I joined Jessica Skocik, Megan Alexander, Chris Free and around 300 other students from Ohio University for one of their skiing trips in December of 2003. This was my first time skiing out west and it was a blast! We had a wonderful, wintery week of skiing here in Aspen.
Chris' uncle (who was a few years ahead of me at Waverly HS) works for the Blue Jackets so we met at Nationwide Arena on Friday night and I went to my first Blue Jackets game. It was an exciting game and the Jackets only lost in the last 8 seconds of overtime....bummer! We both camped out at Chris' uncle's house for the night and then met up with the girls at our departure point, on the Ohio State campus, at noon on Saturday.
One of the five buses had trouble starting and we were delayed while they tried to fix the bus. After watching the Ohio State ski club leave around 3pm, we finally left with only four buses and Bus 2 was promised more beer (I think that this is their "solution" to any complaint). Bus 2 eventually caught up to us in Aspen early Monday morning which created a dilemma for some because their bags/ski equipment loaded onto this late bus (fortunately we had all of our stuff).
The bus trip was not as bad as I had imagined...plenty of drinking but no outrageous behavior...they were actually very reserved except for our "bus leader" who enjoyed laying across the laps of girls seated together. Somehow Jessica and Megan avoided this but maybe because they were seated just behind Chris and me and it was pretty evident that we were all together. We made stops for dinner Saturday and breakfast and dinner on Sunday. I'm sure we made a impression on the bus because we drank lots of "ski" and water, but no one ever asked or tried to pressure us to drink any alcohol. I was a bit dismayed by the amount of cans and bottles rolling (and thus spilling) around under seats and through the aisles. We watched several movies along the way and sleeping was not very easy, but possible. I remember waking up for a "restroom break" at 4am in Kansas... We did not cross into Colorado until Sunday afternoon and everyone cheered when the Rocky Mountains emerged in the distance above the plains...although we were still several hours away. We had a snowball fight at a rest area and I don't think that our bus drivers were too happy with having a group of college kids. One of them was a retired reverend and we had a chat with him at one of our food stops. Mike, the group leader, also joined our small group for breakfast on Sunday morning.
We moved into our condo only to find the bathroom shower door along with lots of construction materials sitting in the living room so we were relocated into another room that was prepared for guests. We made a trip to the Snowmass Market and loaded up on cooking/food supplies for the week. Jessica and Megan have the bedroom and Chris took the couch while I bunked on a thermorest. We have a fireplace and cable TV so we're all up to date on the Sadaam capture...someone had called us on the bus trip to update us on football scores and news of the capture (which also lead to cheers and a round of drinks).
Day 1 Monday: Snowmass Mountain
Today we were up early and on the slopes not too long after they opened...we had a storm drop about 6-12 inches on the slopes overnight and this only presented a problem because both Megan and myself had trouble skiing in the knee deep snow. It's different not having ice and we are now looking for groomed trails because they are a bit easier to ski. When you drop your ski and it disappears into the snow it makes it difficult to put it on! We took three different lifts to get to the top of the mountain and getting back down took a long time. We then went back up the first lift for another trip down before taking a lunch break. I was about ready to call it a day but then we all went back out and worked our way over the the left side of the Snowmass map. I came in early to get dinner started but the rest stayed out until after the lifts closed at 3:30. The skiing itself is phenomenal, absolutely no lift lines and plenty of runs that seem to go on and on...not as many "trails" which I like more than just downhill slopes, but there are some.
Monday evening we were chilling in the condo and fixed spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner. The OU group met later in the evening at a local gathering place for pool, fooz ball, etc. We saw people coming in from the hot tub, but it's outside and the sauna looked more inviting. This might help with the sore muscles from the skiing...I fell several times (which is not common for me) due to the deep snow and getting used to my new skis...but I'm sure the change in altitude also wore me out.
Day 2 Tuesday: Buttermilk Mountain
The day started early again as we boarded a bus for Buttermilk Mountain. This was much more like the slopes at Holiday Valley in New York with more groomed slopes and less powder. Several of the runs reminded me of Tannenbaum or Northwind...lots of open space and long...very easy to go fast. The "terrain park" here is the same one used in the X-Games. We watched boarders do stunts and jumps...Chris was the only one brave enough to go near the jumps on his skis. We ate lunch at the slopes and then went back out until the slopes were closing down around 3pm. I hit the sauna while the others made a shopping expedition to the Snowmass Mall. We decided to go to Aspen in the evening with the OU group since they had scheduled a free bus ride. They had a broomball game scheduled at the outdoor ice rink and then they were doing a pub crawl...we were just going for dinner. We should have known that they were not going to leave on time and that they would get lost in Aspen trying to find the rink...so we were desperately hungry when we did arrive there and found a pizza place that was still open at 9:30pm.
Day 3 Wednesday: Aspen Highlands
Chris, Megan and Jessica headed for the Aspen Highlands today...while I was relaxing in the condo with a heating pad. My back has been telling me to take it easy...too many twists and falls. The OU group is having a cookout this afternoon and then our small group is heading back into Aspen to do some shopping.
Chris, Megan and Jessica returned from a busy day of skiing and claimed that the Aspen Highlands were the best slopes of all so far. Chris made it up to the bowl where you had to hike on a 2' wide footpath before you could descend into the bowl. Megan and Jessica stayed more on the blue squares but also took in a few black diamonds. They were all tired and are plans to go into Aspen changed into a night in front of the fire with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.
Day 4 Thursday: Aspen Mountain
We all rode into the City of Aspen and took the gondola to the top of the mountain. This was a very impressive ride as we watched the skiers darting below us through deep, carved canyons.
We had a professional take photos of us at the top and you can see those online:
We made our way to the right side of the mountain and ran into moguls, steep slopes and powder. It was a challenge and both Megan and I were struggling with the conditions. After picking our way down the mountain, we eventually found a few easier slopes and made it to the bottom. I got tripped up about 2/3's of the way down and landed square on my back....which pretty much made me decide that I wasn't going to go back up again. The others went back up while I took a break to grab lunch at a local deli. We decided to all go see the Lord of the Rings matinee which was playing in Aspen and left our skis at the slopes. It was after dark when we emerged and were very happy to find our skis still at the slopes waiting for us. We did some shopping and then returned to Snowmass Village to clean up. Later in the evening, the OU group was gathering at a bar in Aspen and we waited at the Snowmass Mall until we found out the bus had been delayed (it was only inevitable). Megan, Jessica and I shared some egg rolls, crab rangoon, and chicken pad thai while Chris played pool with some of the other students. When the bus did arrive at 9:45, we debated whether or not we were all too tired to make the journey. We ended up going and really enjoying the band that played called lowerlevelmusic (www.lowerlevelmusic.com). But at midnight, we made our way back home.
Day 5 Friday: Shopping in Aspen
Chris was the only one who braved getting up early and found friends to join him skiing at Snowmass. The rest of us got up leisurely and then made our way into Aspen to do some shopping for gifts/souvenirs. We began combing the stores up and down the streets to find t-shirts and other gifts. The girls tried on fur coats in one store and then got really excited when they went into a Prada store. I was more intrigued by the North Face store. The girls also met up with 2 other OU students who they had met on the first day (Ashley and Michelle?). Chris finished skiing and met us for lunch...the group went to Boogies for sandwiches. We returned to Snowmass carrying lots of bags. For dinner, we baked potatoes and grilled out steaks for our last evening in Aspen. Later, the OU group gathered in a local bar for their big raffle. They had over $3000 worth of ski equipment that you could buy raffle tickets for to help support a skiing charity for disable skiers. You had to be present to win, so those of us who bought tickets went (Jessica was tired and stayed at the condo). None of us won, but I did get to meet the staff advisor for the ski group and his wife...they must have flown out, I'm sure they could not have lived through the bus ride. =)
Saturday: Journey home begins
Our morning begin with Jessica and Megan leaving to meet the bus at it's first stop to get on early and reserve seats of our group near the front of the bus. Chris and I moved all the luggage outside to wait for the bus to come to our condo and then helped unpack and repack the bus to get all of it to fit. We still had about a dozen pairs of skis that we had to put in the aisle to get everything on board. I wasn't real impressed with our tour bus company because they seemed to be rather unorganized and poor at communicating with the passengers on board. This made the OU students even more whiney...I've traveled with 5th graders through high school students on long distance bus trips and these students were the worst of the bunch. They whined about everything...but I resisted saying anything...except to remind them that it's against the law for them to board/unload while the bus was refueling while they were all standing in the aisle complaining that the bus driver wouldn't let them get off the bus.
I kept waking up to the sound of rumble strips or the bus making sudden jerking right or left motions. This concerned me because it was about 4 in the morning and I didn't really want to die on this bus. I heard other students make comments about the bus driver and that maybe he was falling asleep at the wheel. I decided to put on my glasses and watch his driving to make sure that we didn't need to have someone in the front keeping him awake. Fortunately, we had a very stiff cross wind that was making the bus difficult to steer and that was accounting for the sudden sways when passing other trucks or changing lanes. I stayed up for about an hour and eventually drifted back to sleep. We were determined to get back to Columbus and we did not stop as frequently as the westward journey. With 20 miles to go...and Columbus in sight...the bus slowed down as one of the wheels on the back left-hand side of the bus fell off and rolled into the median. We pulled over to discover another wheel was flat and we were going to have to transfer to a second bus to get back. Another bus came back from Columbus and we were lucky that we were not in the middle of Kansas and could easily unpack/repack the second bus and make it home within a reasonable time.
What an adventure! This trip definitely was lots of fun and despite the excitement of waiting around for the buses all the time and the little inconveniences here and there. I think that we all went home with a terrific experience and we'll see what next year holds in store for us!
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