Monthly Archives: February 2015

Winter Fun in the Mountains


Winter fun in the mountains is about more than just skiing and snowboarding.

People who take wintertime vacations are typically drawn to one of two categories of vacations; Vacations people take to escape winter, and vacations people take to enjoy winter.  The former includes tropical resorts and beach towns in places where a 45 degree evening is considered grounds for remaining indoors.  The later, of course, typically involves mountains, with skiing and snowboarding being the most common activities.

In North America, the winter fun season lasts generally from the later part of November through the end of March.  Based on anecdotal evidence (the people I know and have talked to), the peak time to visit the mountains in winter occurs sometime around the middle part of February.  By this particular part of the year, enough snow has generally fallen to produce some of the best snow conditions of the year.  Also, temperatures have recovered a bit from their mid-January lows, and are a bit more pleasant.

With all of the visitors, not only from all over the country, but from all over the world, other events, and other activities are bound to follow.  In the middle of winter every year, the Village of Breckenridge hosts the International Snow Sculpture Championships, which features snow art from artists from various places around the world (from local artists, to places as far away as Argentina).  These sculptures can commonly be viewed the final week of January through the first week of February.

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Events in the middle part of the winter also include family activities, Mardi Gras celebrations, and random parades through the village, such as this one at Keystone, which features Riperoo, the mascot for Vail Resorts, which owns eight of the top Western U.S. ski resorts in California, Colorado, and Utah.

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And the events that take place in the ski villages throughout the peak part of the ski season are not just limited to family friendly activities.  With the number of visitors that come to the area, high class villages like Aspen, Jackson, or Vail, are able to draw some fairly well known acts to preform during the evening.

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Those with enough energy can ski all day long, and party all evening in many of these western villages (although there might be a limit to how drunk you can get in Utah).  There is even a T-shirt commemorating this type of day.

While the ski resorts themselves are the main draw, and the main reason there are as many visitors to the mountains as there are at this time of year, wintertime activities are not limited to only the resorts and the villages that support them.

As I wrote about last year, there are plenty of outfitters in the mountains that offer dog sled tours.


Many of these outfitters also offer snowmobile rentals and tours, and many are quite close to ski resorts and resort villages.

Due to geographical features, it is not hard to find hot spring throughout the West.  One of the most popular hot springs in the country, Strawberry Park, is located in Steamboat Springs, less than 10 minutes from the ski resort.

And, with frequent spells of warmer weather, it is quite possible to find a day, even during the peak part of ski season, where it is possible to just take a hike in the woods (that is, if you can handle hiking over a little bit of snow).


It is a story repeated in many different places throughout the country.  In any place where you have large amounts of visitors, many other activities and events, often catering to all different kinds of people, pop up in response.  This is why we see tons of miniature golf courses, boat tours, and even night clubs pop up in places like Orlando, “Down-East Maine”, and the Wisconsin Dells.  In each case, a primary draw (like water parks, or ocean front) brings people to the region, and then the other amenities follow.  However, in many of these places, the area has become quite congested with people.  Those who have either sat in traffic, or spent a small fortune on strips such as International Drive in Orlando, or the Smoky Mountain Parkway in Pigeon Forge, will refer to places like these as “tourist traps”.

But are these places “tourist traps”?  It is, after all, quite easy to spend a small fortune in Vail right after sitting in major traffic on I-70 to get there.  However, despite the similarities between the “tourist traps” of the East and the mountain resorts of the West, there are still some major differences, with the primary one being the balance between natural and man-made attractions.  Theme parks such as Disney World and Six Flags are completely the creation of humans.  And, although we have lifts to carry us up the mountains, and a nice pool to cover the Hot Springs, the main attractions here are still the natural features that first brought us here.  So, until a roller coaster pops up adjacent to Park City, mini-golf courses start to line South Lake Tahoe, and Dillon Reservoir becomes covered with bumper boats, the mountain west has not become a “tourist trap”, at least not in the same way as the “tourist” traps had developed in these other places.

With that being said, it is still important to remember that there is way more to wintertime in the Rockies than skiing and snowboarding.  And, while there are some visitors who do little else but ski on their visits to the mountains at this time of year (spending most of their remaining time in their condo), there are others that take part in a lot of other activities and attractions in the area.

Vail; Where You Can Have it All?

“Having it all” means something different in different situations. For skiers, “having it all” generally means three things.

Ideal snow conditions…


Comfortable weather…



And, reasonable lift lines…



Of course, there is reason to believe that this kind of ski day is an unrealistic expectation. Comfortable weather conditions do not always produce the best snow conditions, and good snow conditions often bring crowds to a ski resort.

However, last Thursday, I believed that I could find this ideal combination at Vail Ski Resort. The previous day, Wednesday, Vail received several inches of new snow. But Thursday’s weather was warmer across the state. I believed the with combination of the recent new snow, a pleasant weather, and Thursday being a work day, I could “have it all”.

But, it did not quite work that way. Primarily, as the pictures above show, the lift lines were a bit longer than anticipated. This could actually be because of the Alpine World Ski Championships, which drew additional people up to the mountains.


But, the additional people could also have been drawn to the mountain by the new snow, which we had not received too much of in the past few weeks.

There wasn’t too much new snow either, so Thursday’s conditions did not end up being truly ideal.


Wise people will often remind others to keep their expectations within the realm of what is reasonably possible. Statements such as “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”, are commonly used to keep expectations in check and protect people from a near certain disappointment.

It’s hard not to stop someone dead in their tracks as they begin speaking of things such as finding a 3 bedroom house in a safe neighborhood less than 5 miles from downtown for under $300,000. We know that this is not a realistic expectation and that any person who sincerely has these aspirations will likely be quite disappointed.

The understanding that some expectations are unrealistic comes from experience. Those of us that have experienced the “real world”, have seen countless people disappointed as the “realities of life” get in the way of ambitious desires. And, these desires don’t just include things like wanting to be a movie star or wanting to solve some kind of major world problem. They often include situational things like wanting a reasonable amount of success at their company without having to compromise on any of their principles, or wanting to ensure all of their friends and family are happy.

However, those of us with experience that are not completely jaded do know there are exceptions. After all, movie stars and world changers do exist. They are just a small minority of people who set out to do these things. And, they become successful through some sort of combination of aptitude, drive, and luck.

So, despite the real possibility of disappointment, it is hard for me to completely write off all lofty goals. Some people do achieve them. And, the hope that one will land their ideal job, or will find a way to make a difference, likely has a positive impact on people’s lives that more than offsets the negative impacts that results from the frustrations that occur when expectations of the world are not met.