Well the last month has been absolutely insane!! The snow has been coming down for as long as I can remember and shows no sign of slowing down. Granted there has been a couple days without any accumulation but the snow was replaced with blue bird skies, which is the next best thing. In late January and early February we had multiple storms where accumulation was measured in feet instead of inches. The conditions are the best I have ever experienced. Even talking with locals you can tell this has been the best season in years! You can feel the buzz just standing in the lift lines and around town. Everyone eagerly waiting to lay down some fresh tracks on their favorite line. There is not a happier bunch of people than skiers and boarders on a pow day.
And this hasn't been just one powder day, it was pow-day after pow-day after pow-day. I would wake up in the morning, shovel a foot of snow, ski all day, come home and shovel another foot. Putting fresh tracks down in waist deep goodness is the most exhilarating thing you can imagine. You are literally choking on snow while every turn is a face shot followed by a split second of blindness. Jumping and floating through terrain, launching wind drifts and cliffs with little apprehension, knowing the feet of powder will catch you. A tumble is simply a few seconds in the "white room" and some how you end up back on your skis, hooting and hollering from the adrenaline. Not wanting to miss a second of these epic conditions we would ski to absolute exhaustion, not stopping for lunch or even waiting for friends, hitting a hot tub that night, then doing it all over the next day.
The bottom picture is from December 1st, the day I landed in Breckenridge. The upper photo is from our last big storm. To date we have received over 25 feet of snow! That is the typical yearly average, and with February and March being the snowiest months I'm sure we will add to that number.
Ok, so now that I have all that awesomeness off my chest lets back up a little bit. We need to talk about just how all this snow started and who is responsible for it. That person would be no one else but the winter god Ullr from Norse mythology. With Breckenridge's annual Ullr Fest, the town spent a week praying to the god of skiing and snow; clearly it paid off. The main attraction is the parade which has some of the craziest and most random floats. The festival ends with a bonfire where old skis are tossed in and burned as sacrifices to Ullr.
The past few seasons I have been contemplating switching over to skis. The issue was that I didn't want to take the time during a vacation to learn. So this year I finally decided to take the plunge and get a ski set up. There were are number of reasons for making this move. First off is the better mobility you get with skiing. Having poles and being able to traverse and skate through flat areas is much easier than boarding. Another major factor was back country access. I built the ski package with a binding that can release the heal for touring and skinning up hill, also know as an A/T binding (alpine/touring). The best thing is that I can use this ski on the resort with out any performance issues. Taking full advantage of the Vail employee discount I decided to buy new and settled on the Vokl Gottamas aka "the goats", with Marker Baron A/Ts and Dalbello Pantera boots to match. They are 178's with 107 under foot. That makes for a solid powder ski that can also charge in the trees and icy conditions. I have not left snowboarding completely but I have fallen in love with skiing.
A cool thing about Breck is they allow uphill traffic on the resort from 5:30 pm until 8:30 am. So with my new ski touring set up I put on the skins and headed up peak 9 for some night time adventure. With the head lamp and the stars leading the way it took about 1 1/2 hours to reach the top. Looking down on the lights of the town with a blanket of stars covering the valley, it made me appreciate the beauty of this place even more. After soaking in the silence I peeled the climbing skins off and made my way down the mountain with only the tips of my skis illuminated.
Now don't worry, its not all work and no play...just kidding its mostly just playing, both on and off the mountain. Breckenridge has a great night life with great food and an even better music scene. You can usually stop in anywhere and you will more than likely run into someone you know. Even though the town is huge for tourism there is still that small town vibe. Living in the "The Betty" also offers some unique opportunities than your typical apartment. I spent some of my "spare time" building a little bonfire snow fort. With help from mother nature I ended up with a pretty cool little front yard. If you get too warm at the fire you can practice some tricks off the roof of the RV.
After heading back to Minnesota for a combined Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration with the family it was time to go. I left bright and early the morning after thanksgiving heading to Iowa to break down camp at the KOA . I spent all day packing up the RV and getting the final details ready for take off in the morning.
I certainly did not need an alarm to wake up on that crisp Iowa morning. I made a quick breakfast and a pot of coffee before disconnecting the shore power. A final walk around checking tire pressure on all ten tires, putting one more "click" on the ratchet straps and I was ready to go. The weather was perfect, only in the 30s when I left and no wind (almost unheard of in Iowa), traffic was a little heavy from the Thanksgiving travelers but for once I wasn't in a hurry since I didn't have any timetables or deadlines. I set the cruise control at 65 mph and hung out in the right lane.
Only an hour into the trip I thought the journey was over before it started. The Betty took a violent jerk and made a gut wrenching grinding sound. I looked out the side mirror to see a huge billow of blue smoke following me down the highway. My immediate thought; I had just dropped the transmission. I pulled over while the RV continued to jerk and spew smoke down highway 29.....I hadn't even made it out of Iowa. I jumped out and looked under the rig fully expecting to see a puddle of transmission fluid, but to my surprise, nothing. That's when I noticed the empty spare tire rack hanging from the underbelly. I looked back down the highway expecting to see the tire bouncing through traffic. The only thing I saw was a 3 foot wide skid mark leading to the car hauler.
A weld on the spare tire mount had failed, dumping the tire out the back of the RV and lodging itself under the axle of the car hauler. Over the years of traveling and pulling trailers thousands of miles I learned to keep tools handy. I had my 3 ton jack easily accessible and a couple of jack stands. After an hour of fighting the U-Haul trailer and holiday traffic I had removed the tire and was ready to go. There was no apparent damage to the trailer but the spare tire was shredded. I didn't find out just how bad the damage was to the
trailer until I had arrived at my destination. The axel was bent causing one of the tires to wear down to the wires. I had only miles left before a blow out and a potential roll over. I'm glad I spent the extra $35 for
insurance on the trailer so I didn't have to eat the cost of a new axle.
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. The "no wind" anomaly stuck with me for the entire trip which helped to keep the gas mileage at an amazing 10 mpg! I pretty much drove straight through. I did make a couple stops and tried to sleep but was too anxious to get to the mountains. Arriving in Denver around 4:30 Sunday morning with a couple of gift cards to REI from my sister and parents burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to stop at the flagship store in downtown Denver. Maneuvering nearly 60 feet of RV and SUV proved to be less than easy but managed to find a spot right in front of the store, I just had to keep three meters fed for the morning.
I headed across the street to a little café called Mona's for an over portioned but delicious breakfast while I waited for the store to open. I spent a few hours browsing, picked up a couple items and was back on the road.
After the hundreds of miles of flat farmland and nothingness, the mountains were a welcome sight. The Rockies waste no time rising from the mile high city, sending you into a climb almost immediately. The weather was once again on my side with dry roads the whole way to Breckenridge. It took about 2 hours from Denver to Breck. The Betty is no speed demon at this elevation, tipping the scales at over 10.5 tons, I spent the majority of the climb in the right lane with the flashers on.
I arrived at Tiger Run Resort in Breckenridge mid afternoon. Greeted by 6" of snow that had to be shoveled out of the lot. Even though I was wore out from the 800 mile trip, I would have been disappointed if there wasn't snow to shovel! With some help from the landlord we had the site cleared and I began to set up the camp site.
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The Story Behind the Story
After a year living in my camper named "The Betty", I've decided to take those adventures and make it a lifestyle. From the first day of the journey to the launch of my business I've kept a journal here at "Miles in the Mirror".
If you want to go back to the beginning, click the link below and it'll bring you to day one.