As a lover of all things Chicago, it kills me a little to write this post. I feel that every winter I have to go on the defensive every time I meet someone who doesn’t live here, and usually I don’t mind but this year, I am little more on edge. Conversations usually go like this:
Non Chicagoan: “Oh you’re from Chicago, wow how do you last in the winters? It’s so cold and that wind no thanks, but those three months in the summer sure are awesome.”
Me: “Yeah it’s not that bad, February and March aren’t great but you get use to it.”
However, this year after the seriously insane weather we have been having I have a hard time faking it and pretending that this weather somehow makes us tougher than the rest of you. Now my conversations go like this:
Non Chicagoan: “Wow crazy weather you guys have been having – we had one snow in (insert southern state) and our whole city shut down for a week. I don’t know how you do it year after year.”
Me: “ONE SNOW, ONE SNOW! IF YOU COMPLAIN ONE MORE TIME ABOUT THE INCH OF SNOW THAT SHUT YOU DOWN I SWEAR TO GOD I AM GOING TO LOSE IT. WE HAVE NOT GONE ONE DAY WITHOUT SNOW AND I HAVEN’T SEEN SUNLIGHT AFTER 4PM SINCE NOVEMBER. Also do you have a spare bedroom, perhaps a timeshare I could use?
So yes folks this winter I think I reached my breaking point and that is why the month of March I decided to high tail it out of Chicago for a few weeks.
I have a jam-packed March in hopes that when April rolls around it will consistently be above the -10 temps that we have unfortunately become accustomed to this winter. My travel schedule looks a little something like this Vegas – Denver – Phoenix – Raleigh and Chili looks like this every time he sees me pull out the old suitcase.
My month of travel started the last week of February when I headed to Las Vegas for a work trip. I was able to tack on my yearly ski trip to Denver to visit my friends Krissy and Anne and this year Chris decided to tag along.
Some may ask, “But Katie you just complained about the snow for the better part of this blog why head to Denver?” Funny thing about Colorado is it’s always sunny, that 300 days of sunshine a year is 100% true, and while it’s snowing in the mountains, it’s 50 in the city. Overall, it is a vast improvement to my current living conditions, just look at some of the hiking pics, beautiful 55 and sunny in Golden, Colorado.
For those of you looking to get a last minute ski trip in I highly recommend it, because March is still great skiing weather out in CO. I also have a few tips from my trip to Keystone so if you are thinking about heading to the mountains have a look!
Where to Stay
I think a common misconception about skiing in Colorado is that it’s way too expensive. But here is a trick, it’s all about traveling on the off days. For those of us who aren’t beholden to kid’s spring break schedules, we can really score some deals. When you schedule a trip lets say Sun. – Wed. you not only avoid the weekend crowds, you can also get a place to stay in Keystone during the week for anywhere from $125 – $175 a night and that could include a kitchen and living room (meaning more people, thus more people to split the room with).
You can also try sites like Air BnB for some cheaper deals, but you won’t get the perks you get when you stay at a resort owned property. For example, free storage for your skis every night (no need to lug them back and forth from the mountain they are waiting for you at the gondola) and you can skip to the front of the ski lift line before 10am on your first run (saving you 30 – 45 minute of waiting in the long line for the first run and of course the benefit of fresh powder). Well worth the few extra bucks.
The staff at Keystone was nice enough to provide us a hotel room at Keystone Lodge and Spa during our two-day stay and complimentary lift tickets. Now if you are in the mood to be pampered you should stay here, they have a spa, fitness classes, indoor/outdoor hot tub, balcony with view of the mountain, pure high-class all the way. It costs around $300 a night, but well worth the extra money if you want to get the full vacation experience.
I mentioned earlier that this was an annual trip, and last year we headed to the mountains as well, but we didn’t stay in such lux conditions. My friend Krissy told me she “knew a guy” who could get us a “sweet deal” on a room “on the mountain” for $50 total a night and it sleeps 3. This my friends was a lesson in if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. It’s actually where staff stays on this unnamed mountain and it was basically the equivalent to athlete village in Sochi. Honestly though for $50 a night what did I expect, I blame myself.
I just want to show a quick comparison:
Last Year’s Room
Keystone Spa and Lodge
So this is a hard one because every run was fun and challenging in it’s own way. But if I had to pick it would have to be Spring Dipper. We hit the mountain early on Sunday and because we got a ton of snow that night there was fresh powder everywhere, but the Spring Dipper run in particular was like skiing in a cloud. As someone who is use to the icy hills of the Midwest, I couldn’t get over how amazing it was to literally be the first person skiing through an area of a mountain that day. Also since it’s a blue that turns into a green, most skill levels can handle.
Favorite Apres Spot
Oh Apres, one of my new favorite words. It literally means “after” in French and is basically a fancy way to say happy hour. Two good spots right off the mountain are Kickapoo and 9280′ Tap House. Apres starts at 3pm and ends at 6pm every day, if you are looking for cheap drinks and want to save some cash on meals don’t miss this daily deal.
Where to Eat
Now if you are looking for a more of a hearty meal after a long day of skiing or just need to take a mid-day break I have two fantastic spots to try out.
Apenglobe Stube: So let me start with they take of your ski boots and give you shearling slippers to wear around the restaurant. I mean you had me at slippers, feed me whatever.
The best time to try out this place is for a Sunday brunch for $32 dollars you get to try the buffet that has an outstanding seafood selection, great salads and meats/cheese galore. It also comes with a soup du jour and of course big dessert selection. You can also up your game and get a entrée with a mimosa for $49. All of this and an amazing view because it sits on top of the mountain. A few things worth noting, this is not a big place so you must make reservations well in advance and you need to take two gondolas to get there so budget some time for travel.
Luigi’s: As you know I love Italian food and can be a harsh critic at times when someone’s sauce comes out of a jar (this recipe literally takes 20 minutes, and tastes way better, please put that Prego jar down and buy some tomatoes), so I am always a little hesitant to eat out for Italian. But I will say Luigi’s did not let us down, I had the chicken Parmesan, so good and everyone else at the table raved about their meals as well. Also pretty reasonably priced, if you missed that Apres deal this won’t break the bank.
Budget Friendly Options
While lift tickets can be expensive (at Keystone they were $129 a day) there are season passes that you can get for so cheap. They have a Keystone and A-Basin pass that you can get early in the season (before Thanksgiving) for $299, that is unlimited skiing all season. That means if you ski for three days you already get your money’s worth. Granted it has a few blackout days (like pres day, holiday breaks, etc), but you aren’t going to be going then anyways because I already told you its way cheaper to do a weekday trip.
Also I forgot to mention the best part, night skiing! Yes it’s one of the few mountains that have lights for you to ski at night, so even if you get in late on a Sunday you can still hit up the mountain till 8 pm.
When Chris and I headed back home, we couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to live out west. Beautiful weather, great friends, and skiing two hours away, what’s not to like! What it really boils down to is that if we lived out west we would literally have nothing to talk to strangers about, without bad weather to start convos what would we say? Conversations would go like this:
Non-Coloradan (is that a word??): Wow Denver I love it there, so beautiful and so much to do. Great place to live!
Me: Yeah it’s great…(crickets)
Now onto the next trip – this week I am Phoenix bound to visit some family and to spring break it up with my sister Shannon. Yes I am almost 30 and sure I have to work when I am there, but when you get an invite to relive Spring Break with your 20-year-old sister you don’t say no.