Jazz Aspen Snowmass

We ended our weekend on a high note with good music, great friends and amazing memories.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass was absolutely incredible. Although I don’t have a ton of concert experience to compare this to, I am pretty confident that this festival was up there. Being outdoors, surrounded by the mountains, listening to great music – not much beats that in my book.

Friday night we saw Steve Miller Band and Sugarland and the second night was Trombone Shorty and Mumford and Sons.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Ryan. I can’t wait to celebrate 31!

 

 

Downhill

Yes – I’m still recapping our trip to Colorado. Seriously, it feels like we were there for a year with everything we did!

Our friends were arriving in Denver on Friday and meeting us in Snowmass that afternoon. So that gave Matt and I the morning to pack up, check in to our new condo, do some laundry and hit up the grocery store. Plenty of time to find in one more activity, right?

Since we had such much fun mountain biking the first time, we decided to do that again. Plus we’d heard that Snowmass had just opened some awesome trails so it seemed like a perfect idea.

At the rental shop, Matt and I were surprised to see so many people renting shin guards, wrist guards, padded shirts and helmets with face masks. In Telluride, we just rented bikes and helmets and were fine. Yes – I did fall a couple of times but I am not sure a face mask was necessary, I never went more than 5 mph! So when they asked us if we wanted the “safety package” we laughed and opted out.

When Matt and I took the bikes for a quick test spin around the sidewalk, we both immediately asked for our bike seats to be raised. The guys who worked at the rental store told us that they were actually at the right height, “since you aren’t sitting when you are riding, it doesn’t matter that much.”

Umm, what? No sitting? What are you talking about.

We took their word for it and headed to the gondola. As we rode up the mountain, I started to realize that Matt and I were the only people who didn’t have safety gear on. Everyone else was decked out in hardcore gear, while I was wearing spandex bike shorts and a lululemon bike shirt. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Was this just the different between Telluride and Aspen?

I decided to google “different types of mountain biking.” The results showed me that there are multiple types of mountain biking:  cross country (XC), trail riding, all mountain, downhill, freeride, slopestyle, dirt jumping and trials. What we had done in Telluride was cross country. Commonly defined by the terrain on which it is performed, XC courses and trails consist of a mix of rough forest paths and singletrack, smooth fireroads, and even paved paths connecting other trails. Cross-country bicycles are some of the lightest mountain bikes, typically between 15 and 35 lb. They usually feature suspension forks in front and sometimes have suspension in the rear.

What we were about to was downhill. Downhill biking is a time trial mountain biking event held on a course with a net decrease in elevation. As the name of this discipline implies, downhill races are held on steep, downhill terrain, resulting in high speed descents and, most commonly, with extended air time off jumps and other obstacles. Modern downhill bikes weigh between 30 and 42 pounds, and usually feature full-suspension and frame geometries that lean back farther  than other mountain bikes.

Suddenly, I was in a whole new world.

We began to make our way down “Easy Rider” a begin track. It took me a little to get used to the bike and after about 2 minutes of squatting over my bike (remember – you are really supposed to sit down) my thighs were burning. But even though it was physically challenging, and I was going ridiculously slow, I liked it. This was definitely something I could get into. and let’s face it, that face mask helmet makes me look bad ass.

 

After a few runs I was feeling pretty good about myself. So at the end of the day, we decided to take on an expert level course, Valhalla, the newest and Snowmass’ signature downhill trail.

And yes, you better believe it that Matt and I looked this intense going down it!

 

So look out, I’m planning to make my downhill debut at the X Games! Let’s just hope the sport is ready for me.

Maroon Bells

On our second day in Telluride, we decided to visit Maroon Lake, to take in the sights of Maroon Bells, two peaks in the Elk Mountains about 12 miles from Aspen. The view of the Maroon Bells to the southwest from the Maroon Creek valley is one of the most famous scenes in Colorado, and is reputed to be the “most-photographed spot in Colorado” and one of Colorado’s premier scenic overlooks. Naturally, we needed to go and see this view for ourselves.

We rented bikes and took a bus to the lake. During the ride up, we passed multiple bikers who were making the 8 mile climb to the lake. Suddenly we felt pretty pathetic riding up in the bus. To be honest, I blame the guy at the bike shop. Clearly he should have looked at us, realized that Matt was an Ironman, and suggest that we ride up. Unfortunately, he looked at us, thought “tourists” and gave us a pair of hybrid bikes and told us to ride the 8 miles downhill. Honestly – there’s nothing worse than being pegged as a tourist. You miss out on all of the “insider-fun.”

Once we arrived, we piled out of the bus (feeling very touristy) and headed over to the lake to snap a few pictures (again, feeling touristy).

Next we ventured down the crater lake trail, a 1.8 mile trail that brings you to another small lake/pond. More incredible sights means more incredible pictures.

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One of my favorite things in Colorado was all of the aspen trees. At first I thought they were birch trees (the state tree of New Hampshire!) but then I quickly realized that these trees were different.

The ride down the mountain was fun – we pretty much went the entire 8 miles without pedaling once. Weeeeeee!

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The Meatball Shack

For the second half of our trip, Matt and I ventured over to Aspen. The drive over was beautiful and Matt booked us in an awesome hotel, The Limelight. After checking in and showering off our failure from the 14er, we took to the town.

Aspen has a very different feel than Telluride. Gone were the small coffee shops and in were the high-end designer stores and trendy restaurants. While in Telluride, we fit in with our jeans and fleeces, in Aspen, we stood out. And not for the right reason.

After a quick drink at Jimmy’s (I highly recommend the margarita), we settled on The Meatball Shack for dinner.

 

This relatively new restaurants combines different meats and sauces into unique and delicious meatballs. We went with the classic beef with marinara sauce and the chicken with buffalo sauce. While both were delicious, I have a special place in my tummy for buffalo.

I wasn’t planning on ordering desert until I saw the menu.

Design your own cookie? Yes, please! Matt and I went with the original cookie dough with health bar  and salted caramel topping.

Oh yeah, and with a scoop of homemade ice cream on top. It was heavenly. And gone in about 2 seconds.

How didn’t I think of this idea? Maybe I can create the NYC version.

14er

A fourteener is a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet  above mean sea level and Colorado has the majority of such peaks in North America – 53 in all. So naturally, when we started planning our trip to Colorado, Matt added “summit a 14er” to our list. So after a little research, we decided to tackle Mt. Sneffles, located just 7 miles west of the town of Ouray (the inspiration for Gult’s Gorge in Matt’s favorite book Atlas Shrugged).

After a short drive from Telluride, we arrived at the access road that wound 8 miles up the mountain to the trail head. Unfortunately our ford focus rental car was no match against the rocky dirt roads. We were forced to park our car a mile from our original plan, which added 2 miles to our hike. I should have seen this as a sign of what was to come.

 

We hiked up a rocky road for 3 miles. The views were spectacular but I was having trouble enjoying them. Even though the hike wasn’t super long, it was steep and the altitude was definitely taking its toll. I was pretty short of breath and started to suffer from a dull headache.

This brought us to the upper trailhead.

 

 

 

 

 

At this point, I was pretty tired and didn’t really want to go on. However, Matt convinced me and we started the last mile to the top.

The path went from a rocky road to just rocks. I felt like a mountain goat making my way over the difficult terrain. Our pace, which was pretty good up until this point, came to a crawl. I was definitely suffering from the altitude and kept needing to stop every 50 – 100 yards.

We approached the final stretch, a ridiculously steep section that was all rock. No longer were their switch backs or a well defined path. It was just, get up any way you could. To make matters worse, there were people who were making their way down the slope. Every so often, they would yell “Rock! Rock! Rock!” and Matt and I would jump out of the way of the mini rockslide. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best experience I’d had.

 

After making it 3/4th of the way up the last bit, the altitude, my extreme dizziness and the difficult terrain proved to be too much for me. I had to call it quits. Matt was a good sport — he definitely could have made it to the top but he turned around with me.

Even though the hike was difficult, I couldn’t deny the views were amazing.

 

We made our way back down, feeling pretty dejected by Mt. Sneffles.

We decided to turned the mood around with a sweet Call Me Maybe dance off:

It was nice, that after a very long, somewhat disappointing hike, we were able to laugh at ourselves.

The day ended on a high note when we returned to the car to find this waiting for us.

So we didn’t make it to the top — that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reward ourselves, right?

 

 

 

Via Ferrara

There is nothing better than going on vacation to some place that is super cool where you know a local. On our final day in Telluride, we were fortunate enough to do a little “hiking” with my friend Andy/Tyler.

Maybe I should give a little more background to Andy before I go any further.

Andy was the type of kid who had more energy than seemed humanly possible. He exhibited that awesome, yet dangerous, combination of athletic talents and a fearless attitude. He was the best player when it came to tennis baseball, was the only kid who could hold his breath longer than Abby or me and would attempt ridiculous tricks off the diving board. There was a rumor, that probably lives on today, that one time he actually swung over the top of the swing set. And even though I hadn’t seen Andy in more 15 years, I can say confidently, that attitude/persona hasn’t changed. Even though his life has taken him all over the country and even to different parts of the world, he is still that totally crazy kid I once knew.

So when Matt thought we should take Andy up on his offer to take us hiking, I immediately knew it was a bad idea.

Andy took us to a place in Telluride that few people know about, the Via Ferrara. Up until a year ago, this was a hidden gem that only locals were aware of, that is until a reporter published information about it in Telluride magazine last year.  Thankfully, because of liability/insurance reasons, tour groups have yet to set up trips there, so the only real way to do the hike is to have a local show you the ropes. Thankfully, we knew a local.

The hike up was beautiful and Andy acted as our tour guide, giving us historical information about Telluride highlight all of the mining activities, interesting facts about the Cedar trees that line the canyon walls and stories of festivals and celebrations that capture the true essence of the town. Unfortunately, the history lesson soon ended and we were instructed to put on harasses and helmets. Suddenly the “hike” got serious.

Andy assured up it was pretty basic. Clip in,  shimmy along the rock, unclip, repeat. What he failed to mention are that there are some sections without cables or handholds. It is hard to describe exactly what it felt like to cling to a rock face 300-400 feet in the air, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite part of the climb was when I looked at Matt. He is usually the one pushing me to do crazy stuff. Not this time. His face was white as a ghost, his entire body was shaking and his comment was “I don’t know what the hell I was thinking getting us into this.” It was funny, for some reason that fueled me to press on. I know, we have a really healthy marriage.

 

 

 

 

The scariest part for me was definitely at what they call “the main event.” On this section there is a great deal of “exposure” which I learned means “really scary stuff.” Basically, the rock face curves inward slightly which results in a sheer drop below you. For about 15-20 minutes, you are clinging for dear life to iron rungs that were drilled into the wall god knows how long ago. Somehow I managed through it.

 

 

 

 

 

Honestly, I wish I had been able to take in the sights a little more, but let’s face it, I was scared to death.

 

 

 

Oh, and did I mention that Andy did the entire thing without a harness or being clipped in?

 

It is nice to see he is still the same kid who once swung over the top of the swing set.

I Like to Ride My Bicycle

The second full day we were in Telluride, Matt and I decided to go cross-country mountain biking.While I’ve been road biking for a while now, I’d never even been on a mountain bike before, let alone ride down a ski mountain. Needless to say, I was a little nervous.

After a ride up the gondola, we made our way to the first track – Jurassic. It was a single track trail (meaning it is only wide enough for one bike) that ran through a section of woods with a lot of switch backs. I was surprised to find of much the bike would skid when I would brake. However, I wasn’t quite brave enough to let myself go that fast. After a few miles of downhill, we reached the valley floor and took the river tail back into town. I survived the first run.

Unfortunately, the second trail didn’t go quite as well. After another trip up in the gondola, we made our way over the Village Trail. This one was a little longer and had a lot of switchbacks. Unfortunately, on a few of these 180 degree turns, the bike slipped out from under me and somehow ended up on top of my legs. The end result was a lot of bruises – not very attractive.

After our second ride, I needed a break. We decided to stop for lunch and some liquid courage.

Soon enough we were back up the gondola and on to our final trail, Prospect Trail. This was the longest and hardest of the three we tackled. A couple of miles into the bike, we heard a familiar noise… thunder. Unfortunately, Matt and I were finding ourselves in a situation where we were trying to outrun (well, outride) another storm.

Thankfully we made it down in one piece

Just a little muddy!