Greetings from the land of not running! An update on the not running/what’s going on with my groin/calf will be coming soon, but in the meantime, I’ve got a fun trip to share.
Over Easter weekend, Eric, Abbe, Baker, Abbe’s dad (Dave), and I headed to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a week of skiing and, more importantly for me, apres ski. Eric loves to ski and used to ski regularly when he lived in Minneapolis – not the best skiing, but easier to get to than what we have in NYC. He’s been lamenting all winter about how he hasn’t been able to ski. I mentioned to him that Abbe and Dave usually do a ski trip, so he should get some info about that. After some chatting, we had a trip to Jackson booked!
Eric, Abbe, and Dave flew out to Jackson the Wednesday before Easter for a full week of skiing and snowboarding. Baker and I aren’t quite up on their level (although Baker is much, much closer than I am!), and we had work, so we flew out to meet them on Saturday. This worked out well for me, as two days of skiing was more than enough for me! Let’s recap my three times on skis:
- Trip to Denver for the men’s NCAA tournament my freshman year of college. We headed to Breckenridge for a day after we won the first round. (We lost the second, fail.) I’d never skied, and a guy (who I then dated throughout college) said he would teach me to ski. He’d never downhill skied before and had only cross country skied. It was a bit of a mess. For the last run of the day, the guys convinced me to do a blue run. I thought I was going to die on the mountain and had a huge bruise to show for it.
- Trip to Vermont (Stratton) with the nurses. It took me 90 minutes to get down the green run the first time. I fell over many, many times, and a dad yelled at me that I was in the way of his kids. In case you couldn’t noticed, sir, I’m terrible at this. I managed to get down and considered myself pretty brave for heading up on the lift again by myself.
- Trip to Vermont with the nurses. We were smart enough to take a lesson this time around, and it way much more enjoyable and I learned a little bit about proper ski technique.
So, that’s about it. Skiing one day at a time probably doesn’t do much for building skill or confidence, so I was looking forward to trying more than one day at a time. I was also nervous because I’ve never skied with Eric before – we were supposed to go for Valentine’s Day weekend the first year we were dating, but NYC got 12 inches of snow the morning I was supposed to fly to Minneapolis and my flight got delayed for three days. Oops. I made Eric promise to not break up with me on the mountain. He thought I was joking, I was not. Anyway.
Baker and I had a fairly uneventful day (starting very early – 6am flight!) getting out to Jackson. We had a layover in Dallas where we perfectly executed getting coffee and food. Otherwise, I slept most of the way on both flights. Most excellent. The Jackson Airport had mimosas for us upon arrival (or just OJ, if you wanted), and Eric and Abbe picked us up in a rental car. It was beautiful flying into Jackson over the mountains, and the area itself is so pretty. We headed into town for lunch before checking out the local Elk Refuge. It was too late in the day to ski, so we had a low key, non-skiing day.
The Elk Refuge has about 5,000-7,000 elk and serves as a winter habitat for the elk. We took a horse drawn wagon ride into the refuge, and our guide provided us with more information than I will ever know about elk. It was shedding season for their antlers, so it was fun to see them on the ground. Some were fairly recently shed! The Elk Refuge is controversial out west, but the city folk thought it was pretty cool. And definitely pretty.
From the refuge, we drove to Jackson Hole, which is about 30-40 minutes from the airport. We stayed at the Alpenhof Lodge, which I highly recommend if you visit Jackson Hole. It’s right next to the tram, lifts, and several restaurants, so you can’t beat the location. It also has a great breakfast in the morning (so key), a bar, and a hot tub. And two dogs hanging out in the lobby. What more could you want?? We had dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant (Osteria, if you’re headed there – it was delicious!) and then called it a night – a long day of traveling behind us and a long day of skiing in front of us!
Easter Sunday – Day 1 of Skiing – Lesson Time
Jackson Hole is definitely not known as a beginner mountain. Only about 10% of the runs are green (aka beginner), and the rest are blues and blacks. Even with that, everyone said that the blues in Jackson are more like blacks anywhere. Excellent.
We were smart enough to sign me up for a lesson. I did ski school in Vermont, and it was a good experience and I learned a lot. I was placed in the group above absolute beginner – I know how to turn and stop, although I “pizza” a lot more than I should. I should mention that my lesson wasn’t until 10am, and the lifts opened at 9am, so we all went up for my and Baker’s inaugural run. My personal opinion is that the lift is one of the scariest parts of being a new skier. Eric was next to me, and I cried as we reached the top of the lift. I know all you have to do is stand up, but it’s still scary! Eric linked arms with me and kept me up. We were able to go down the green run twice before dropping me off at ski school – I pizza’d the entire way down, but I made it. Eric fell over backwards trying to instruct me, so let it be known that he fell before I did. Ha! He got some videos of me that are hilarious to watch before I’m going so slow and little kids are zipping around me. We said our goodbyes as I went off to school and the big kids went off with their independence.
Ski school was fine – I feel like most of my problems with skiing involve getting comfortable on the skis in addition to learning the technique. My instructor taught us how to work with the skis and how our skis can work against us based on how they’re angled on the mountain. We also spent a lot of time learning about body position, making sure to stay even over our skis, to not stick our butts back, and to not be nervous to lean down the mountain because that’s how we can have control. We mostly kept our skis in pizza mode through the turns instead of keeping our skis together – I guess that would be the next step in ski lessons. Although we had poles with us, the instructor had us mostly ski without them so we could feel our bodies instead of relying on the poles. I feel like we learned a lot, but it’s just a matter of practice and being able to practice on increasingly challenging slopes. The greens in Jackson are VERY green, so you can go quite slow for most of it. My problem is that I get scared when going fast, so I never really got over that.
Ski school lasted almost all day with an hour break for lunch. I met Eric and had a delicious and filling buffalo chicken sandwich. After lunch, it was more of the same skills – three skiers were in my group, which was a nice size because you could get a lot of pointers for a reasonable price! (Private lessons, on the other hand, are not cheap.) Once the lesson was over, we had time for another run or two, so I got to impress Eric with my improvement! Still slow, but a little less pizza than before.
The late afternoon was spent in the hot tub before dinner. We ate at the Mangy Moose to watch the UNC game and then it was off for a 9pm bedtime – skiing is tiring!
Day 2 – Into the Blue
I’m starting to realize that many cold, uncomfortable things that Eric thinks are great ideas have the word “blue” in them. On our Iceland trip, we did “Into the Blue,” which was snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure – aka glacier water. It was freezing! For my second day of skiing, Eric was going to lead me up to a blue slope. The good news is that it wasn’t as cold as the Silfra Fissure, so we had that going for us. We fueled up with some breakfast and then hit a couple green runs to warm up. My body felt pretty good, although my ankles were tired and my feet weren’t looking forward to being squeezed into ski boots for another day. After some warm ups, Eric, Baker, and I headed over to a new-to-me ski lift up to a blue slope.
For the record, I am terrified of heights, and this ski lift just kept going UP. The visibility wasn’t the greatest, and we went wayyyyyyyyy up. On the lift, I kept saying, “We’re going up there??” and “When does this end??” I also pointed out a few steep looking slopes and asked if we were heading down them. Luckily, we weren’t. I worried about getting off the lift, but Baker assured me it was like any other lift – down a little with a little place to hang out at the top. This one even had a bathroom! We inched over to the edge, and I looked down the slope.
I inched forward and back, forward and back, left and right, left and right. And then I cried. I was so scared and had no idea how I was going to get down the mountain. Unfortunately (or fortunately, still not sure), the only way to get back is to go down. Eric gave me pep talks and eventually we started moving. The first slope was fairly short, so I got down that with some wide turns. The next slope looked much longer and therefore much scarier. Baker went a little ahead (snapped some photos!) and Eric stayed close to me, mainly telling me to keep my skis together. I pizza my skis when I turn, which I guess is how you get all caught up, cross your skis, and fall over.
So I wiped out a few times. I also made myself fall many, many times because I felt myself going to fast and I got scared, so I fell onto the mountain. Without too much trouble, we made it down the first big slope, and I felt pretty proud.
But it was still a long way down. We kept going, and I could turn to the left just fine, but I’d panic when I needed to turn left, so I kept falling over when I picked up speed instead of aiming my skis up the mountain to slow down. I’m sure this is partially due to the fact that I don’t have the best control over my skis, so it was easier to fall. Eric didn’t really like my plan. Nor did he like that I pizza my skis. I kept saying, “But I LOVE pizza!” to which Eric would say, “No, no more pizza.” Followed by telling me to keep my skis together.
The ski village looked so far away from where we were, and I think I just got tired and frustrated and couldn’t do what I needed to do. Eric kept instructing me to keep my skis together, but I just couldn’t. I sat on the mountain many times and didn’t want to move. I cried again over how frustrated I was. Eric was telling me again to keep my skis together and how I could it because I’ve done it before, and I finally couldn’t handle it anymore so I yelled at him.
Oops. It was the skiing talking, I’m sure.
We kept going in my slow, turn once, try to turn again, fall down pattern. It was pretty quiet for the rest of the way down. I was frustrated and just wanted it to be over with. Baker went ahead to check on Abbe who had a nasty fall, so it was just Eric and me. Slowly, slowly, we made it down. I met up with Abbe, Baker, and Dave for lunch while Eric headed back up to to ski away his frustration. We went to the Handle Bar at the Four Seasons, where I had the best turkey burger I’ve ever had, along with two delicious beers. I probably should have had those beers before going on the blue run – some liquid courage probably would have helped. (Also, if you go to Handle Bar, get the pretzel with cheese dip. I could just drink the cheese and be happy.)
After lunch, I headed out with Dave for a couple more green runs, which felt so much better than the blue run. The greens were so easy compared to the blue runs, so if you’re looking for a ski place to advance your beginner skills, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Jackson Hole. But at least I can say I tried!
Post-skiing, we headed to the hot tub. It helped my achy ankles, but not so much my bruised ego. (See what I did there??)
At some point, we headed up the tram to the top of the mountain (I think pre-hot tub?), which gave quite the views. I kind of wish I got a waffle at the top.
For the evening, we headed into Jackson. Our first stop was the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which got its name because it cost a million dollars to renovate the bar after a gas explosion destroyed it. The decor alone is worth a stop in – silver dollars are screwed into the bar top, and you sit on the bar on real saddles. One of the bartenders also had an impressive beard – he said he had to shave twice a day when he was in the military, ha.
After drinks, we headed to a hole in the wall Thai place (I think Teton Thai) – Eric’s first Thai experience! He ordered Pad See Ew (my favorite), which he liked, and it was much better than my pad thai. Luckily, the portions were enormous, so I got to enjoy plenty off his plate!
Post-dinner, it was time to crash from a long day.
Day 3 – Switching to Snowshoeing
I turned in my skis after skiing on day 2 and said I was done skiing. I could have rented skis for another day and gotten a lift ticket that let me on the green slopes ($30 versus $125 for and all access lift), but I think I was done. Not that I’m an expert at the green, but I’d done them a million times and felt like I didn’t need to get out there again. Two days of skiing is enough for me! The rest of the crew headed out while I enjoyed sleeping in a smidgen before taking my time at breakfast with multiple cups of coffee. I wrote a postcard to my parents, did some reading, and then met up with Abbe for some beverages at the Mangy Moose. The rest of the crew met up with us for lunch, then everyone went out for some final runs at Jackson Hole.
I headed back to the hotel and did some more reading, and eventually everyone wrapped up their skiing. Abbe had looked into renting snowshoes, so the plan was to head over to Grand Teton National Park and do some exploring. The instructions from the rental place was, “Go left until you can’t go anymore, then park and you’re there.” Excellent. Abbe, Baker, Eric, and I rented some snowshoes and we headed out.
We kept our eyes out for wildlife en route to the park (a short 5-10 minute drive from the hotel/ski area), and Abbe spotted a wolf in the distance. That’ll make you a little uneasy about getting out of the car, but luckily it was still somewhat far from where we started snowshoeing.
I’ve never used snowshoes before – it’s quite the workout, but fun to kind of stand on top of the snow and not sink nearly as much as you would in boots. We didn’t really have a plan for where to go, but we followed some tracks from previous adventurers and then made our own path. It was so quiet, as we were the only people we could see! I know I was keeping any eye out for some wildlife (we’d seen some moose closer to town, so you never know!), but luckily we didn’t see any. I wasn’t in the mood for a wolf, bear, or moose encounter while on snowshoes! We snowshoed around for about an hour before we decided we were done – I was tired and I hadn’t even skied in the morning!
Time for the hot tub.
For the evening, we headed to Q Roadhouse, a brewery/restaurant for some drinks. It was trivia night, so it was quite packed! We were able to get a table in the bar area to sample their brews, which were quite tasty. For dinner, we decided to head back to Jackson Hole instead of going into town, and we ended up at Handle Bar. The pretzel with cheese dip was just as good as I remembered. We wrapped up with some final beverages and good food. Solid end to the ski trip!
Some of the group headed back to the hotel bar for the evening, but I was tired so I starting packing my bags and getting ready for bed. We had a bit of an early morning (9am flight, so not too terrible) before a long day of flying home.
When people ask how the ski trip was, I mostly say, “Well, I cried twice and yelled at Eric once, but other than that, it wasn’t too bad.” I’m not very good at skiing, nor do I think Jackson was the place to attempt to push my limits. But I can say I tried! I won’t say that I love skiing (sorry Eric) because I don’t. I’m still working on the basics, and it’s a lot more work than enjoyment. I would compare it to getting started running versus being able to do an easy five miler. If you’re new to running, it can be hard and it hurts (Eric ran twice this week and his calves are killing him), but once you work up your endurance, you can run a few miles, no problem. I’m in the painful calves stage of skiing, that’s for sure.
I do enjoy the ski culture and liked that Jackson was in the 40-50 degree range because I get cold easy. And the food and beer in Jackson were quite delicious! I’ll go skiing again, but I would like a mountain that has some more intermediate slopes so I’m not quite so frustrated while pushing my limits. I also enjoyed not breaking a leg, which I’m always terrible of. That and hitting my head and getting some sort of hemorrhage. (Nurse problems, for sure.)
If you have any recommendations for a more beginner friendly mountain that will keep the advanced skiers entertained, please let me know!