Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Own Mile High Club

As we made our final decent towards the massive Denver International Airport the view was absolutely astonishing. Snow covered mountain peaks sparsely decorated with vegetation smoothly flowed into seemingly empty abandoned valleys. We were at the start of the Rockies.

It's been a long time since I have had the privilege to visit Denver. I remember when I was younger my mother and father took me to Denver during one of my fathers many business trips. I do not remember much from that experience except for an odd random Abraham Lincoln ice sculpture in some ritzy mountain resort.

Matilda and I met up with her younger brother who picked us up from the airport and promptly drove us to the nearest watering hole (a biker bar none the less) to quench my alcohol craving and satisfy Matilda's blood sugar level. Bikers --check--, a thick haze of cigarette smoke --check--, dirty bathrooms --check--, and cheap beer made the Piper Inn the perfect dive.

After the long flight and the subsequent feasting on wings and drinking cheap beer we elected to stay in and relax that night.

Later the next day Matillda's brother took me up and into the Rockies to a ski resort called Keystone. As it turned out, we got a fantastic deal to snowboard all day for only $32 in observance of Keystone's customer appreciation day.

We pulled into the gravelly parking and as I glanced towards the crest of the mountain I could already feel my helpless lungs trying to acclimatize themselves to the lack of oxygen.

Tickets paid for with snow boards in hand, we stumbled into an enclosed gondola and made our way up to the summit of the mountain. I was in absolute awe of the scenery the entire ride up the mountain. I thought to myself how inferior the bunny hill ski slopes I had previously experienced in the Mid-Atlantic area were in relation to this goliath of a mountain.

The conditions on the top half of the mountain were beyond our expectations. Fresh powder took most of the laboring work out of boarding. However, half way down the mountain the conditions became something less than accommodating. The previous day had been about 72 degree's and sunny which made the bottom portion of the mountain feel like I should exchange my snowboard for a pair of ice skates.

After two quick runs down the mountain I felt as if my legs had been crafted out of jello. The ice was doing its damage and I was unsure how many more runs I could make in these conditions.

Several times with mild embarrassment I had to stop to catch my breath and massage my calves. The good thing was the mountain was so enormous and contained so many different trails that we would go several minutes without seeing anyone else.

It was during one gondola ride that we met some Australians who had come half way around the world to ski the great Rockies. They told us that these were the best mountains in the world for skiing and that they made the trip annually.

All in all we made about ten runs down the mountain before we surrendered our aching bodies to the two hour ride back into Denver. Along the way we stopped at bbq joint and choked down some pit beef subs like two emaciated savages. The vacation was off to a good start.

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