He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below . . .
From “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver
The Rocky Mountains. So different from our Smoky Mountains – taller, more majestic – although our eastern mountains have a true majesty of their very own. My memories of family trips to the Smokies – the only mountains I knew existed in my childhood – are etched into my being as deeply as my Southern drawl. Used to seeing the Smokies during the summer, when they are forest-green, or in the fall, when that green turns into a blaze of red and orange, the sight of the snow-capped Rockies in the dead of winter kept me in almost-permanent gasp mode for three days.
I thought I could tell this story in two parts, but it will take three. Tonight will be about our trip to Beaver Creek and our first day and night there. On Monday I’ll finish it up with pics from Tuesday and Wednesday – including our amazing ski lift ride almost to the top of the mountain. Jaw-dropping scenery!
Heading out of Ft. Collins early Monday morning – trying to get to our destination before the snow storm blows in.
First it was back to Denver, with the mountains to the west. Then a right turn out of Denver . . .
. . . . and our trip “up” began.
Something you don’t see everyday – a buffalo ambling down a hill. Ted also spotted a group of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep later that morning, but we were past them before I could get the camera out.
As we approached the high country, the lack of heavy snow so far this winter was evident, but these mountains were beautiful anyway. I bet whoever lives on that hill has four-wheel drive!
We were traveling on I-70, and as the drive became steeper, we began to see what looked like fog up ahead.
A few more miles, and the “fog” became snow.
Ok – I’ll stop here for a little geography lesson (Ted will love this). The Continental Divide is the line that divides flow of water between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Rain or snow that drains on the east side of the Continental Divide flows toward the Atlantic. Precipitation on the west side drains and flows toward the Pacific.
The Continental Divide runs from northwestern Canada along the crest of the Rocky Mountains to New Mexico, then it follows the crest of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental. In South America, the Continental Divide lies along the Andes. Every continent has a Continental Divide except for Antarctica.
The Eisenhower Tunnel was completed in 1979 and carries I-70 under the Continental Divide. The tunnel is approximately 1.6 miles long, with a maximum elevation of 11,158 feet above sea level. That makes it the longest mountain tunnel and the highest point on the Interstate highway system.
From the tunnel until we reached Avon, CO, where Beaver Creek Ski Resort is located, the weather went downhill fast.
Over-the-highway gondolas and Blake’s GPS announced we had arrived at our destination. We were so glad we started out early. We reached Beaver Creek around 10:30 Monday morning, the time we had originally planned to start out. I know my northern readers are used to this stuff, but we had three southerners in that car – this is a little outside our comfort zone!
One of the Board members of the organization Blake works for owns three condos at Beaver Creek, and when they aren’t rented, he offers them to their employees – at no charge, not even a cleaning fee. That is an unbelievably nice thing to do, and even more unbelievable is the one rule that goes with the offer. No one using the condo can WORK while there – no business at all. It is for rest and relaxation only. A real vacation – Wow!
Living/dining area, with wood-burning fireplace.
The condo was on the top floor and it had two levels. There were two identical master suites – this one on the second level, and another on the main level. There was also a third bedroom . . .
. . . . and a great kitchen. I confess – the only appliance we used was the coffeemaker.
I think it took us about 20 minutes to ditch the luggage, pull out and put on a few more layers and get outside. The snow was scheduled to last all night, and we wanted to be out in it as much as possible!
Exploring was at the top of the agenda.
Beaver Creek Resort is a village made up of several hotels and condo complexes. It didn’t take us long to find this little covered bridge. Once crossed . . .
. . . the ski slopes were straight ahead . . .
. . . and the heavy snow wasn’t keeping anyone off the mountain!
Being out in the snow and cold was made a little more tolerable by the dozens of gas log open-pit fireplaces that lined all the brick walkways.
Ski and snowboard lessons were in full swing – for all ages . . .
This three-year-old had just come down a “bunny slope” with her mom. Amazing!
In the center of the village was a large ice-skating rink. The snow fell so heavily and so fast that the Zamboni machine was out on the rink removing snow every hour so people could skate.
Sculptures like this were everywhere in the village, and there were as many galleries to browse through as there were restaurants to eat in. This was my favorite – a young Indian boy nose-to-nose with a grizzly.
Dinner Monday evening at the Dusty Book Steakhouse and Saloon.
From the window of the condo, looking down on the street below. Snow was still falling. Yes, that is a dinosaur skeleton in the window across the street on the left. That was a natural history museum.
As Ted and I prepared for bed, Blake’s phone rang. Earlier in the week he had invited a young couple to join us, and they didn’t think they were going to be able to come. At the last minute things worked out, and they were on the road. The couple was used to Colorado driving, but we were sure glad we didn’t have to go through those mountains in this weather. They arrived safely several hours later.
On Monday – we hit the ski slopes . . . . . well, sort of.