Memories of an epic ski trip before COVID are lit with sensory reminders

The Scarp Ridge Lodge is nirvana for the five senses.Handout

The Scarp Ridge Lodge is nirvana for the five senses. But the boot warmers, oxygenated air, delicate linens, steam showers and the highly organized experience would be a distant memory without the scents of rhubarb, passion fruit and white jasmine that permeate every space.

My wife and I loved the scent so much that we bought this same candle – and that smell filling my house has changed many tough days over the past 23 months. One puff instantly takes me from a place I’ve juggled 16-hour days full of parenting, virtual school and work, to being back on the best ski vacation we’ve ever taken.

Jordan Chittley skis a line during a day of cat skiing near Crested Butte, Colorado in February 2020Jessica Chittley / The Globe and Mail

Nestled in a valley on the western slope of the Rockies lies the town of Crested Butte, Colorado. The old mining town at the end of the railroad is a destination for extreme skiing and is home to a mountain generally cited as having the steepest served by ski lifts. land in the United States. Almost half of the trails are marked in double black, which are the most difficult and difficult trails and should only be attempted by experts.

The night my wife and I arrived in February 2020, the city was covered in snow and it was falling even more. Looking out over Main Street, with its colorful old mining buildings turned into cozy shops and pubs with picturesque mountains in the background, it felt like you were in a freshly shaken snow globe.

We settled into our room at the Scarp Ridge Lodge. The building, which was built in 1885 as a lounge and dance hall for Croatian workers, still has its Far West facade, but the interior has been transformed into an upscale six bedroom lodge which I imagine looks like a billionaire’s ski lodge, with all the staff.

On the first morning of our trip, we took an SUV and then a snowmobile to a lodge in the backcountry. There our guides from Irwin Catskiing informed us that they had been closed the day before due to – get it – too much snow. Our conditions were perfect: a clear blue sky with a meter of fresh, unspoiled powder. It was the type of snow where – as I learned near the top of the first descent – if you fall, you cannot get up on your own. But after a tough first run to get used to the big powder skis, things started to snap and I started to gain confidence on steep slopes and small cliffs.

The best three days of my life are when I got married and each of my two children was born. In fourth place is this ski cat day at Crested Butte.Stephen fenton

The fear and the nerves are gone. I just pointed my finger and floated my skis above the super soft powder as the snow splashed my face – in other words, what I dream of doing most of the time when I’m stuck sitting at my desk. The best three days of my life are when I got married and each of my two children was born. In fourth place is this ski cat day at Crested Butte.

Crested Butte is known for its independent spirit and for being the birthplace of American extreme skiing.Stephen fenton

For the last two days of skiing of our trip, my wife and I skied at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. The terrain is varied, but overall much more difficult than most other ski resorts including nearby Vail and Aspen.

Known for his independent spirit and the birthplace of American extreme skiing, Crested Butte once used the marketing slogan “This is not Vail”. It is now part of the Vail universe after its acquisition in 2018. The consolidation of ski resorts over the past quarter of a century is a change in economic model. Vail Resorts now owns and operates 37 ski resorts across North America, accessible through the EPIC season pass. Altera Mountain Company, which has the same owners as the Aspen Skiing Company, offers the IKON pass for dozens of ski resorts around the world. For skiers, this means more options. For ski companies, this allows them to reduce reliance on daily ticket sales.

“There was, and still is, a lot of skepticism from some of the locals about Vail’s purchase of the complex,” said Martin Spencer, a real estate broker and area developer at Sotheby’s International Realty. “I have been to several meetings with the Vail Group over the past year, and they have explained to me that as a business they are no longer interested in real estate holdings. They figured out how to become a “ski business”. What he means by that, sell ski passes.

Will Shoemaker, my half-day guide to some of the steepest and snowiest locations I’ve skied in my life, assured me residents and fans alike don’t have to worry. “Few of the mountains in the portfolio are known for steep skiing and that’s what puts Crested Butte on the map,” said Shoemaker, who was a Vail Resorts at the time. spokesperson. In addition to updating some aging elevators, “the plan is to keep the status quo.”

At the end of our trip, two thoughts crossed my mind: As someone who has lived in Colorado for five years, how has it taken me so long to ski here – and how many time before I can come back? Work and kids usually get in the way of skiing in bottomless powder, but at any time of the day I can light that candle and be instantly transported to the luxury of Scarp Ridge Lodge and the kind of powder where a snorkel is almost too. useful as ski poles.

If you are going to

How to get there

There are three airport options: Gunnison, Montrose, and Grand Junction. Gunnison is closest a 30-minute drive away, and some hotels offer a shuttle, but flight options are limited. Montrose is a 90-minute drive and will require a rental car, but there are a few one-stop-shop options each day from Toronto. Grand Junction is a three hour drive away and offers a few more flight options than Montrose and at a slightly cheaper price.

What to do

The region is a hub for adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts in summer and winter alike. It offers ski cat, piste skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and ice climbing during the colder months, as well as mountain biking, rafting, rock climbing, stand up paddle boarding. , wading and shore fishing, float fishing, hiking and horseback riding in hot weather.

Where to eat

Soupçon is an upscale French-American restaurant perfect for a special occasion; Sunflower is a farm-to-table restaurant; and Public House, as the name suggests, is a relaxing place to have a burger and a beer where the kids will also feel right at home.

COVID-19 Security Protocols: At time of posting, Vail Resorts will no longer have a mountain reservation system and will charge lifts at normal capacity. Face coverings will be required for indoor environments, including restaurants and buses, but will not be required in ski lift lines or on chairlifts. Guests 12 years of age and over will need to show proof of vaccination to dine inside. All employees should be fully immunized, have a daily health check-up, and wear face coverings indoors.

The writer was a guest of Vail Resorts. The company has not reviewed or approved the story.

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