Friday, April 18 at Vail was more about lunch and grilling than skiing. Jane and I were anticipating a warm sunny day during spring that would allow us to pack some brats and beverages and head to the top of Blue Sky Basin to do outdoor grilling. When we saw the five day weather forecast that projected highs in Denver in the upper 70’s for Friday, April 18, we initiated our plan.
Jane contacted our friends, the Gaiges and Youngs, and invited them to join us for a day of skiing at Vail including grilled bratwurst at Belle’s Camp at the top of Blue Sky Basin. In a short amount of time we learned that the Gaiges were in, and Fred would join as well although his wife Douggie had other plans. Karen Gaige volunteered to bring along food as well, and we were set.
On Friday morning Jane and I drove to Frisco and met the other three at the parking lot just off the second exit from interstate 70. We combined our food and ski gear and proceeded to the Lionshead lot at Vail. As we boarded the gondola at 9:30, the temperature at the base was already in the low 50’s. We all wore backpacks stashed with food for our lunch, and I attempted to include a bottle of Lefthand Milk Stout Nitro in my small day pack. Unfortunately for the first time all season a security person was inspecting packs and confiscated our one brew. Evidently they were scrambling for beverages for their Friday after work party.
Our group of five spent the morning largely in the back bowls sticking mostly to groomed terrain to avoid the crusty conditions that existed before the snow softened. By 12:30 we managed to arrive at the cluster of picnic tables at the summit of Blue Sky Basin next to Belle’s Camp. Quite a crowd had already gathered, but we managed to snag one of the two remaining tables, and Karen and Jane extracted the package of bratwurst and secured some grilling space at the most western grill. Everyone was in a festive mood as they stripped down to T-shirts and soaked up the strong rays of the sun. We noticed bottles of alcohol everywhere and speculated that many skiers had large hidden pockets or knew the protocol for bribery.
Jane tended the brats on the grill while I obtained some tap water from the Belle’s Camp snack shack; and Karen, Dave and Fred spread out the other tasty items on the picnic table. In addition to bratwurst there were clementines, carrots, apples, Easter candy and brownies. Once the brats were cooked and singed a tempting shade of brown, we stuffed ourselves and relaxed and soaked up the sun. This was definitely the highlight of the day.
We snapped quite a few photos to record our fun event and then cleaned up our table and prepared to ski for the remainder of the afternoon. The skiing was actually rather anticlimactic as we found soft sticky slushy snow everywhere. One could straighline steep expert slopes from top to bottom with no concern over loss of control due to the extreme sticky consistency of the snow. Catwalks and gradual slopes were another matter, as they delivered a fairly strenuous upper body workout required to pole through the slush. Every transfer from shade to sun was an adventure and provided a lesson in physics and the forces of momentum.
Despite the slow afternoon skiing, it was a great spring skiing day highlighted by a delicious lunch and capped by a stop at Prost in Frisco for some German beer and a soft pretzel. This may be the last ski post of the season, but then again A-Basin may remain open until the Fourth of July. Our group of five already discussed taking the Smokey Joe to the Beach at Arapahoe Basin. Stay tuned.