A little more than 24 hours after returning from Colorado, the fingers no longer are too numb to type.
Last year, a Roommate Reunion/New Year’s ski trip/Colorado getaway helped me dodge the frigid Kansas weather. This time, we ran head-on into the first major snowstorm of the year — as well as sub-zero temperatures — in Breckenridge.
Regardless, the frigid temps did nothing to derail some outdoor adventures. Instead, they enhanced the experiences.
The trip actually began with warmer weather in the Denver area. After spending Dec. 26 hitting a few local bars with the first full reunion of Mike, Darin, Tim and I in years — we’ve had three of us in the same place numerous times … OKC for the NCAA Tournament, Dallas for Mike’s surprise 30th, last year’s ski trip, the 2008 Orange Bowl, the original Arrowhead Armageddon … but it’s been ages since we’ve had all four — the next day featured another reunion.
I met John and Nicole during my 2007 trip to Switzerland. We hiked to the top of Schilthorn together, and since then we’ve remained in touch through Facebook. Our schedules aligned this year, so John and I spent Dec. 28 hiking at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs before meeting up with Nicole for dinner at an Indian restaurant in Boulder.
The next morning, Darin and I hopped in the car and headed to Breckenridge. Tim would join the next evening, and Arron dropped in a day later.
Day One consisted of settling into our condo and exploring a few bars in downtown Breck.
On Day Two, we hit the trails. Darin introduced me to snowshoeing last year near Idaho Springs, and we brought them along to Breckenridge. The temperatures on Dec. 29 were chilly, upper 20s or low 30s maybe, but plenty comfortable for snowshoeing. With little wind and some well-marked trails above the Nordic Center, we found a trailhead, strapped on the snowshoes and took off. About two hours and 1,300 vertical feet later, we reached the trail’s highest point at close to 10,700 feet. Another hour later we were seated at Sevens, the bar at the Peak 7 Lodge, wolfing down soup and sipping on pints of Kona to celebrate a successful five-mile hike.
It was a day worth celebrating, both for the views and the weather. Tim rolled into town later that night, and a snowstorm soon followed. By the next morning, temperatures were flirting with single digits and the streets were painted white. The ski slopes were invisible from our deck, so we opted to find more trails and snowshoe some more.
This time we added an extra layer for warmth, brought our ski goggles and headed to the other side of town to another trailhead. In about 3 1/2 hours we covered six miles on more gradual, winding trails through the woods and gained maybe 700 feet of elevation. Our pace was slowed significantly because of the thicker layer of powder on the trail, as well as because strong wind gusts blasted our faces. Visibility wasn’t bad for the most part, despite the steady snowfall, but the hike was significantly tougher than the previous day.
By the time we finished, we were ready to warm up with hot chocolate and peppermint Schnapps before heading downtown for dinner at the Breckenridge Brewery.
Darin and I were the only ones who didn’t get enough of the cold. With the high for Dec. 31 pegged at minus-1, Tim and Arron chose to chill out at the condo while Darin and I headed for the ski lifts. A somewhat unexpected sight awaited us in the form of nonexistent lines. Not only were many of the Breckenridge visitors clearly staying inside for the day, but many others stayed back in Denver thanks to the snowstorm. As a result, we didn’t wait in a single line for the lifts and we frequently had slopes to ourselves.
Even the lodges, which we figured would be crammed with skiers warming up, had available seating and short lines for food and hot drinks.
After about six hours of skiing — and our cores thoroughly frozen thanks to a relentless, bone-chilling wind on the upper slopes — we headed back to the condo to warm up and join the others.
Conditions were even more bitter when we headed out that night to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Temps had plummeted to around minus-10, although the snowfall had dwindled. We only spent a few minutes watching the fireworks show over the mountains, opting to duck back into the bar and spend the final hours of 2010 warm and cozy with other revelers in a downstairs bar on Breckenridge’s main drag.
Snow didn’t follow us back to Denver the next day, but the cold weather did. It also awaited me back in KC as the thermostat read just 17 degrees when I got off the plane.
Now, a little more than 24 hours later, the numbness from the cold and limited sleep has worn off. Another epic trip has come and gone.
It’s officially 2011, and it’s back to reality.