola. A long ride takes you up to the actual resort (with one stop in the middle for Goat’s Eye Mountain). We didn’t have great visibility that day and had difficulty finding easier, groomed runs to ease back into skiing shape. Groomed runs don’t seem to be as big a thing in the Canadian Rockies as they are at home, so we were initially a little uncomfortable (and I was extra cautious this trip anyways, for obvious reasons). We did find a few runs off the Strawberry Express chair, which is marketed as their beginner chair (sigh). We also skied the Wawa lift, but that was about it. I would love to try it again with warmer temps, clear skies and more confidence in my skiing ability.
On Thursday, we went to Lake Louise. By the second day, we were more comfortable with the bus shuttle system: all three resorts have nice coach-style busses that pick up right in front of the hotel. Schedules varied, but there were usually 5-6 departures and returns each day to each one. The Fairmont was the first stop in the mornings and the last to drop off on the return, with 2-3 stops at various spots in town. Lake Louise is the farthest resort from Banff, but it took less than an hour to get there on the Trans-Canada Highway. The town of Lake Louise is a few minutes away from the ski resort and is home to a couple of other cool hotels, including the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the Post Hotel. I thought about the hotel package that let you split your time between the castle and the chateau, but I’m glad we did what we did. It would’ve been cool (literally) to see the ice sculptures on the lake for their Ice Magic competition, but that just wasn’t in the cards this time.
We loved the skiing and atmosphere at Lake Louise. The bus dropped us off right in front of the Lodge of the Ten Peaks and one of the friendly information guides told us that the breakfast buffet at the Northface Bistro was the spot to go for pre-skiing food. After a great meal, we discovered there are only two choices from that spot: the Glacier Express chair and the Grizzly Express gondola. We started with the chair and took two great runs on nice intermediate cruisers that really tired us out. After another stop in the chalet (and a visit to the nice ski shop), we tried the gondola. It’s not the highest lift there, but I felt like I was on the top of the world when we exited (and honestly, a little frightened at how everything dropped off from that point). Lake Louise prides itself on having green, blue and black runs from every lift, but the cat track we took down from there was scary just for the fact that the runs that crossed it were very steep. But once we got down below the tree line, it turned into our favorite run of the trip.
One of the things that I still find magical about skiing in the big mountains are the moments of complete silence you sometimes find among the trees in the back country. Since our week was so cold, none of the locals really wanted to be out, so it was nice and uncrowded all over. I let the girls ski ahead of me on that long, green cruiser and at one point I just stopped and soaked in the silence. That trail crossed in front of another favorite thing of mine, the mid-mountain chalet with sun deck and greasy mountain cafeteria food. The Temple Lodge made me think of the great times I used to have with my Uncle Greg at the Outback Inn in Idaho. He would’ve loved this trip… ❤️
Only five days to go…Originally published by DK on January 9, 2020 at 9:02 pm
Uncle Greg would be proudOriginally published by DK on December 2, 2019 at 6:37 pm
Just a dustingOriginally published by DK on November 6, 2019 at 8:33 am
https://jamesniehues.com/Originally published by DK on July 2, 2019 at 9:42 pm
- My mom (and her dad and brother)
- 20/20 vision
- Prince, Petty and Bowie
- Running (and My People)
- Marathon-level fitness
- Mountain skiing
- Warm weather
- Disneyland (and World)
- Happy Hour (with no happy)
Keeping a positive outlook and all, but this is still truth…Originally published by DK on February 16, 2019 at 10:19 am
I’ve never been big on year-end lists or goal summaries here, but I’ve always done a fair amount of goal-setting privately. This past year has put a different spin on my perspective, so I thought it might be useful to share a few things as 2019 gets started. In hindsight, a lot of my previous health goals seem rather vain compared to plain old recovery. And how fortunate was I in the past to just want to run faster, bike farther or finish another marathon? Now, regaining my normal vision (without prism lenses) is goal #1, followed closely by getting cleared to resume driving and riding a bike. I’m very thankful that the outlook for all of these things is good – much of this might happen by the middle of March.
Since Dr. Tummala gave me the OK to resume treadmill running, I’ve felt good the past week, with three slowish runs totaling 7.1 miles. I also did one nine mile ride on a stationary bike and resumed doing light dumbbell repeats. Not really sure what workout goals to set for 2019 – the only race I’m registered for is the Get in Gear 10K in April and I’d really like to participate in the Bike to Work challenge again in May. Beyond that, I just want to stay consistent all year and not have any big gaps in my charts (which happened twice in 2018). It would be nice to return to regular weekly runs with WeRunMpls once the ice melts and I’d love to reschedule a ski trip for next season (Banff, Colorado or Schweitzer). Lots of golf outings to schedule with people too.
The doctors cleared a return to air travel already, but money and time will be limited. The original plan was to give each person in our family a trip for their respective milestone birthday in 2019, but all of those plans are on hold for the time being. Most likely options? A quick Las Vegas trip after the Final Four and maybe a work trip to the annual Cisco conference, which is in San Diego this year (June 9-13). And of course Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in both Florida and California this year, but that will likely fall in the Tokyo/Lanai/Switzerland dream trip category for the time being.
With the Vikings season over, my job shifts focus to the Final Four on April 6th and 8th. We have four large events before then (two trade shows and two dirt shows), but there is a lot to do before “the road ends” in Minneapolis. Then we get to break down that setup for Garth Brooks and his sold-out stadium tour before prepping for Summer X Games (version 3.0). Since X Games moves to early August, there won’t be a lot of time between that and football pre-season. With all that work to do, maybe I should start daydreaming again about building a tiny cabin on the North Shore to escape to with the family…
Wow, how lucky am I to be writing this post? Happy New Year to all of you – may 2019 be full of love, health and prosperity!Originally published by DK on January 1, 2019 at 6:04 pm
It’s been at every house I’ve lived inOriginally published by DK on December 27, 2018 at 7:18 am
I love this picture so much ❤️Originally published by DK on August 11, 2018 at 8:56 pm
The last one only made it 11 yearsOriginally published by DK on February 17, 2018 at 5:23 pm
As seen on this week’s We Run Mpls route through NEOriginally published by DK on April 27, 2017 at 8:29 pm
Flashbacks @ GoodwillOriginally published by DK on December 22, 2016 at 11:19 am
The Event Center @ Giants RidgeOriginally published by DK on August 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm
The Event Center/Chalet @ Giants RidgeOriginally published by DK on August 5, 2015 at 6:42 pm
I sign up for online contests all the time (which is probably why I get so much junk mail), but it seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve won anything. Last month, though, I got a call from City Pages and the nice marketing person said I won a ski trip to Michigan. I picked up the certificate from their offices near Ford Center and called Indianhead Mountain Resort reservations. The prize was good for two free nights in the main lodge, with two sets of “BIG” lift tickets (good at both Indianhead and Blackjack Ski Resort). Kid one had a speech tournament, so kid two and I left on Friday and headed to the U.P.
We took our time on Friday, stopping at Tobies in Hinckley before driving to Duluth and across to Superior. I wanted to check out Legendary Waters Resort and Casino, so we drove to Ashland and took the left turn up to Bayfield. I’ve been through Ashland before, but the whole Bayfield area was new to me. I’ve always read about concerts at Big Top Chautauqua, but have never made it to one. Bayfield was like a southern Grand Marais, with a marina and lots of touristy shops and restaurants. Washburn was also a nice small town with some very pretty architecture.
Legendary Waters is a new(ish) casino right on the big lake, but was much smaller than I expected. We had lunch in their restaurant and overall I thought it was a very nice property. Our server said they had been open three years and I later found out that Shakopee financed most of it. I signed up for their players club, got extra free play for my birthday (and for providing my email address) and won around $35 without risking any of my own money. I also stopped briefly at Bad River Casino on the way to Hurley and Ironwood, signed up for their club and basically won the same amount there. That floor was a little larger and had a nice selection of new games.
We drove through Ironwood and on to the ski resort area around Bessemer and Wakefield. There are several ski resorts in this area, but this was my first time to any of them (I’d been to Hurley and Ironwood twice in the past for consulting gigs). We found the Indianhead access road and pulled in to a dark parking lot in front of the main lodge (which brought to mind images of The Shining). We entered the lobby, which was aglow in candle light, and was told Xcel Power was in the middle of a regional power outage. They were still able to check us in, though, since everything had already been printed out (they had old-school room keys instead of key cards).
With no power for lights in the room or the restaurant, we drove back to Ironwood for dinner and ate at the Golden Dragon. I’d been to most of the restaurants in Ironwood and remembered liking all of them, but our experience this time was awful. The service at Golden Dragon was fine, but the food was terrible. I can tolerate most things, but this was honestly the worst Chinese food I’ve ever had.
We returned back to the lodge after dinner and found they still had no power. We waited in our running car for a few hours, but MK needed a bathroom and didn’t want to use one in the dark. I drove her back to the Ironwood Walmart, thinking we could waste some time walking around. We walked in the first set of doors and, I kid you not, the power went out! Their generators kicked on long enough for MK to use the facilities before they announced the store was closing and everybody needed to get out. We returned to the lodge and the lights finally came on a few hours later.
We got all our gear to the room and finally got to sleep around midnight. The rooms at the main lodge were what I would call “ski area rustic,” with lots of 70s-era wood paneling, pink bathtub and toilet, a small tube TV and no open electrical outlets anywhere but the bathroom. I also thought it was funny that the light switches were also connected to the primary outlets, so *everything* went off when you flipped the switch. We could hear other people through the thin walls, but thankfully it wasn’t bad most of the time. Slept fine in the beds and there was hot water in the shower too.
The main lodge is located away from the upper chalet, so you either have a very long walk, take a shuttle or drive your car over to the ski area parking lot (which is what we did). The weather the first day was so-so: cloudy, with a little wind, some light snow and a bit colder than we would’ve liked. We rented some nice gear for MK from the ski shop (two day junior fee for everything: $59). Lift tickets would’ve cost us $206, so that was a nice prize to win (the lodging was worth another $400 or so). We ate lunch at the lower chalet (very basic ski area food) and later stopped for some hot chocolate at the upper chalet.
That night we decided to drive back into Ironwood to try a different restaurant, Maple Steakhouse. We struck out again and had the manager give us a discount off the bill. This time it was both service and food quality – our server just plain disappeared after bringing us our main course and the meat they served me in my sandwich was awful (surprising for a steakhouse).
On Sunday we decided to check out of our room and drive over to the other ski area, Blackjack. It’s only a few miles away and just recently merged with Indianhead – they even run a shuttle bus between the two resorts. The weather was nicer, but I freaked out at first, as I couldn’t get my boots on in the parking lot. I sent MK off to take a run on her own while I went inside to try in a warmer setting (which worked). We took a few runs together in front of the chalet, then decided to try a run farther over called Spillway.
That was a mistake.
Spillway was a steep run that hadn’t been groomed and was very icy. I had gone first to check it out, but MK quickly picked up speed and passed me. The run got steeper towards the bottom, then leveled out and curved to the left to get back to the lift. There were also several open patches of water on that runout area and unfortunately MK ended up crashing into one of them, where she sat in about a foot of icy water. I caught up to her as fast as I could, popped off my skis, jumped in and got her out of the water. The lift attendant came running over and he radioed for the ski patrol.
While waiting for the ski patrol snowmobile, we walked MK over to the lift shack to warm up. The sled arrived and they drove her over to the patrol office in the chalet. I took the lift up and found my way back over there too. The woman in the office had her under blankets and warmers and there was an awesome patrol dog watching over her too. I went to the car to get dry clothes and also ordered her some hot food from the cafeteria.
I liked the Blackjack chalet more than the other ones and we hung out there for a while until she felt recovered. Thankfully nothing was broken – just the thin ice on top of the pond she fell in. The ski shop in the building was selling ski patrol shirts as a fundraiser, so we bought one (and gave an additional donation in the jar). Thanks to everyone at Blackjack who helped us out that day – you rocked. They even took care of returning her rental gear for us so we didn’t have to drive that stuff back to Indianhead.
We basically drove straight back to Duluth from Blackjack and met my sister Lynn for dinner at Grandma’s in Canal Park. Much, much better food and service there. We also stopped at the Electric Fetus on Superior Street, which is always a fun store to shop.
Not exactly the trip I thought we’d have, but still a fun adventure. Plus, MK says she is willing to try skiing again this year.
Watch out Afton!
XC ski trails between hole four and five @ The WildernessOriginally published by DK on January 28, 2015 at 4:32 pm
http://www.arrowheadultra.com/index.php/results/2015-resultsOriginally published by DK on January 26, 2015 at 12:09 pm
MK with her new shirtOriginally published by DK on January 25, 2015 at 2:13 pm
Nice place (aside from the water bar)Originally published by DK on January 25, 2015 at 2:12 pm
MK and the water barOriginally published by DK on January 25, 2015 at 1:44 pm
That water bar just came out of nowhere…Originally published by DK on January 25, 2015 at 1:38 pm
MK at the topOriginally published by DK on January 25, 2015 at 1:35 pm
MK @ LunchOriginally published by DK on January 24, 2015 at 12:55 pm
Long skis for old guysOriginally published by DK on January 24, 2015 at 11:09 am
The kid’s got it downOriginally published by DK on January 24, 2015 at 10:41 am
Although now it also means the runs I can ski without smashing up my faceOriginally published by DK on January 24, 2015 at 9:34 am
My crash four years ago @ LutsenOriginally published by DK on January 23, 2015 at 11:25 pm
First time with a tag in years @ Indianhead MountainOriginally published by DK on January 23, 2015 at 11:15 pm
Indianhead Mountain, MichiganOriginally published by DK on January 23, 2015 at 6:13 pm
My ski boots before MichiganOriginally published by DK on January 23, 2015 at 8:04 am
Indianhead Mountain Resort prize package from Warren Miller and City PagesOriginally published by DK on December 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm
MK @ Valley Bike and SkiOriginally published by DK on October 10, 2014 at 11:05 pm
Arapahoe Basin, Colorado from 30,000+ feetOriginally published by DK on May 14, 2014 at 9:38 pm
Originally published by DK on March 22, 2014 at 2:28 pm
Idaho potato sag with a Schweitzer dudeOriginally published by DK on March 9, 2014 at 12:53 pm
Your Outdoor Experts, St. Paul, Minnesota
The History of Skiing, by David Kingsbury – 7th Grade English, Ramsey Junior High School, St. Paul, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on June 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm
The fourth hole tee box, The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, Tower, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on March 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm
Nordic skiing along the first hole, The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, Tower, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on March 5, 2013 at 4:45 pm
The support crew has arrived, Arrowhead 135 Ultra, Fortune Bay, Tower, Minnesota
Originally published by DK on January 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm
http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/?pagewanted=all#/?part=tunnel-creekOriginally published by DK on December 22, 2012 at 12:55 am
My old Rossi alpine skisOriginally published by DK on November 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm
http://www.schweitzer.com/Originally published by DK on October 24, 2012 at 8:38 am
Originally published by DK on September 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm
Continuing on with the ten favorites theme I started a few days ago, here is my initial pass at outstate Minnesota. There is a heavy focus on the northern part of the state, as I’ve spent the most time there. Other areas are very nice too, but maybe that can be a third post down the road.
Part of the Judge C.R. Magney State Park, the trail to the Devil’s Kettle is pure North Shore beautiful. It’s not too long or too tough, so almost everyone can do it, and I just love that we haven’t figured out the mystery of where all that water goes.
Grand Marais is such a beautiful town. I’ve been lucky enough to visit almost every year of my life, so I’ve had plenty of time to see the dining options come and go. These two establishments are firmly planted within shouting distance of each other and continue to be must visits on every single trip I take.
Lutsen has always been Minnesota’s only “real” ski area and I love visiting any time of the year. The golf course added another dimension and the original Lutsen Resort on the lake holds special memories of my friend Megan’s beautiful wedding on the beach.
Gooseberry Falls State Park represents everything that is good about the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Gorgeous setting, nice visitor center, easy access off highway 61, miles of great trails and photogenic waterfalls. And it’s all free.
Just down the road, Split Rock isn’t free, but what a wonderful historic site. Another great visitor center, friendly, informative guides, super cool lighthouse structure and a beautiful hiking trail down to the lake and the iconic photo opportunity that awaits.
This is a relatively new thing for me, but I’ve been to the last two Blueberry Festivals in Ely and will plan to keep coming back. My parents have been going for years and it’s just down the road from work, so I think it’s officially tradition now.
Speaking of work, it’s a no brainer to include The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, Golfweek’s #1 public course in Minnesota.
Best. Benefit. Ever.
After the round, the food at the resort is good, but nothing compares to the VC. You know your foursome needs a Bamboozler…
This race lacks the total spectator count of Twin Cities, but it’s so very special in a different way. Taking the train to the start, the beauty of Lake Superior, the crowds when you enter the city, the party at the end – Grandma produces a world-class event. A true showcase for the city of Duluth.
Not quite halfway between the Twin Cities and Duluth, the pit stop in Hinckley almost always means a visit to Tobies. And Tobies means caramel rolls – soft, sweet, sticky caramel rolls. Yum.
While I’ve photographed all of these courses, I’ve actually only played two of them (The Classic and The Preserve). Throw in Golden Eagle and you have a solid week of great Minnesota resort golf. One of these years I’ll organize a buddy trip to do just that.
10. Greg’s Meats
Last, but not least, Greg’s Meats is located just north of Cannon Falls on highway 52. While they have lots of great things for sale, all I have to say is: beef jerky time!
What else do you like outstate?Originally published by DK on May 2, 2012 at 12:46 am
When my daughter’s favorite group, Atmosphere, announced they were performing in the first ever winter show at my favorite venue, Red Rocks, we had to figure out a way to make that happen. After some mad Google Mapping and creative budgeting, the road trip was on.
We packed up the MINI and hit the road last Thursday afternoon. After a quick stop at the Axel’s Bonfire in Eagan to eat some free birthday Bull Bites, we drove to Lincoln, Nebraska (420 miles). Holiday Inn Express was our hotel of choice this trip, thanks to their decent breakfast food and relatively low prices.
On Friday, we drove from Lincoln to Littleton, Colorado (500 miles) and checked in earlier than planned at the hotel. I totally forgot about the time change, so we had an extra hour before the concert started. We hit the local King Soopers grocery store to check on discounted lift tickets (not a great deal – skipped it) and had dinner at a surprise Chick-Fil-A (totally forgot they are in Colorado). I don’t care what anybody says – that food is damn tasty!
The concert was scheduled to start at 7:30, but I wanted to hike around Red Rocks before the sun went down. We had about 45 minutes of daylight, which turned out to be just about perfect. Since we were so early, we also got an awesome parking spot in the VIP area immediately below the main exit. We hung out in the car until gates opened at 6:30 and made a beeline to the merch table, which unfortunately was at the very top of the amphitheater. Many stairs later, the kid got what she wanted and we hiked back down to row ten to watch the show (it was general admission, so we took what we could get).
The bill consisted of Get Cryphy, Grieves and Budo, Common and headliner Atmosphere. Get Cryphy was playing as soon as the gates opened, which was nice. The set by Grieves and Budo was brief, but entertaining. Technical difficulties delayed the start of the Common set by about 30 minutes – I felt bad for his band (two keyboardists, a drummer and an MC), who just sat there in the cold the whole time.
I’ve listened to most of the Atmosphere albums, but there are still a lot of songs I just don’t know. This was not a problem for the kid, though, who sang along to everything. I do know that God Loves Ugly was the opening song and Brother Ali finally came out for the very last song (which wasn’t really an encore, as all the performers went off stage for only a minute or two at the end). The crowd was a little rowdy, but the close quarters and movement helped keep it warmer. A few snowflakes added character, along with lots of “special” smoke in the air, too…
The show ended around 11:45 and we were able to beat the worst of the traffic, thanks to our great parking spot. We made it back to the hotel around 12:30 and were back on the road by 8:30. I decided to skip Beaver Creek this time, opting to take the Loveland Pass over to Arapahoe Basin. I-70 looked good on the traffic cams at 7AM, but all three lanes were bumper-to-bumper about five miles up the grade. We finally made it to the Loveland Pass exit and I white-knuckled it up and over the treacherous two-lane road with no guard rails. Even driving my own car with snow tires, I wasn’t comfortable at all and will probably skip that option in the future.
A-Basin was just perfect. I had been there once before in high school and not much had changed. I take that back – they had a great new high-speed detachable lift right in front of the base chalet and a nice mid-mountain restaurant called the Black Mountain Lodge, where we had lunch. Rentals were quick and easy for the kid and I loved the pricing, which was cheaper than what we paid in Minnesota. Since they consider teens to be kids and not adults, her lift ticket and rental was only $59. Add in my $74 adult ticket and you had quite the Colorado bargain.
We took most of our runs off of that high-speed quad, with the “green” run Sundance being her favorite. Parts of that run are steeper than most “blacks” in Minnesota, so I didn’t mind skiing it like a mid-length cruiser. I was also quite fond of High Noon and took a few runs from the top of the mountain too. I would’ve done more up there, but the wind really picked up as the day went on. We managed around ten runs total before stopping around 3PM.
The rest of the trip was basically a big highway blur: Arapahoe to North Platte, Nebraska (320 miles), overnight one last time at the Holiday Inn Express, followed by 640 miles back to Minnesota on Sunday. We stopped for a steak lunch in Omaha at the lovely Upstream Brewing Company in the Old Market part of town and had some boring Wendy’s in Clear Lake, Iowa, for dinner.
Great trip, but oh so short. First vacation in three years, though, so I’ll take whatever I can get.
Now to figure out how to finally become a ski bum… 🙂
Ski rental office, Arapahoe Basin, ColoradoOriginally published by DK on January 30, 2012 at 11:03 am
Mid-mountain, Arapahoe Basin, ColoradoOriginally published by DK on January 29, 2012 at 9:06 am
Sign in the A-frame Lodge, Arapahoe Basin, ColoradoOriginally published by DK on January 28, 2012 at 11:26 pm
http://www.schweitzer.com/lessons-equipment/lssm/Originally published by DK on January 2, 2012 at 10:18 am
This week we stopped at one of the few spots in Minnesota that has snow right now – Giants Ridge in Biwabik. Of course most of that snow was artificially made, but you really couldn’t tell. The quality was great – not icy and very few bare patches. It helped that there was a dusting of real snow overnight, but overall I was very happy with my first day out this season.
After the big crash last year at Lutsen, I now judge the success of a ski trip by whether or not my face gets smashed on something. The new helmut makes me a little more confident, but I’m still not as agressive as I used to be. I’m slowly coming around to the fact that I should probably dump the ancient straight skis and get something more modern (and safe), but cost is a huge factor right now.
Speaking of cost, I experienced a bit of sticker shock at the front desk. I was hoping Giants Ridge would have a reasonable beginners package available, as one of the kids had never skied and another needed a refresher after not skiing for a few years. All I wanted was a bunny hill lift ticket, rentals and a short group lesson for a reasonable price (say $50?), but they didn’t offer anything like that. I bought four lift tickets, three rental sets and taught my own group lesson and it was $250. Add in several visits to the cafeteria and it was a very expensive five hours.
A few other downers: spoiled kids, rotten parents, cursing teenagers, greasy chalet food, lack of sunshine, cold winds and frozen extremities.
But I still love the actual sport of skiing – there is really nothing else like it. Freedom to move at your own pace, a connection to the outdoors, the feeling of “beating” winter, spending time with my kids and an adrenaline rush you don’t get from running or golf.
You will never confuse Giants Ridge with Colorado, but compared to other ski areas in Minnesota, it’s fun. I still prefer Lutsen, but Giants Ridge is only a half hour from work. Both of them could use some high-speed, detachable chairlifts, though – the old style chairs take soooo long…
Schweiter.com screenshot, Sandpoint, IdahoOriginally published by DK on December 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm
When I saw Atmosphere’s tweet tonight about the first ever winter show at Red Rocks in Colorado, I was hoping I could figure out a way for kid one and I to go. Google Maps says it’s a 14 hour drive from home and I have relatives that live in Denver now, so that part should hopefully work. Just needed to confirm it was an all-ages show (yes) and if seats were reserved (nope – general admission). When I saw there was a cheaper pre-sale price before the general public on sale tomorrow, I pulled the trigger.
This trip will be a birthday present for both of us. I haven’t had a vacation in almost three years, so I couldn’t be more excited. We’ll also get some bonding time during the MINI road trip through Iowa and Nebraska, along with a day of skiing at an area to be determined (Beaver Creek?).
Kick. Ass.Originally published by DK on December 9, 2011 at 9:49 pm
http://www.schweitzer.com/Originally published by DK on November 20, 2011 at 9:46 pm
http://descente.com/Originally published by DK on October 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm
Picked up some new gear at the wonderful Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul last weekend. Took my pocketful of Christmas cash and bought a set of Fischer nordic skis and bindings, Alpina boots and a pair of Yukon Charlie’s snowshoes.
I’ve never really done either of these sports, so these are just entry-level products (but well made). I went out and used both yesterday for the first time and did OK. I need to learn more about cross-country form, but 32 years of downhill skiing made it pretty easy to get around without falling down.
Snowshoeing on frozen Lake Vermilion at night was a total trip. The stars were beautiful, it was absolutely quiet and temps were very reasonable. So peaceful and calming – at least until I started to sink into some slush. I was using the cross-country poles and one of them poked through to water. I asked a co-worker about that and he said not to worry – apparently the heavy snow can force water up through cracks to create a slush/water layer. He assured me there is ice beneath that, so I’ll go out again tonight.
Saw one shooting star last night, but still waiting to see the northern lights again.
The picture above was taken with my new favorite iOS photo app – Camera+. It really is a massive improvement on the build-in camera app and the low cost makes it a no-brainer purchase.Originally published by DK on January 11, 2011 at 6:34 pm
It was hot and humid today in Minnesota, but ski season will be here before you know it. I found these old clippings in the basement that I used to have up on the walls of my room on Lombard Avenue.
I made it out about five times last season, but I bet that number will increase this year…Originally published by DK on July 7, 2010 at 12:01 am
My third day of ski-bum week was spent at Wild Mountain outside of Taylor’s Falls. I read on their web site you could get a free pass on your birthday and figured that was too good a deal to pass up. The weather wasn’t the greatest (misty fog that never burned off), but the temps were OK and the snow quality was good.
I figured my last visit to Wild was likely 20+ years ago and the ski area is basically the same – four chairlifts and a nice variety of runs, including Ego Alley, North and South Wild, Bear, Competition and the infamous Wall. The inside of the chalet was like a time warp back to high school ski trips, although now I can go in the Eagle’s Nest. They cooked me a mean French Dip sandwich with fries for lunch and had free wi-fi, which was very useful in an area of poor cell coverage.
There is now a tubing park just south of the main skiing area and they still have the alpine slide tracks. I think the water slides and small water park near the chalet are new since I was there last. I sort of forgot they are seven miles north of Taylor’s Falls along the river, so it takes about 90 minutes to get there from the south metro.Originally published by DK on January 21, 2010 at 11:53 pm
Day two of my mini ski bum week was spent last Sunday at Welch Village with three of the Miller clan. That was also the day of the big Vikings-Cowboys game, so it wasn’t as crowded as a normal holiday weekend.
Welch is still one of my local favorites – there are a number of relatively steep, medium-length runs (at least by Midwest standards) that are fun to ski over and over. Chicken, Bakkelyka, Dan’s Dive and Pete’s Pike are now joined by the new back bowl runs Carter’s Cliff, Lauren’s Ledge and several others. That new chair is really nice – too bad all the runs are so short (with a long traverse back).
We got in a lot of skiing before lunch, which consisted of the usual fried junk. Kowalski’s is selling advance lift ticket vouchers for $40, which I picked up before I left in the morning. Regular adult tickets are $47, but they can be turned in for a $10 gift card if you ski for less than four hours. Unfortunately, the Kowalski tickets don’t qualify, so I skied until 2:30 before heading home.Originally published by DK on January 20, 2010 at 6:15 pm
Last night I decided to spy on kid one’s first school ski trip of the year at Afton Alps. The weather has finally been decent and I was really glad to be out again doing something during the winter blahs.
The kid wasn’t too excited to see me, so I mainly skied by myself. Her school was based mainly in the Meadows area, so I hit the Highlands (Sally’s Valley and Heather’s Highlands) and the Alps (Barbi’s Challenge and Trudy’s Schuss). Those runs are all nice, but oh so short. I counted turns on one run and struggled to get in 15 before reaching the bottom.
Stopped in at all three chalets: looked for the kid in the Meadows chalet, ate a typical ski area dinner in the Alps chalet and sat by the fire with some hot chocolate in the Highlands chalet. Also got to watch part of the crappy Wild game before heading home around 9:15.
Night skiing starts at 4:30 and costs $27 for adults. Lifts close at 9:30 (Sunday-Thursday), but some of them shut down before that, so make sure you get where you need to be to avoid lots of skating.Originally published by DK on January 15, 2010 at 10:51 am
It was too cold to golf, so I decided to take up Afton Alps on their $5 lift ticket offer today (bring three items for the food shelf and get a lift ticket for $5). Tomorrow is the last day of the offer (and of the season), so if you want one last bit of metro-area skiing, this is it.
They were running four lifts (#2 through #5) and had 12 runs open in the Alps area (although it looked like the Meadows and Highlands areas still had a fair amount of snow). I spent most of the time on chair three, alternating runs on Barbi’s Challenge and Trudy’s Schuss.
The snow was really nice – it got a little slushy at the end, but there were no bare spots and it was actually a little icy in the shade.
The Alps chalet has been upgraded since the last time I was here and it was nice to see reasonably priced ski area food. It’s still mostly greasy junk food, but at least it’s cheap.
Last weekend I decided to return to Welch Village before all the snow was gone to use my gift card, visit with some friends and check out the new back bowl.
The weather was perfect for spring skiing, with plenty of sun and great temps. The snow got a little slushy at the end of the day, but runs like Chicken and Bakkelyka stayed nice all day, as they don’t get a lot of direct sun.
The back bowl was a bit of a disappointment. The new chair is a very nice quad, but the new runs are just too short. While the trail map lists nine open black diamond runs, there are really only four that come off of the new chair. When you get to the top, the three runs to your left, 4-Score, Lauren’s Ledge and Adam’s Abyss, all start with a flat traverse, a fairly steep, short section, then a flat traverse back to the chair. The one run to the right, Great Scott, is more of an open cruiser that funnels into a steep chute at the end that drops right to the chair.
Future plans call for two more runs, a second chair and a new chalet at the top of that chair. The back bowl is accessed from the triple chair located in front of the east chalet. The Allie’s Alley run gets you back to the east slopes from the top of the new quad.
Welch will be closing for the season tomorrow at 6PM.Originally published by DK on March 21, 2009 at 7:19 pm
We finally made it out for our first ski day of the year with a visit to Welch Village this morning. We started at 9AM with sunny skies and decent temps that kept rising all morning. Tickets were $45 for adults and $40 for kids, but you could get a $10 per ticket gift certificate if you turned in your tickets within four hours of purchase (which we did).
Crowds got bigger as the morning went on, but lines never got very long. We mostly skied on the east end of the area, hitting runs like Dan’s Dive, Dud’s Dream and Pete’s Pike. I also took one run on Chicken (for old time’s sake) and was surprised to find the steep, shaded run with very little ice.
We took a morning break at Madd Jaxx for hot chocolate and cheese curds before heading back to the west side and the main chalet around noon. It was more crowded on that side of the area, but still reasonable for this time of year.
The near-mythical “back bowl” was still not open, but I heard patrol talking about how there is a lot of snow back there and that the new chairlift is being stress-tested for a possible 12/31 opening (season-ticket holder access only for the first month).
Welch Village holds a lot of special memories for me from my high school racing days and is still my favorite near-metro area. Skiing in Minnesota will back later this season to report on the new runs and bring you more photos in our photo gallery.Originally published by DK on December 28, 2008 at 7:49 pm
I’ve personally used Descente ski jackets and pants since I started racing in high school 20+ years ago. Their clothing has always been top-notch and can usually be purchased far below the suggested retail price if you know when and where to go.
In the past, this meant places like White Wolf (RIP), Hoigaard’s and Joe’s. These days, I really like Valley Bike and Ski in Apple Valley – friendly staff, good sale prices and usually a great selection of Descente.
Two years ago, I purchased the coat pictured above and was exposed to Descente’s unique Passport Program – the jacket came with a book of passes to various ski areas across the country. We used three of them, which basically paid for the coat. Spirit Mountain was the only Minnesota area that year, I believe.
Full Disclosure: Descente sent me an email about a special online sale they are having for their DNA line and I noticed they had a promotion for webmasters that will award a free jacket to selected sites that link to them. Free jacket or no, I’m happy to write about their great products and refer people to Minnesota ski shops that carry Descente.Originally published by DK on November 25, 2008 at 9:16 pm
According to an email from them, Lutsen Mountains is opening Saturday, November 22, 2008 with five runs on Ullr Mountain. They are making snow and hope to have 20+ runs open by Thanksgiving weekend.
Made it back yesterday. Overall, we had a very nice, relaxing and unique trip. Also realized this trip completes #25 of my things to do list: Ride a train across the Rockies.
Picking up from the last post, kid two participated in an all-day beginning Mountain Riders class on Friday, while kid one and I skied together all day. I got to ride the two new lifts I hadn’t been on (the triple and the T-bar) and both the snow and the weather were great.
My uncle came back from Spokane on Friday evening and we went to dinner with him at the St. Bernard’s Pub. This on-mountain restaurant has been there since the 60s and the inside decor has not changed much since then (it was awesome). I had a really good hot turkey sandwich that was a little different: thick bread, garlic spread, turkey, cheese and gravy with thin cut Idaho french fries on the side.
We all hung out at the condo until it was time to drive down the mountain to the train station. It was snowing pretty hard again (they were expecting another nine inches of new snow overnight) and the road to Sandpoint was treacherous. The train was only a few minutes late arriving and we made it with plenty of time to spare.
The ride back was less stressful, as we knew what to expect. It snowed all the way to the Minnesota/North Dakota border, so the views weren’t quite as good as the westbound journey. The train was packed and we were told they were sold-out for the next five days. There were switching problems in Montana, so we arrived in St. Paul about two and a half hours late.
More pictures have been uploaded to the photo gallery (Travel/Empire Builder and Private/Spring Break 08). Please contact me if you need the password for the private section.Originally published by DK on March 31, 2008 at 10:26 am
I’ve been coming to Schweitzer Basin since I was nine. The resort has changed a ton since then. In fact, it’s changed since I was here two years ago. Venerable chair one has been replaced with two new lifts: a high-speed detachable quad that goes to Midway and a fixed triple over Face to the top. It remains a great, relatively undiscovered ski area with lots of great terrain and few crowds.
After arriving a little after midnight on Monday at the Sandpoint train station, my uncle Greg from Spokane picked us up and drove us to his condo on the mountain. On Tuesday morning, he skied with kid one, while I took kid two on the bunny hill. About 400 feet down, kid two fell and strained her knee. She totally wanted to quit, but I got her to ski between my legs to the bottom of the hill. We did four more runs that way before meeting the others for lunch.
After lunch, those two took off and we tried Happy Trails again. Another fall and things got worse. Kid two limped back to the car, dropped off the skis and hobbled to the ski patrol office. Ice, Advil and no more skiing for the day was the diagnosis. We sat in the lodge while the others skied.
On Wednesday, the wonderful staff at the Kinder Kamp agreed to take kid two for the day, even though she was now too old to go there. So Greg, kid one and I got to ski together all day. It pretty much snowed all day (about 4 inches), which gave me my first ever ice beard. We had lunch at the Outback Inn, which uncharacteristically had seating available inside. The Idaho potatoes they serve there are to die for.
The snow yesterday was awesome. The temperature stayed around freezing, but the snow felt wet when it hit you. Once on the ground, though, it stayed pretty light. 3-4 inches of soft snow on top of groomed corduroy is skiing nirvana for this old guy. Sundance and JR (kid one’s first true black diamonds), along with G-3 and Revenge on the Colburn side were my favorite runs of the day.
Today, kid one joined the Mountain Riders–instructor-led groups for kids too old for Kinder Kamp. Dave the instructor led the three Riders all over the mountain, including the new T-bar (which I still haven’t been on). The new snow was knee-deep today (12 inches overnight) and the sun made a brief appearance around lunchtime. Medium-strength wind all day, though.
Kid two and I hung out in the village all day. In the morning, we did some shopping, purchased internet access for the day, uploaded a bunch of photos and had lunch at the Chimney Rock restaurant (taking a break from the cafeteria food). In the afternoon, the kid watched a movie on the laptop while I read a bit of the Ed Viesturs book my friend Jake lent me.
Now we are about to head back to the condo, make dinner, then start getting ready for the return train ride late Friday night (we actually leave at around 2:30am Saturday morning). Depending on the weather (and the knee), we should have one more day of skiing tomorrow too.Originally published by DK on March 27, 2008 at 6:16 pm
This year I decided to take the kids on a new adventure for spring break–riding the Amtrak Empire Builder train to Sandpoint, Idaho.
The last time I rode Amtrak was when they still had a train between the Twin Cities and Duluth. This one was very different–top speed of 79mph and a coach capacity of 266 people (which I think we actually had).
The Empire Builder runs between Chicago and Seattle, leaving St. Paul around 11:30pm and arriving in Sandpoint 22 stops and about 26 hours later.
Yeah, that was a really long time, but overall it was enjoyable. In fact, it would probably be my favorite way to travel if we had booked a sleeper room with an electrical outlet instead of coach. Our seats actually did have an outlet, but in a cruel twist of fate, it was partially blocked by the immovable seats in front of us.
The uncertainty of doing something for the first time led to a lot of stress. I wasn’t sure about the luggage (no checked baggage to Sandpoint and a weird ski bag rule), didn’t know much about the on-board food options and was afraid I’d miss getting off the train in the middle of the night.
The baggage went fine, food options were varied (although I’d bring more of our own stuff next time) and the conductor took care of getting us off the train at the right time. We were about 45 minutes late, but in general, I thought it was a good operation.
North Dakota and eastern Montana were just as you’d expect. In fact, I think this is where all old American cars and trucks go to die. The scenery improved immensely at Glacier, but that was also when the sun went down.
Up next: skiing adventures at Schweitzer Mountain Resort