Monday, December 31, 2012

Birds of Prey World Cup Downhill

Race start is just over the horizon of the top back peak

The other day Beaver Creek hosted a round of the Men's World Cup of Downhill Skiing. The races were held on a western slope of the resort with a vertical run of  around 3,000 vertical ft. These dudes really know how to boogie, getting down the mountain in about a minute and a half going over 120km/h. This was the real deal with international TV coverage, commentary and the best downhill skiers from around the world. We saw a couple of heavey spills and but most made it down in one piece.
Here comes the winner

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

and a happy New Year

Thomas Hates Dogs...


For the nearly three years that I have known Thomas, he has made a point to tell me over and over that he is definatly a cat person and hates dogs. Well, after living with Phil and his dog Keona for a month here in Colorado, Thomas has proven that he really does "hate" dogs!!!

Thomas Loves Keona

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

First week on the slopes

First day riding out at Breckenridge
So with Amy and I having both finally secured winter jobs, we also finally got our season passes. So the first opportunity we had, we headed down the road to Keystone for a mornings ride and the following day to the adjacent Breckenridge resort. Still early season conditions with most of the snow being man made, and with still only very limited runs, but still plenty of fun. Especially at Keystone which is open top to bottom with a long 950+ meters of vertical descent making for one long run and Breckenridge had a few jumps for me to attempt.

So when were not snowboarding, there is that thing we do every now and then called work. I have a job at a shop called Sports Authority in the rental department, which is actually way cooler than it sounds. We have hundreds of skis, boots and snowboards to rent out and we're getting busier and busier with the season kicking off. I have learnt how to set up the skis and boards, do tuning, waxing and repairs. I'm really enjoying being at work there and the hours are allowing me to get a bunch riding in with alot of afternoon shifts so I can be out on the mountain 4 to 5 days a week while still working 40 hours. 

Amy had her first day at work today as a counselor at the 3-6 year old Ski and Snowboard School at Beaver Creek where she spends most of the day out on the snow helping these little ones negotiate the bunny slope and all the fun things that come with working with those cute little kids kitted out in all their ski gear. She's also starting in a weeks time at a restaurant in town in Avon. So hopefully we can work hard, snowboard even harder and save a bit of money for our next adventure. 

That being heading out to Europe then to Asia to teach English, leaving America late May once my visa expires. So just the other day we enrolled for a TEFL course, "Teach English as Foreign Language", through the University of Chicago which begins in mid January and runs 10 weeks online and 20 hours in an English as a Second Language class in a school nearby. Maybe it seems we're only just getting set up out here and we're already thinking about the next step, but no worries we have plenty of time to enjoy good times out here in the mounains.
Good times on opening day at Beaver Creek

Saturday, November 24, 2012

An afternoon snowshoeing

About a week ago we had a good dump of snow here, but with Beaver Creek still not open, we decided to hike up and take advantage of some of the fresh snow. My friend Chris, his friend Jackie and I headed up late in the afternoon with myself snowshoeing and the others telemark cross-country skiing up. We made it most of the way to the top of the front mountain with the sun just setting and temperatures dropping. Surrounded by freshly cover peaks, the beautiful purple sunset and being the only people up the mountain looking down at all below, it was a nice point to have reached. So we quickly drank a beer and bolted down the hill. The snow coverage was excellent in some spots and thin in others, but was probably some of the driest, softest and deepest powder I have ridden in. We laid out the first tracks and it was so good infact that Phil and I headed up again the following day.

Snowshoeing up Strawberry Park, Beaver Creek

The top of my first snowshoeing adventure

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cruising in a snowcat

At the base of Beaver Creek with the snow guns and snowcat in action.
So I had a fun ride in a Beaver Creek snowcat the other day when Amy and I were just up at the resort sorting out work and stuff. We got up there a bit early, so had a walk around and were surprised to see  the runs had transformed from patchy white to a complete snow surface almost overnight. This was  completely due to the work of the snowcats and man made snowmaking. We sat and watched the snowcat for awhile, and eventually the friendly operator stopped his machine and waved us over! I bolted at the chance and climbed into the passengers seat for an hour and pushed around huge piles of snow creating the perfect Beaver Creek skiing surface. This was one impressive machine! A pile of snow the size of the snowcat itself was no issue at all, it really got the job done and with a nice sound system, the hip-hop really set the mountain vibe.

Totally stoked taking a ride.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Dear American, thank you" From: The rest of the world

Taken from Obama's facebook page
Yippee, we are all VERY excited here that the election is finally over and that our candidate is back in the oval office for four more years! We're also excited that the campaigning is over, and with it the billion dollar campaign ads on TV, which got more and more ridiculous as the pressure increased.

It was quite an important/interesting time to be in America, and although I voted early and did not have to wait for 6 hours at the poles Tuesday Nov. 6th, I did have to anxiously sit in front of the TV all day watching the votes come in on the hour from various states around the nation, and watch the "ROAD  TO 270."

There were a few times when Romney was in the lead and I would text my mom while she was at the Democratic Headquarters in Stamford, where she was making phone calls and just being very dedicated to helping get Obama re-elected, and she'd calm me down. But we ended the night in celebration with an election party, a bottle of champagne and two growlers of beer.

Photo of the TV

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Exploring the high Rockies

First snow fall in Avon, October, 2012

 So its been a little over two weeks since I've been in Colorado, and in this time we have done a wee bit of exploring in our new home high within the Rocky Mountains. This place is unlike anywhere I have ever been before, and we live right in the middle of the ritziest, most expensive and exclusive ski resort towns in Colorado, or maybe all of America! 

Upon coming out here, I was very nervous about the idea of living in the mountains, especially after our year of summer! I was afraid of the cold and even more afraid of the snow! Luckily its hasn't been nearly as cold or snowy as I thought it might be. But once we did get some snow about a week ago, to my surprise I was really excited about it! We woke up in the morning to a blanket of snow over everything, and we had a very spectacular view of the snow covered pine trees covering the mountains right behind our house. 

With work off for the day for Thomas, a sensible decision from his superiors, we decided to take a drive through the mountains with our roommate Chris! This was my first excursion out of Avon to see the surrounding mountain towns, and it did not disappoint. Chris was on a mission to visit a tiny ski manufacture that opened just 3 years ago to try and persuade them to sponsor him. Chris being a leading telemark skier of the region, he had good grounds to persuade. We took some back roads winding through the mountains for about an hour until we got to the Meier Ski Shop. We spent nearly 3 hours at this tiny shop, got to talk to the husband and wife owners and was shown the process from start to finish of how to construct skis! Thomas is now fixated on the idea of having his own ski/snowboard/surf shop/brew pub now! Chris must have impressed them, because he walked out with a sponsorship and 3 new pairs of skis! Lucky! 

On Chris' new skis
Thomas + Amy in Aspen


Chris being a good guy and an enthusiastic tour guide, decided to take us a further half hour out to Aspen! I was so excited to see Aspen, but it wasn't a good day to be there. It started snowing again right as we got into town, so we got some lunch, took some photos, and decided to make the possibly unwise decision of going over the frighteningly high Independence Pass for our journey home. It proved to be about the scariest experience of my life, with ice and snow covering the skinny, windy, often one lane road that went up over 12,000 ft! I tried not to look down, and did some deep breathing in the back seat, and was very happy when we got back to a normal 8,000 ft. 

Driving Independence Pass
Whiteout at the top of the pass
We also have had the chance to check out our local mountains. The mountain resort in Avon is called Beaver Creek, and it is one of the most gorgeous mountain resorts I've ever seen. Most people in Avon either work or ski or both up here as its just a short bus ride from the bottom of the mountain. Tucked away up there so you can't even see the village until about the final minute of the ride! Completely dead in the off season and under ongoing construction, I felt a bit weird walking around, but some stores were open and I opted to get a coffee and sit on one of the couches with a fire pit in front the ice skating rink positioned in the center of the village! I hope to work up here during the season!

Beaver Creek

We also went out to Vail with some friends, just a 10 min drive East from Avon. Vail is probably the second most famous mountain town in Colorado after Aspen, and to be honest, far more spectacular. Aspen was more a typical town with a few touristy shops thrown in, whereas Vail is more like what Switzerland at Epcot in Disney World would look like. You're not allowed to park your car in Vail, and instead you can walk through the numerous pedestrian malls over cobblestone bridges and look in awe at the Swiss/Austrian style hotels, restaurants and gawk over the snow capped mountains in the background. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Banana Gangsta on the Ribbon of Death

Phil has named me the "Bananna Gangsta" due to my wardrobe
A few weeks ago Phil and I headed out for our first day riding of the season. Tagged the "ribbon of death" because there is only one run open of man made snow and there can often be crowds with excessive excitement to be back out on the snow. No incidents to report of here though. We had a good bunch of runs, the snow was quite good actually, some features were set up in the terrain park and only a few spills occurred on weary edges after a year out! This is only the beginning of of big season of snowboarding.

"Ribbon of Death"

Friday, October 26, 2012

Zombie Crawl

The Zombie Justice League

What better idea than to join tens of thousands of other Coloradans in the annual Denver Zombie Crawl to welcome Amy out to Colorado. With some last minute organisation we threw together some costumes from a few pieces of consignment shop clothes, with a few cuts, stitches and throwing on a bit of make-up, latex wounds and fake blood we were ready to go. Part of the Justice League, made up of our Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batwoman, Robin and the Green Arrow.

We headed for the afternoon parade along the 16th street mall in downtown Denver. The mall was an apocalyptic scene with thousands of adults, children, animals and pensioners dressed with wounds, blood and all array of fantastic, amazing and disturbing costumes. We proceeded into the evening to attempt to drink the bars of Denver dry. 

I'm really in the mountians!

So I am really loving living out here in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. On a nice day I can look out my window to clouds rolling behind the mountains right behind my place or on a cold, miserable day, look out to see a new dusting of snow just off up in the hills. My room has windows on three sides, and a balcony, so just they just get soaked with sun or rain drops and soon they may pile full with snow!!!!

So like usual I try keep busy, and I have been brewing beer as usual, feeding myself well with some good organic meals and I have started some woodworking projects too. I scrounged some small logs and bought myself some basic tools of a hand saw, hammer and chisels and am attempting to knock together some alpine style log furniture, and its coming together well.

2012 logoLast weekend Phil and I went out to the Redcliff Mountain Man Competition. Phil was actually competing, as he was writing an article for the magazine he works for about competition. Events included: axe throwing, keg tossing, bow shooting, wood cutting and the sorts. Having a wild mountain man beard just added to your credibility. Therefore with my straggly months growth I had no credibility whatsoever! Located in a small town not to far from here, there were over a hundred people competing and heaps more spectators, all squeezed into the car park of the town's pub. It was such a good vibe, everyone was really friendly and cheerful. 

So keeping with the mountain theme, on Monday at work, the boss yells over to me "Hey Thomas, look up there on the path", and what had wandered its way into the work site? A huge male moose! Startled at the sight of the beast, I scampered back as I wasn't totally comfortable being 10 meters away from such a massive wild animal. He was not at all bothered by us or of the construction of the new Vail gondola, and he casually just stepped over a 1.5 meter fence and headed for the site gate and off up the mountain! What a animal, giant paddle antlers with the most shiny beautiful black coat.

So it seems I have really found myself out in the mountains, just what I wanted!
Unfortunately this is not the moose is saw but just in case you
 didn't know what one looked like, they looked just like this!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Off to the mountains

The picturesque town of Avon, Colorado
So after the summer that never seemed to end, I thought it was time to change it up and get some real winter action lined up. After a wee bit of planning, that being booking a flight and telling my friend to collect me from the airport, here I am. Avon, Colorado is now my home! I am deep in the Rocky Mountains, Eagle County, which is ski and snowboarding heaven. There is also heaps happening round here during summer but it's just starting to transition into its winter wonderland mode. We have been getting dustings of snow on the high peaks, progressively getting lower and lower and the ski fields are snowmaking too. The temperature my first weeks were of warm days and cool nights but now are at freezing mornings, mild days and very cold nights.

I have come out by myself, as Amy picked up some wok relief teaching in Stamford, but she'll be out here mid October. It's been tough being apart, but has allowd me to get all setup out here and settled into work and the lifestyle. I have worked all sort of jobs already since being out here, but found a position with a landscaping company, where I'm working real 40 hour weeks! I'm currently sub letting a huge room in an appartmnt till the end of the month with some young, fun and friendly people.
Keona and I after a few hours walking in the Rockies
So the plan is to get jobs working on the mountain with the Vail Resorts Group. This will entitle us to season passes for all Vail ski fields of which there are five within 45 mins of here. The closest being Beaver Creek, which you can take the 10 min shuttle up the road from town to get to the base. Vail is just down the road along with A-basin, Keystone and Breckinridge just a bit further away again.
My little town of Avon is a beautiful wee spot, population of 8,000, set amongst Spruce and Aspen covered mountains. There's a picturesque river running through town and there are heaps of walking and cycling paths. I skate, walk or Bike everywhere, and its good. Now the biggest thing about being out here is actually being up here. Avon sits at 2,265 meters elevation and everything else is up even further, eg the top of vail ski field is at 3,530 meters. This was a bit of a challenge to get used to, I was breathless, was always dehydrated and had wicked headaches. Took about a week to sort that out but now its all good, but you still notice the thin air when being active.

Holy Cross City abandoned minning town

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bye Bye East Coast

Thomas and Amy in NYC
 So with Thomas booking flights to Colorado, we decided to do a few fun things during his last week on the East Coast. The first thing we wanted to do was surprise, surprise: go surfing! This being the last chance for Thomas to even see the ocean before heading to land-locked Colorado! So we decided to head just south of JFK Airport, to Long Beach, Long Island. This is the beach we had been to a few times earlier in the year, and thought it would be the easy 45 min drive for some amazing waves. The waves were scheduled to be monstrous, due to the hurricanes that were pushing up some swell from further in the south.

Evening beach picnic

We left pretty late, around 3 pm, and unfortunately hit some crazy New York traffic once we got into Queens. We decided to disobey the GPS and get off the highway and drive the back rodes all the way through NYC and Long Island. This might not have been the best idea, as it ended up taking us nearly 3 hours to get to the beach, but the highway wouldn't have been as interesting at least! The waves were far too large and scary for me to go surfing, but I enjoyed laying on the beach, reading, writing and taking heaps of pictures of course! There were hundreds and hundreds of surfers along the beach, but Thomas jumped right in! I couldn't tell him apart from the rest of the surfers out there though!

 Thomas came out once to make some sandwiches for dinner with me, and then we both enjoyed watching the sunset, me from the beach and Thomas from the waves! He stayed out there far after it had gotten dark! It was quite strange to be at the beach and watching an amazing sunset while NYC could be seen in the distance!

Shreading it!!!

Thomas on the Esplanade

So I managed to convinced Thomas to come into Manhattan with me one more time before he left so that we could do a few things we had both wanted to do for awhile. First on our agenda, was to go to the 9/11 memorial. We decided to go into the city on September 12th, so it was appropriate to pay our respects at the memorial so close to the anniversary. Before we visited the memorial we walked around one of my favorite places, South Street Seaport, and the new esplanade by the Brooklyn Bridge.

We didn't know what to expect from the memorial, first impression was a long queue and some hefty security. Again, because it was the day after the victim's families came for a private ceremony at the memorial, flags, photos, letters etc. were everywhere. It is a wounderful memorial, the way the water cascades down into the pools then down again in the centre to where you cannot see the end of the cascade really makes it feel as if the water is pouring into the centre of the earth, somehow I found this a beautiful tribute to the lives lost.

North Tower Refection Pool

I only learned about the High Line earlier this summer, but since the moment we learned about it, Thomas and I have been waiting for the perfect day to walk this amazing park. Built in the 1930s, the High Line was originally an elevated freight train line lifting the trains above the streets to prevent accidents and deaths. In 2010 it was transformed into an elevated public park. Wildflowers, trees, grasses, train tracks, vendors, lounge chairs and a cafe make the park a fantastic escape from the street level hussle and bussle of NYC, along with the charm of this amazing historic structure.

The High Line from street level
The High Line from High Line level 
We decided to walk all day, eventually going from from the WTC to the High Line, ending up in Times Square, about 6 miles! I don't know anyone who has ever walked nearly half of Manhattan before! The High Line is quite possibly the coolest free attraction in NYC. I was in awe of the whole thing, and yes took wayyyyyy too many pictures, but it was MAGNIFICENT!

Pie Face!

Once off the High Line we kept walking all the way up to Times Square. We walked to the new Pie Face! The Australian pie chain that just opened a few months ago, and is the first in the US! It had been awhile since we had an authentic pie, and it was so nice to get one, but their sausage rolls were the best!

Soon after, we meet up with my friend Elaina and her boyfriend at a bar near Times Square. We sat outside on their balcony and enjoyed a few pints before stealing the pint glasses and catching our train back to Stamford. It was a nice way to say good-bye to the East Coast.

Amy and Elaina at "The Perfect Pint" bar