Powderhorn Upgrade Announced

Powderhorn-logoPowderhorn Mountain Resort, on the north side of the Grand Mesa in western Colorado, has long seemed like an immutable ski area, few and infrequent changes. There was little need since the Mesa is the winter playground for the captive audience from the area around Grand Junction, which I think of as the capital of western Colorado. Now, it is due for some major upgrades — though, alas, lodging does not seem to be part of it.

Nearly four years after being purchased by Gart Capital Partners and Andy Daly, Powderhorn will be investing $5 million in the coming year to improve the slopes for winter and summer recreation. The big news is a Poma high-speed quad chairlift along the same alignment as the current Take Four lift to cut ride time and adding comfortable seats and footrests. The bottom terminal will be lowered by approximately eight feet for easier access to lift loading area. Also on the docket: additional snowmaking on the lower portion Bill’s Run, the intermediate trail for assure high-quality conditions on opening day in mid-December. The new quad will feature bike carriers to access the first phase of a comprehensive new mountain bike system.

For all sorts of reasons, what is not in the plan is additional lodging or anything resembling a village — just a mid-range condo development with a restaurant that is sometimes open, sometimes not. I love the notion of an upgraded lift along with base area improvements in the last few years, but using the word “Resort” as part of the name is really hyperbole. Grand Junction, with an abundance of affordable accommodations, is a doable commute, but it still doesn’t provide the feel of a ski destination.



50% Off Everest Base Camp Trek

Himalaya adventure company seeks to rebuild visitation.

AceHolidays-logoIf I thought that I were still able to make a 15-day Himalayan trek, I’d sign up in a heartbeat for this great deal. Sure, I’d have to get myself half-way around the world from the US, but what an opportunity. I hope you or someone you might know is up for it. Think of me.

Guides don't need such signs! they know the route, but trekkers like seeing such markers. (Ace Adventures photo)

Guides don’t need such signs! they know the route, but trekkers like seeing such markers. (Ace Holidays photo)

Ace Holidays (a division of legendary Nepal operator, Ace the Himalayas) has announced 50 percent savings to guests who   book an epic 15-day Everest Base Camp Trek by February 28.  “Our rationale for offering this incredible price is to re-introduce people to Nepal after last year’s Everest issues,” said Prem K. Khatry, founder and director of Ace Holidays, referring to the April 18, 2014, tragedy that killed 16 Nepali mountain workers. Since then the number of foreign trekkers to this part of the world has declined.

There is no substitute for seeing the great mountain wonders one step at a time. (Photo courtesy Ace Adventures photo)

There is no substitute for seeing the great mountain wonders one step at a time. (Photo courtesy Ace Holidays photo)

Continue reading “50% Off Everest Base Camp Trek”

Gunnison Motor Inn’s Upscale Look

Furnishings from Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch elevate Western Slope motor lodge.

InnTomichi-logoI’ve driven past the Inn at Tomichi Village any number of times. This sprawling motor lodge up on a little hill at the eastern approach to Gunnison always looked pleasant enough, but Crested Butte has always been my destination. But this time, instead of turning off US 50 in the center of Gunnison, my husband and I pulled into the inn’s curving driveway. When we opened the door to our room, we were amazed at the furnishings.

Elegant ambiance, softer and firmer pillows and tasteful wall art in Room 34.

Elegant ambiance, softer and firmer pillows and tasteful wall art in Room 34.

Beautiful, heavy-weight wood furniture — out of scale with the standard motel room size. Designer fabrics used for upholstery and bedding. A sign that indicated each bed was made up with both softer and firmer pillows. Pillow-top mattress. Classy decorative accessories. Quality frames on the wall art. Elegant wall colors and subdued light. Turns out that the magnificently upmarket Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch at Vail either had just remodeled or was about to, and the Inn at Tomichi Village bought a  load of gently used, well-cared-for furnishings.

This desk lamp says "Ritz-Carlton" rather than "motel by the highway."

This desk lamp says “Ritz-Carlton” rather than “motel by the highway.”

Continue reading “Gunnison Motor Inn’s Upscale Look”

Grand Weekend in Grand County

Wonderful winter destination with lots of options.

GrandColunty-logoThe list of things we did not do during four days visiting Grand County exceeds what we did. We did not go snowmobiling, snowboarding, ice skating, SnoScooting, swimming, horseback riding, spa-ing or shopping. We spent two days on Alpine skis (one at Winter Park, the second at Granby Ski Ranch) and two days in between at Snow Mountain Ranch/YMCA of the Rockies, where we enjoyed the immaculate cross-country trails and dedicated snowshoe trails. We did not go sledding or tubing, play tennis, do archery, use the indoor climbing wall, make things in a crafts studio or rent fat-tire bikes for riding in snow on special trails.

Winter Park, celebrating its 75th anniversary this season, is a mammoth ski area with seven distinct "zones" for skiers and snowboarders. Its dazzling, complex terrain has everything from a barely titled beginner area to daunting bump runs, terrain parks, chutes and sky-high bowls.

Winter Park, celebrating its 75th anniversary this season, is a mammoth ski area with seven distinct “zones” for skiers and snowboarders. Its dazzling, complex terrain has everything from a barely titled beginner area to daunting bump runs, terrain parks, chutes and sky-high bowls.

Snow Mountain Ranch boasts immaculate Nordic Trails, including set tracks for classical skiing and wide lanes for skating. Did I mention they were uncrowded?

Snow Mountain Ranch boasts immaculate Nordic Trails, including set tracks for classical skiing and wide lanes for skating. Did I mention they were uncrowded?

Separate snowshoeing trails lace though woods and across wide meadows.

Separate snowshoeing trails lace though woods and across wide meadows.

Granby Ski Ranch is a self-contained resort with abundant lodging and family-friendly terrain for skiers and snowboarders.

Granby Ski Ranch is a self-contained resort with abundant lodging and family-friendly terrain for skiers and snowboarders.


Tower Bridge’s Spectaular Glass Walkway

New visitor attraction at old Victorian Bridge.

TowerBridgeVisitors may now see London’s iconic Tower Bridge from a new angle — from new glass walkways situated between the towers 45 meters (nearly 150 feet) above the Thames. It is an expansion of the Tower Experience, a museum display that includes historic displays and the bridge’s original workings. Since 1982, Tower Bridge Exhibition has told the history of the bridge and why it came into existence through this fascinating exhibition. The new high-level walkways are something else. Transparent glass floors provides a bird’s eye view of the bridge deck and the raising, lowering and passage of ships far below. The walk-up cost to experience this is £9 per adult, but less expensive options also exist.



Where Winter Lives: Leadville

America’s highest city a snowsports lovers’ heaven.

Leadville-logoAt 10,152 feet above sea level, Leadville, CO, is America’s highest city. Its nickname is Cloud City, and in winter, I think it should be Snow Cloud City. There’s Alpine skiing, snowboarding and snowcat skiing/riding at Ski Cooper along US Hwy, 24 just a few miles north of Leadville. This small ski area is the direct heir to the fabled 10th Army Division of World War II, which trained at nearby Camp Hale. But it provides just some of the winter sports opportunities. Here are some others:

  • Cross-Country Ski. Skiers can find trails suited to their preferences and abilities in and around Leadville. The Mineral Belt Trail, a historic route that loops the city, is a good place for beginning and intermediate skiers to familiarize themselves with the area; experts can explore the east-side mining district. Both are groomed regularly and are easy to access from several spots in town.
  • Bike.  Fat bikes and snow bikes are gaining in popularity every year, and Leadville is ahead of the curve on meeting the growing demand for this sport. The Cloud City Wheelers bike club builds and grooms single-track trails for biking, which, combined with the other area trail networks and dozens of ungroomed county roads, create enough choices to keep riders busy for days on end.
  • Snowshoe. From wide, flat trails that gently wind through the trees at the Mt. Massive Golf Course Nordic Area to well-marked trails with lots of ups and downs at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, to accessing the 500-mile Colorado Trail and 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail in nearby Twin Lakes, there’s something for every snowshoer, no matter their age or ability.
  • Snowmobile. White Mountain Tours offers guided trips on the Turquoise Lake Trail that can be combined with zip-lining for a true Rocky Mountain bucket-list adventure. Turquoise Lake and the east-side mining district trails are open to motorized use. The High Riders Snowmobile Club grooms these trails, along with some county roads, and offers organized rides throughout the winter as well.
  • Race. Enthusiasts of all of these sports with can also compete in them in Leadville each year. Winter competitions include the Harrison Avenue Knock-out Nordic Sprints, the Nordic Paintball Biathlon, the Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Race Series, the Leadville Snowshoe Marathon and Half-Marathon, a winter triathlon, the Leadville Loppet and the Leadville High-Altitude Snow Drags.
  • Learn. Leadville is an ideal destination for those just starting out or wanting to try before they buy. Fat bike and Nordic ski rentals are available at Cycles of Life and the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center. The latter also rents snowshoes, offers Nordic lessons and a fee-based system of groomed, set track and wide skate lanes. Mt. Massive Golf Course offers cross-country ski rentals and lessons, and Alpine Ski and Sports, Bill’s Rentals, Leadville Outdoors and Leadville Ski Country rent a variety of winter sports equipment. Colorado Mountain College – Leadville offers one- and two-day courses as well. And of course, Ski Cooper offers ski and snowboard lessons for adults and children.
  • Dog-Friendly Too. Other than on the Ski Cooper trails, leashed and well-behaved pooches are allowed on all of these trails; owners are asked to follow proper trail etiquette and pick up after their dogs. The Mt. Massive Golf Course trails are open to off-leash dogs as long as they are kept under the owner’s control. Cold Nose Warm Heart Pet Care provides boarding and doggie daycare options.

Winter trail maps are available at the Leadville Lake County Visitor Center at 809 Harrison Avenue on the north end of the historic downtown, at many of the businesses listed above and online. The Leadville Ranger District Office at 810 Front Street or 719-486-7409 is a great resource for trail information and conditions. Trail users should check current conditions with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center before heading out.

Airlines’ Extra Fees Are Windfall Worth Billions

Top revenue source, surprisingly, isn’t passengers but banks.

FrequentFlyerIf you need any reason to fly Southwest, it is the staggering amount of money airlines are raking in by charging for everything other than your seat, lavatory access and maybe a cheap beverage (water, coffee, tea) and a little bag of peanuts or pretzels. Not long ago, travel authority Peter Greenberg dissected the outrageous revenues carriers are extracting from travelers in a blog post called “How Much Are Airlines Making from Ancillary Revenue?”

According to the site,  “Ancillary revenue for the entire airline community—international and domestic—hit $31.5 billion in 2013. The top 5 U.S. airlines earned over $13.5 billion alone….The folks at IdeaWorks, a company that tracks these things, has projected that ancillary revenue will climb to $49.9 billion worldwide in 2014—a 17.2 percent increase from 2013.”

As annoying as the add-on fees are to aggrieved passengers, I was very surprised to learn that what we are paying isn’t the largest ancillary revenue source for carriers. It’s banks. According to PeterGreenberg.com, “The largest contributor is the sale of frequent flyer miles—when the bank pays the airline to redeem your frequent flyer miles accrued through a credit card. This makes up 55 percent of profits from ancillary revenue, and has earned airlines $27.45 billion in 2013.”

Are you as surprised as I?

Three Weeks of Gustatorian Apres-Ski

KeystoneResort-logoKeystone was Colorado’s first mountain resort to really emphasize its culinary side with interesting restaurants in the valley and up on the mountain. It long ago began hiring real chefs rather than short order cooks who were frying up burgers in exchange for free skiing. and began beefing up its kitchen staffs with real chefs and culinary school apprentices. As one of the early built-from-the-ground-up full-service resorts, it developed lodging and food and beverage facilities. The high bar Keystone set for itself continues.

Keystone Resort’s distinct signature restaurants are on display during this season’s Savor the Slopes, an upcoming multi-week rotating showcase featuring food, wine, beer and spirits. Each the host restaurant organizes its tasting event with its own unique theme that promises to be both informative and delicious. Award-winning, mountaintop locations, historical buildings and two distinct village settings host a combined 17 tasting events. All events begin at 4 p.m., so they are an excellent après-ski option. I love that several feature Colorado beer, wine and spirits. Resort guests might even want to ski off a little of the Savor the Slopes calories, while cay skiers can linger and avoid some of the eastbound I-70 traffic — of course, being  very conservative adult beverages.

Each event costs $25 (a tab easily reached by ordering some beer and munchies during conventional après-ski.  Reservations for individual Savor the Slopes tasting events are required, and can be made by calling 970-496-4386.

Savor the Slopes Schedule

  • Der Fondue Chessel. A Taste of Fondue, Wednesday, January 21
  • Alpenglow Stube. Wines of Napa Valley, Thursday, January 22
  • Keystone Ranch. Farm to Table Presentation, Friday, January 23
  • Bighorn Bistro. Creation of a Menu Item, Saturday, January 24
  • The Ski Tip Lodge. Hors d’oeuvres Made Easy, Sunday, January 25
  • Der Fondue Chessel. Cabernet at its Finest, Wednesday, January 28
  • Alpenglow Stube. Wild Game, Thursday, January 29
  • Keystone Ranch. Colorado Spirits, Friday, January 30
  • Bighorn Bistro. Craft Beers, Gastropub Style Bites, Saturday, January 31
  • The Ski Tip Lodge. Trends in Wine Making, Sunday, February 1
  • Der Fondue Chessel. Beers of the World, Wednesday, February 4
  • Alpenglow Stube. Mysteries of Merlot, Thursday, February 5
  • Keystone Ranch. History of Colorado Wines, Friday, February 6
  • Bighorn Bistro. How to Create Craft Cocktails, Saturday, February 7
  • The Ski Tip Lodge. Ski Tip Infusions, Sunday, February 8
  • Der Fondue Chessel. Wines of Sonoma, Wednesday, February 11
  • 9280 Tap House. Colorado Beers, Thursday, February 12

Cross-posted to Culinary Colorado.

The Slow Progress of High-Speed Rail in the US

Construction is finally expected to begin for a California bullet train.

Japan’s first bullet train (Shinkansen in Japanese) went into service in 1964, and earlier this week the ceremonial groundbreaking finally took place for the first 29 miles of what could eventually be 800 miles of California’s bullet train tracks. the first segment is between Fresno and Madera, eventually linking to routes to such major cities as San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego — hopefully by 2028. The maximum speed will be 220 miles per hour. The currently estimated cost of the completed project: $68 billion.

California's future bullet train that would be a train of the past in progressive Japan.

California’s future bullet train, whose technology would be a train of the past in progressive Japan.

Japan, meanwhile, has tested a new maglev train going 500 kilometers per hour, and hopes to complete the link between Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027 and an extension to Osaka by 2045, replacing the current bullet trains. Estimated cost: 5.5 trillion yen ($50 billion). The Tokyo-Osaka corridor is the world’s busiest with up to 13 super-fast trains per hour.

The environmental and economic benefits of high-speed rail are apparent elsewhere, and even emerging economies are building, planning or considering their own systems. Last month, China launched 32 new routes in one day. Russia wants a line between Moscow and Beijing,  shortening the legendary Trans-Siberian journey from seven days to two. Even Mexico wants high-speed rail. In the U.S., meanwhile, Texas in planning a bullet train connecting Houston and Dallas. It could come online as early as 2021.

Pathetic, isn’t it?


Denver Botanic Gardens’ Permanent Chihuly

Denver-Botanic-Gardens-LogoThe Denver Botanic Gardens’ 2014 exhibition of works from glass-meister Dale Chihuly’s Seattle studio was a blockbuster success with enormous day-time crowds and sold-out evenings. Now, a grand Chihuly work fittingly called “Colorado” has a forever home in the Gardens and is on view in the Ellipse garden. “We” have it, through the generosity of private donors including Robert and Judi Newman, John and Ginny Freyer and the RC Kemper Charitable Trust, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee.

Chihuly's "Colorado" blazes in the snow.

Chihuly’s “Colorado” blazes in the snow.

This stellar 14-foot-tall piece made with 1,017 hand-blown glass elements. Viewing of Coloradois, of course, included in Gardens’ admission. Chihuly used a red, orange and yellow color palette as it reminded him of the beautiful skies and sunsets he enjoyed during Denver visits. He further drew inspiration for the new work from one of his most challenging outdoor installations, “Icicle Creek Chandelier,” a permanent outdoor piece that he did in 1996 at Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth, Washington. Installed on a granite rock, the chandelier is a permanent reminder of how a work of art can be framed in nature and find harmony within it. Like the Leavenworth piece, “Colorado” is designed to survive similar outdoor weather conditions.