SNOWMASS, COLORADO 2001
By Dolly Johnson with on-mountain reports and other tidbits contributed by Carol Hobaugh.
When the alarm went off at 3:30 AM Dolly again thought, "whose bright idea was this?" Of course everyone knows it was all Britt's idea as usual. Our great cab driver, Sam, got us to LAX's Terminal #7 by 5:10 AM in time for us to get ourselves checked-in and take up our positions in front of the terminal to greet the other 43 skiers joining us on our United flight to Denver, Colorado. Liz and Peter Broen arrived and gave us a box of donuts to share (they were compliments of Dorothy Morski [Liz's sister-in-law]) who drove Liz, Peter and Carol Hobaugh to the airport. Check-in went very smoothly and soon it was time to board our plane for the trip to Denver. Other than Terry Bateman and Donna Shumaker not being seated together, and the extreme closeness of the seating, the flight was ok. Upon arrival at the Denver airport everyone regrouped at the baggage area and as soon as everyone had retrieved their baggage Britt called our bus up from the holding area and loading began. There was some confusion with another ski club about where their bus was, but it got cleared-up. Unfortunately Ray Eslamieh's bag with all his clothing turned-up missing. After a short delay to report it to the airline and hope for the best our very competent bus driver, Roy, headed out for Snowmass. A short way down the road we made a stop at Applejack's for everyone to purchase some libations, pick-up some snacks at the market and get some lunch for the long ride to Snowmass. Ellen Falk generously shared some sandwiches made on her son's homemade bread (he is a baker and they were really good). Dolly passed-around some nacho puffs, followed by some Oreo cookies and then we watched a Warren Miller film to make the time pass more quickly. We were impressed that Peter Broen and Fred Wolff confined their bus ride drinking to only one beer (a very large keg made to look like one can of beer). In fact they even shared their one-gallon plus one liter keg with some fellow passengers. The roads were pretty dry so Roy made excellent time to Snowmass. After the usual check-in hassles (the hotel has a very small check-in area) everyone met at the Bedford Ballroom for the Welcome Party where they got their pins, their lift tickets and heard about racing and other activities being offered during our week-long stay. Some of the group were dismayed to have missed the sign that told when last call would be for the complimentary drink tickets everyone had received when they arrived at the Welcome Party and they ended up with extra drink tickets that were of no use after this first night. Several people went off to restaurants to get some dinner and some went to their rooms to crash. It had been a long day. (P.S. the airline found Ray Eslamieh's bag and put it on a non-stop shuttle to Snowmass so the bag beat us to the hotel and was waiting in the lobby when Ray arrived).
Britt and Dolly got to the hotel dining room at 7:10 AM for our full buffet breakfast (a perk of staying at The Wildwood Lodge). They joined Fred Wolff at his table and saw Min Ichiho, Keiko Takeda and Elsie Tiscareno at a nearby table. Soon more of the group started showing up for breakfast. Carol Hobaugh, Joyce Rodela and Fred Wolff gave a good report of their dinner last night at The Stew Pot. Britt soon went off to ski and Dolly kept running into members of the group while she was getting a phone list put together. Ray Eslamieh was having a hard time getting Liz out to the slopes. Their friends, Catie and Doug Hopiard, flew in from Tulsa, Oklahoma to join the group. This is Doug's first time skiing and he wisely signed-up for three days of lessons.
Snowmass is a huge mountain with varied terrain. Liz and Peter Broen, Carol Hobaugh, Walt Lamay, Judy Latta, Ron Lucas, Earl Mitchell, Joyce Rodela and Mike Sremba spent the day exploring and enjoying the light snowfall. Britt ran into several fellow skiers at lunch at Cafe Suzanne. He shared the table with Bill Busch, Steve Lucas and Dave Pisarski. Min Ichiho was dining with Judy and Sam Shirley. The above listed South Bay skiers, plus Fred Wolff, were also at a nearby table.
Since today is Superbowl Sunday the bars and restaurants were expecting record crowds for the kickoff and game. The Superbowl was the highlight of the evening leaving Judy Latta (a New York resident) depressed over the score and Walt Lamay elated with his $100 half-time winnings. Britt and Dolly had several viewers share the game in their room. Fans included Terry Bateman, Bill Busch, Min Ichiho, Steve Lucas, Rob Michaels, Sheri Pitcock, Dave Pisarski, Jack and Marge Robinson and Donna Shumaker. Norm Maclean and John Tang made a quick drop-in looking for dinner partners, as they wanted to grab dinner while the game was still on so as to avoid the post-game crowds. There were no takers by the diehard football fans. Munchies and libations were shared throughout the rather one-sided game and at its conclusion Terry, Min, Britt, Dolly, Jack, Marge and Donna walked over to The Stew Pot for some of their daily soup or stew specials. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for the next day.
RACE DAY. The dining room was packed by 7:05 AM with skiers needing to catch the 8:00 AM bus to Aspen for the race. Dolly spent time checking-out the pick-up point for Tuesday's Snowcat Dinner Ride and the room for Wednesday's Club Night Party. As she was exiting The Wildwood Lodge she ran into Nancy Sanford (the tour operator) and they shared hot chocolate and muffins at The Silvertree Hotel next door (compliments of Nancy). Dolly met with Deana Brown to go over the arrangements for Wednesday's Club Night Party. She then planned to go into Aspen with Terry Bateman and Donna Shumaker. While they were on their way to catch the Aspen bus they ran into Sheri Penney who was returning from Aspen and she informed them the races had been cancelled because of the white-out conditions and heavy powder from last night's storm. Carol Hobaugh reported that most of the group headed for Ajax for the race only to be greeted by a cancellation notice because of all the new snow. Since it continued to snow they just had to ski one fresh powder run after another. After lunch, legs were giving out and skiers started dropping-off except for diehards like Peter Broen, Art Pressel, Ron Lucas, Earl Mitchell, Joyce Rodela and Mike Sremba. Britt Johnson and Fred Wolff split from the group at 2:00 PM, but managed a few more runs at Snowmass before calling it a day.
Meanwhile Dolly, Terry and Donna visited several art galleries in Aspen with Terry in pursuit of a particular artist. While walking around they ran into Rob Michaels and Sheri Pitcock and then saw them again at Little Annie's where they all had lunch. Dolly joined Rob and Sheri on the bus back to Snowmass in order to get ready to go out with some of the South Bay group to The Crystal Palace in Aspen for the dinner and show. Carol Hobaugh had graciously set this event up for Liz and Peter Broen, Britt and Dolly Johnson, Judy Latta, Earl Mitchell, Joyce Rodela, Lana and Mike Sremba and Fred Wolff. Carol had scoped-out Aspen the day before, and was only 180' off in her directions on Monday night. She led everyone on quite a walk (in very cold weather) before Britt and Dolly got everyone back on track. The Crystal Palace is an institution in Aspen that is noted for its hilarious political satire reviews. Obviously this year they had lots of material to work from. Their skits on George Bush (a.k.a. Gush), Bill Clinton (admit it, you'll miss the scoundrel), and Al Gore (especially Al Gore a.k.a. Bore) almost caused Earl Mitchell to fall off his chair laughing. Other skits poked fun at Hillary, Firestone tires (too bad about all the SUV's being blown off the road), ED (erectile dysfunction), and the Boy Band (baby boomers still dreaming of being rock stars). The food was excellent and everyone agreed it was a very funny show.
More snow and temperatures in the single digits this morning. Britt planned to snowboard today since there is so much fresh powder. Breakfast was a more leisurely affair today since no one had to catch an 8:00 AM bus to anywhere and because it is so cold and snowy. Dolly and Lana Sremba planned to meet Liz and Peter Broen, Carol Hobaugh, Britt Johnson, Judy Latta and Mike Sremba at Krabloonik for lunch today. Krabloonik is not only a restaurant, it is also where the dogsled rides originate. More about the kennels of dogs later. The word Krabloonik in Eskimo means "Big Eyebrows" which is the Eskimo term for "White Man". Dolly and Lana planned to walk there but had been advised against it because of the single digit temperatures and heavy snow conditions. By 10:00 AM they decided to go for it, layered-up and left the hotel at 11:30 AM with somewhat vague directions on how to get to Krabloonik. The most strenuous part of the walk was getting to The Top of The Village as the road is quite steep. There were no indications at this point of where the trail to Krabloonik might be located so they went into a management office for the condos, called Krabloonik and were told by someone named Elizabeth to look for TOV Trail. There is no TOV Trail, but there was a Sleigh Ride Trail and logic told them this was probably the way there. Fortunately the trail had been traveled by some snowmobiles which helped pack down the fresh powder so it was fairly easy to walk on. This was not a hike anyone should attempt if they are not walkers or used to snow. It was so serene walking through the woods. They never saw another person. After about a mile or so they saw the Krabloonik sign and headed down the many steps to the restaurant. As you go down the steps you can look out at the kennels and see most of the 250 dogs who live there. Dolly and Lana had made really good time and were seated at the table by 12:25 PM for the 12:30 PM reservation Carol Hobaugh had made. Liz, Peter and Mike were the first to arrive at 12:50 PM after having made a couple of false starts on the way to ski to Krabloonik. They did more cross-country skiing than downhill to get there. Britt soon followed. Anyone who knows Britt knows he skis in a very colorful ski hat and has large reindeer bells on his ski poles. Well his arrival really set all the dogs off. All 250 barked and howled. Carol and Judy finally arrived at about 1:15 PM after having gotten lost a few times. Krabloonik serves a pre-fixe three-course meal in a very intimate setting. It is definitely modeled after the more European leisurely meal, which was hard for Britt who usually only takes a 20-30 minute lunch break when he skis. Peter ordered the elk and quail combination on the recommendation of our waiter. When it arrived he offered Liz a chance to taste both selections. After sampling a bite of the elk Liz said, "You can really taste the fowl in this". We aren't sure if it was the glass of wine Liz had or just some weird aberration because a few minutes later she was explaining how they came to acquire a third cat and said, "Nibblets was Peter's former dog". She was doing an admirable job of reassigning species and we all got a great laugh out of it. The homemade bread had two types of raisins in it. Dolly is not a big fan of raisins and after Britt explained her reason for this, no one else will probably eat raisins again either. About this time we were informed some of the newest litter of puppies were out running around so Liz and Dolly went outside and got to hold two of the softest, cutest puppies. The waiter reminded the skiers that the lift they needed to catch quit running at 3:00 PM so they quickly suited-up and hurried to make it to the lift. Of course Britt and his bells set the whole kennel off again so they skied off to a chorus of howling. Lana and Dolly were fortunate enough to get a private tour of the kennels by Elizabeth. Dolly got to hold some four-day-old puppies and they both got to pet lots of the dogs. Then it was back on the trail to the hotel. Happily the skiers made it to Happy Hour at Brothers by 3:10 PM.
Tonight a group of twenty-one hearty souls were scheduled for the Snowcat Dinner Ride. Terry Bateman and Donna Shumaker, Carl and Monica Carlson, Ray and Elizabeth Eslamieh, Brad and Ellen Falk, Catie and Doug Hopiard, Britt and Dolly Johnson, Ron Lucas, Steve Lucas, Rob Michaels and Sheri Pitcock, Russ and Colette Omey, Dave Pisarski and Jack and Tiarge Robinson all gamely showed-up at 5:45 PM to stand in the freezing cold and snow to board the Snowcat which would take them to the Linn Britt Cabin for a four-course dinner and entertainment. Unfortunately, none of the other group leaders had booked their members under their ski club name, so it was assumed Dolly was in charge of all 60-65 participants, which caused mass confusion. Several unhappy people arrived at the cabin, but within a short-time Dolly and the staff did some damage control and everyone started to enjoy themselves. We think they just weren't prepared for such a large, lively group. The food was interesting although most of those who ordered the duck found it very under-cooked. The entertainment did their best to make up for the glitches and almost everyone had a pretty good time. When it was time to leave a member of another ski club caused quite a stir when she refused to board any of the forms of transportation available to return to where we had started. Britt and Dolly were very grateful it wasn't one of their group.
Today is clear and sunny for the Club Races, which is quite a contrast to Monday when the NASTAR races had to be cancelled because of the bad weather. Nancy Sanford arranged for the non-skiers to be taken to the on-mountain picnic by Snowcat. Usually non-skiers get left out of this event. Great fajitas were served and we all got to watch the races. Dolly was especially happy to witness Britt race after his near fatal construction site accident last year, which caused him to miss the whole ski season. After group pictures were taken the skiers took off and the non-skiers got to ride back down again in a Snowcat.
Tonight is Club Night and Dolly set-up a pasta bar dinner for the group. All 53 participants, plus three guests (Nancy Sanford, the Tour Pros Operator, and Mike Ballingall and Jim Lloyd from Big White Resort in Canada next year's L.A. Council Ski Trip Site]) dined on two types of green salad, pasta salad cheese ravioli in roasted tomato marinara sauce, spinach fettuccini in Alfredo sauce and absolutely to-die-for tiramisu plus a complimentary beer, wine or soft drink. Mike and Jim gave a brief overview of Big White and then were available to answer questions and talk in more detail about the mountain. Everyone really enjoyed the dinner and several groups lingered over coffee and more tiramisu until it was time to close up the room.
Yesterday while getting to the top of the racecourse Britt caught an edge, fell and badly twisted his right knee. He raced anyway and continued to make a few runs after the picnic, which didn't help his knee, any. So today he is a non-skier. Earlier in the week Elsie Tiscareno tore her medial collateral ligament and went on the injured list too. Donna Shumaker came on the trip in a leg brace, but was seen on the slopes several times skiing with Terry Bateman and her friends Jack and Marge Robinson (who is still recovering from a fractured pelvis as the result of a horseback riding incident). Audrey Lagrand cut back on her skiing which provided discount lift tickets for the sixth day of skiing for some of the South Bay skiers. Harold Piccus now had to ski solo, but met lots of fellow skiers from around the world. Dolly lost her good buddy, and partner in crime, when Lana Sremba had to return to L.A. early.
Several of the South Bay Ski Club members decided to ski Aspen Highlands today. Peter Broen, Walt Lamay and Ron Lucas skied the mountain with the two Big White reps, Mike Ballingall and Jim Lloyd. Carol Hobaugh, Judy Latta, Mike Sremba and Fred Wolff got a late start so decided to drive Mike's Audi TT and catch-up with the group at Aspen Highlands. Carol and Mike managed to squeeze Freddie sideways in the back seat with the skis and poles while Judy cleaned the snow off the car - New York style. When they pulled-up to park the parking lot attendant only saw two of them in the car at first until he was shown their HOV had 3+ passengers, so they got to park for free. It probably looked like the clown car at the circus when they unloaded. While on the mountain Carol, Mike and Fred spotted Earl Mitchell, Joyce Rodela and the two Big White reps at the bottom of the run. Mike led the group for two non-stop top-to-bottom runs. Experimenting, Mike tried to see if sliding on his back for 100 feet would speed up his run. Luckily Joyce was there to pick up the pieces. After the Big White reps headed for Ajax, Mike led the group through the best bump runs they encountered in the morning. NOTE: "Double Diamonds" at Aspen Highlands are truly double diamonds. Rumor has it Ron Lucas decided to try snowboarding. It was a very brief flirtation, with few actual sightings, but Walt Lamay managed to capture it on film for posterity.
On the shuttle back to Snowmass at the end of the day, Earl Mitchell became the unwanted center of attention when he mistakenly picked-up the wrong pair of skis. It seems they were identical to his skis except for a cartoon character on the skis. The shuttle driver kept up a running commentary on the status of the missing skis and broadcast it over the microphone to everyone on the shuttle. Needless to say Earl will check and double-check his skis next trip.
Some of the group went to The Tower Restaurant for Happy Hour to see some of the very talented magicians perform. Judy Latta spotted The Sandstone Restaurant at Snowmass featuring soft rock music, a nice atmosphere, reasonable prices and excellent food. Rumor has it that on their way back to their rooms some of the group found Freddie in the hotel lobby watching Survivor (Dolly knows he is rooting for Kimmi) and the party continued.
Terry Bateman had arranged for a second group to go to The Crystal Palace tonight. Shirin Afshar had made friends with Bob Irlen and Gary Johnson from TRW and they all joined the rest of the party including Rob Michaels and Sheri Pitcock, Dave Pisarski, Jack and Marge Robinson and Donna Shumaker at this event. They all enjoyed the skits including "We Lub You W" about George Bush.
Ron Lucas hosted the Trip Leader Appreciation Dinner at The Margarita Grille.
Mike Ballingall (one of the Big White reps) entertained everyone with a drop-dead perfect imitation of the shuttle driver's running commentary (complete with the microphone static sounds) on the mistakenly taken ski incident involving Earl Mitchell. Earl attained instant unwanted celebrity.
Britt's knee is still too swollen to take the chance skiing. Walt Lamay was able to get in a sixth day of skiing with the purchase of Britt's lift ticket. Min Ichiho got his sixth day of skiing when he bought Marge Robinson's lift ticket and Donna Shumaker sold hers to a guy from the Tri-Valley Ski Club. Everyone seemed happy with these arrangements.
This was the final day of skiing at Snowmass. Everyone gathered at The Snowmass Conference Center at 7:00 PM for the Awards Banquet. After some initial confusion about seating arrangements, the usual line-up at the bar and a full buffet dinner, the awards were given out. The South Bay Ski Club took top honors and won the Dave Seret Memorial Trophy by racking-up the highest point score thanks to several medal winners. Ellen Falk took first place and was also the fastest woman on the hill. Peter Broen took first place and was the fastest man on the hill. Gold medals were won by Peter Broen, Ellen Falk, Min Ichiho, Walt Lamay, Ron Lucas, Earl Mitchell and Dave Pisarski (TRW). Silver medals were won by Liz Broen, Carol Hobaugh, Joyce Rodela, Mike Sremba, Keiko Takeda (TRW) and Fred Wolff. Bronze medals were won by Brad Falk and Britt Johnson.
Mike Ballingall and Jim Lloyd were present with a video and other information on next year's trip to Big White, Canada. Many enjoyed dancing to the DJ's picks, while others made an early evening of it and went back to the hotel to pack for the following day's departures.
After putting their bags out for a 9:00 AM pick-up most of the group had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Our bus arrived for loading at 11:00 AM and after some confusion with bags being loaded on the wrong bus, we hit the road at 12:05 PM for the long trip back to the Denver airport. We encountered snowy conditions and saw several spinouts buried in the snow in the center divider. There were no food stops this trip so Britt and Dolly passed around snacks, cookies and candy they had brought with them for the ride to Denver. Britt ran a video on Big White and answered lots of questions about the area. Then everyone settled in to watch "The Shawshank Redemption" (the movie Britt and Dolly brought, and one of Dolly's favorites). Those who weren't asleep got totally caught up in this very moving story to the point that we had the bus driver slow down so everyone could see the end of the movie just before we pulled-up in front of the United Terminal (unfortunately on the arriving level rather than the departing level which meant everyone had to schlep their baggage up in the elevators to the actual check-in counters. There we were greeted by a couple of United agents who got huffy about us not being at group check-in (we hadn't been given any specific instructions or information about this). Shirin Afshar's baggage had mistakenly been loaded on our bus so we had to disperse it around to people with less than the allotted amount of luggage to get it on the plane with us to LAX. In addition to a really full 747 cattle car, it seems United had made even less legroom between seats so it is really a tight fit. Dolly had a lady next to her who spoke no English, had way too much carry-on baggage, put the arm rest up and sat on Dolly's lap and used Dolly's pull-down tray for all her food. It was an unbelievable experience.
Upon arrival at LAX there was the usual scramble for luggage carts and luggage. Several people thanked Britt and Dolly for a great trip and then it was goodbye until the next trip. Britt and Dolly took Shirin's luggage home with them and received a call a couple of hours later when Shirin landed at LAX. Shirin's daughter, Lena, picked her up at the airport, along with Ron Lucas, and they made a slight detour to Britt and Dolly's house to retrieve her luggage.
The end of these trips always leave you exhausted and with mixed feelings of fun from the trip and sadness that it is over and you have to say goodbye to so many terrific people. These trips are a lot of work, can have mixed success depending on the problems encountered, and can leave you totally exhausted. Even with all these variables, Britt and Dolly were extremely grateful that they were able to lead this trip after they had to cancel out on last year's trip to Big Sky, Montana because of Britt's accident. We thank everyone who went on this trip with us and were always cooperative, on time, lots of fun and so very kind in every way to us with our return this year as trip leaders. Britt has his trip to The Canyons on February 21-25 and then it's on to lots of fun spring/summer activities before it is time to gear up for next year's ski season. Thanks again to everyone who joined us on the trip to Snowmass and we hope to see you next season on another trip.
Special thanks again to Carol Hobaugh who contributed the on-mountain reports and her view of how things went at Snowmass.