Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Denver, CO

This past weekend I got on a jet plane and headed to Denver to spend basically two days and one night in the "mile high city." I left after work on Friday night and arrived in the wee hours of the morning Saturday. After a few hours of sleep, I jumped in a car with three incredibly fun people and hit the road by 7am to go to Loveland, a "small" mountain about 2 hours from Denver (1 hour with no traffic).

Loveland is the closest mountain to Denver, but you need to take 2-lane mountain roads to get there. On the weekend, it is important to hit the road between 6am and 7am or the drive could take double the time (like, 3-4 hours). I was on the mountain by 9:30am. Loveland's base is at about 10k feet and the summit is about 13k feet-- pretty high up for us sea-level dwellers.

The weather was pretty much amazing. Saturday in Denver was a beautiful 70 degrees and sunny. Up at Loveland, however, it was in the 20s-- and without a cloud in the sky! They had just seen 2 feet of snow in the 2 days prior, so fresh powder blanketed the slopes. What's cool about Loveland is that you can take a "ridge cat," which will drive you up to the ridge of the mountain, beyond where the lift will take you. It's free but you need to reserve a spot at the base before taking it. However, it's windy up at the ridge and the powder is deep-- you definitely need really wide skis for that! Even if you don't want to take the ridge cat or hike 15-30 minutes for the deep stuff, there was still a ton of powder off lift #9 (not that that means anything to you if you haven't been there-- lol). There were great powder runs, little jumps, moguls, and fun glading. It was the perfect "little" mountain, nice and close to Denver!

What's exciting is that powder skiing is totally different from ice skiing. In the Northeast, because of the limited about of snow, lower elevation, and freezing temperatures, we generally have icy skiing, forcing you to dig deeper into your edges and look for narrower skis. Some people love this skiing, especially if their into racing. Powder is a totally different feel: you need wider skis to stay on top or you'll just sink in; you need to lean back more to keep your ski tips from just diving down into the snow; and when you fall, it doesn't seem to hurt so much (though you may be buried in snow!).

What was great about skiing in the last weekend in March was that there was no one on the mountain, except for some hilarious locals participating in a "scavenger hunt." The whole mountain was littered with teams dressed up in funny costume, running around the mountain doing different challenges. The event was sponsored by none other than a beer company. Still, often I feel like I had the whole trail to myself! On a gorgeous, powder-filled Saturday! To be fair, conditions are not always this great so late in the season and some of the other mountains were a little more bare, but Loveland was amazing! Best skiing of my life!

The next day we headed to Red Rocks. Red Rocks is a famous amphitheater located in a gorgeous state park with these massive, protruding red-hued rocks. The venue is built right into the rock and the formation creates a perfect sound amplification. Fun fact: I think I saw in the museum that the first documented concert there was in 1910. It's free to park there and many locals come to do workouts on the steps of the theater. There is also great hiking in the park and very beautiful vistas. I would highly recommend it! You do need a car to get there though.

Also, I guess it's kind of a touchy thing, but, you know, in Colorado they have legalized recreational marijuana use, so, naturally, us voyeurs have to at least go look and inquire. In case you missed it, as of January 1, 2014, the people of Denver as well as visitors can go to dispensaries that sell medical and recreational marijuana (there are limitations, restrictions, etc. which you can Google). The dispensaries all around town and, just like any other business, there are small boutique shops, mom & pop shops, and chains. Even though it has been 4 months since legalization, people are still pretty pumped about the whole thing and the novelty hasn't worn off. One guy in the store just kind of burst out, "Soon it will be like this all over the country!" Another girl I spoke with said that even though she lived in Denver this was her first time buying at a dispensary and she seemed really excited. It was all pretty thrilling and I was definitely nervous to go, but I just wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about. And just like buying lotto tickets, you go up to the register, show your ID (you need to be 21), talk to the cashier (they're pretty knowledgeable and you can consult them and talk about your needs/wants), choose what you want, and walk out. The best way to describe it is: so weird. But it seems to work: people seem happy and excited by it and business is booming-- many stores have lines out the door and around the block! It's definitely a contentious issue, but I had to just take a peek and see for myself and report back.

And just like that, two days and one night were over! Thank god for Jetblue's flight sales for getting me to some of the best skiing I've ever had! And yet again, another win for Couchsurfing-- I met the coolest people who I hung out with, skied with, and hiked with. They were interesting, friendly, and trustworthy and I would definitely go back and see them again. Maybe this summer I'll check out a show at Red Rocks!