Sunday, March 29, 2009

Keystone Resort - Keystone, Colorado

After a long trip through the Rockies and back, we finally arrived Keystone Resort on Saturday and I made it in time to give the opening speech at the Travel Channel. TCA welcomed 23 new travel journalists this go-around and it was really exciting to meet the new group.

One of my responsibilities while up in Keystone was to help with a shoot for the resort. One of our top preditors, Ryan VanDuzer was shooting and I was there to pre-pro and get a feel for the place. So, you know what that meant... yup, this chick did the rental thing, grabbed a lift ticket and headed out to the mountain for some ski school!

I think the last time I was on skis was when I was 13 and I went to Browdie Mountain with my dearest friend from childhood, Cathleen. She had been skiing since she was a toddler, so skiing with her was fun and in only a few hours of skiddish falls... I was able to handle some green runs. Well, that was 21 years ago and I was not taking any chances. Good thing for me that Keystone has a great ski school... so, we rented some skis and headed to River Run Village to meet up with our instructor.

Ski school was great. They taught us how to move our feet and bend our legs right on the pavement. Then, we hauled our equipment, jumped on the gondola and headed up to the top of the mountain to practice on their bunny slope. The great thing about Keystone's practice hill is that it has what they call a magic carpet. It is literally a people mover... like the one in the airports... that is covered like a tube that you simply walk onto with your skis and you are towed right back up to the top. No tow ropes! Now, don't get me wrong... I still stumbled onto it and I think I spilled off of the carpet a few times before I finally mastered it.

In just a few hours, my husband and I were comfortable and feeling ready for a more significant run... or a beer. So, we decided on the beer and called it a day on the slopes. We went back down the mountain and enjoyed a snack at Spoon, a cute little cafe only steps from the gondola at the base of the mountain. The one thing that I love about ski resorts is the comfort level. Everyone is in their ski gear, hair is messed, lips are chapped and a little "fresh" smelling after a day on the slopes. Nobody cares... and everyone is there just enjoying how relaxed the environment is. The whole place is family friendly and it may just be Keystone... but, I mean the whole place... from the resorts to the restaurants to the bus service. It was refreshing.

The next morning I did a brief speech with the students before they started their morning lecture. Then,Peter and I headed back out to the mountain. Our first stop took two gondolas up to over 11,000 feet to the premiere restaurant at the resort, Alpenglow Stube. We decided to go for a nice brunch so that we could work on skiing off the calories for the rest of the day. When we walked into the restaurant, they asked us for our coats and gear and our boots. They then handed us a cozy pair of slippers to wear into the dining room. I immediately fell in love! The food was amazing and probably the best brunch I have ever had... and that includes the brunch with my Ritz! Peter had an eggs benedict which was a duck egg with melted aged cheddar over grilled ostrich with a holandaise and a balsamic reduction. TO DIE FOR! I had a spinach and crab omelet that was also yummy. The highlight of my meal was the giant crab claws on the seafood bar and the endless choices of desserts. I would need three days of skiing to knock off the calories that I consumed in a period of 90 minutes!

I always thought that ski trips were about long cold days on the mountain, beer and burgers for dinner, hot cocoas and board games. I was sure surprised with the level of service, the quality of the food and the value that we got at Keystone. It is definitely up on my "must do that again" list and I highly recommend the experience... especially for families.

Luckily, our trip back to Denver was quiet and it allowed us to stop in on one of the restaurants featured on Man V. Food. Get ready for the next blog where I take on a burger from Duffy's Cherry Cricket... and this time, girl won.

Travel On.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Little Too High in the Rocky Mountains

I'm usually not one for a trip to the mountains. My husband's family has a house up in Lake George, NY and it is always a struggle to get me there. However, once I get there I usually enjoy all that a mountain retreat has to offer. When I was a kid, I used to travel up to Browdie Mountain in Massachusetts with my closest friend and her family for ski weekends. I remember the first time I clicked on a pair of skis and took to the slopes. I had a couple of hours of falls and trying to understand the value of the "snow plow" but in no time I was up and taking to the beginner and intermediate slopes without a problem. So, when the opportunity came to travel out to Keystone Colorado for a Travel Channel Academy, I was hesitant but excited to get back onto a pair of skis. My husband joined me on this trip. It's the rare opportunity when my work schedule is light and he is able to leave his post as an IT Manager back in DC. The stars aligned and he was able to book the trip and come along for an adventure up in the Rocky Mountains! We departed DC on Friday morning for Denver. He was on a Northwest flight through Minneapolis and I was on direct that would have us landing within minutes of each other at Denver International Airport. From there, we were going to meet up with one of our dearest friends and his wife for a quick dinner and then we would drive the 90 miles from Denver to Keystone. We arrived in Denver on time... got our luggage and rental and was well on our way to our friends house within an hour or so of landing. We went to dinner at a very cool little restaurant called Rootdown which is housed in a renovated gas/ service station. The restaurant has an organic/ sustainability theme and the entire place is decorated using recycled products. The floor of the main dining room is a recycled gym floor from one of the local high schools and lids from aluminum cans line the wall of one of the smaller dining areas off of the kitchen. We chose a table in the bar where we were surrounded by old fashioned telephones as we enjoyed a few of the organic selections on the Happy Hour menu. After our brief stay with our friends, we hopped back into the rental and plugged "Keystone" into our GPS and started the trip to the resort. It was now dark and there was a bit of dusty snow falling as we started our trek into the Rocky Mountains. We passed a few signs that said VAIL - 100 MILES and we took the exit that said KEYSTONE RESORT off of I-70. At the end of that exit ramp, the woman in the GPS system (affectionately named, Matilda) told us to take a right and drive another 40 or so miles through a town called Kremmling. OK, made the right and the drive became more of a two lane road through the dark mountains. In Kremmling, we stopped at a gas station called "Kum and Go" (had to include that in the blog...need to buy a t-shirt) and asked the guy behind the counter how long it would take us to finally get to Keystone. He said 45 miles and Peter and I just looked at each other... what we did not know is that he meant 45 miles in the opposite direction we were traveling! So, we loaded back into the rental and started back on the wrong route to what we thought would be Keystone Resort. At that point of the trip, the drive became a bit dicey... there were HUNDREDS (yes, HUNDREDS) of deer on the side of the road. They were so close to the car we could have pet them. We also scooted past a fat white rabbit and a glittery eyed fox. The snow was coming down and the drive was treacherous... especially going over "Rabbit Ear Pass" where a sign told us that we were sitting on the Continental Divide. By the time we were coming off of that pass, my knuckles were so white and tense that they ached when I finally released them to change the channel on the radio. At that moment, we decided that something had to be wrong. It was almost 90 miles since the sign at the end of I-70 and still no sign of the resort. Matilda was telling us that we were heading in the right direction... but, something just seemed way off. We finally pulled over and cursed at Matilda when we realized our mistake. We were in Steamboat Springs... 90 miles away from the resort and I flat out refused to get back into that car. So, we booked a night at the local Holiday Inn and decided to head back to Keystone early the next morning. We drove the 90 miles back to Keystone at 7am as the sun was starting to sparkle on the mountains. We both were pissed that it happened, but the morning ride made it all worthwhile. The Rockies welcomed us with beautiful scenics in every direction. We passed ranch after ranch with horses and cattle and just enjoyed the peace of the ride without feeling like we were in the middle of a Discovery Channel survival show. Now, we are here and ready for the Travel Channel Academy's four day boot camp at the Keystone Resort. I'll have more in a bit from our first days on the slopes and a review of the highest restaurant in the country... 11,474 ft! Travel On Lori