18 Apr 2014, 4:07pm
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Front Range Fun: Mountain Travel Symposium, Breckenridge and Keystone

Mountain Travel Movers and Shakers AKA T-ride's Top GMs in the Powder Line at Breck

Mountain Travel Movers and Shakers AKA T-ride’s Top GMs in the Powder Line at Breck

I’m back home after a terrific week on the Front Range of Colorado where I experienced  three different ski resorts, a few nice restaurants and some fun hobnobbing with the folks attending Mountain Travel Symposium (MTS), the largest and longest-running annual gathering of travel professionals in the world. The conference took place in Breckenridge, which served as an excellent base for discovering one of the biggest ski resorts of the country, neighboring ski resorts and the surrounding area. (The drive over Hoosier Pass, just outside of Breck, upon arrival and departure was especially beautiful and one that I definitely recommend.)

Now I feel like I have more of a sense of this part of our Rocky Mountain state—less than a two-hour drive from Denver. The majestic scenery and near limitless options for fun and adventure in these mountains help me to understand why so many people plan their travels around Front Range destinations. Crowds can be a big drawback, however if you go in April, you can enjoy primo spring skiing on half-empty mountains where lift lines only occur on powder days.

Me Joining the Big Boys at the Front of the Powder Line

Me Joining the Big Boys at the Front of the Powder Line

Last year I attended some of the presentations and workshops organized by MTS although this year most of my contact with these travel professionals occurred on the fringes in restaurants, bars and even on chairlift rides. Every where I went I seemed to bump into someone from MTS—indeed these snowsports movers and shakers, deciders and providers from all over the world did seem to take over Breckenridge. And as is often the case at conferences, it appeared that much of the networking and dealmaking between everyone from group travel planners to marketing and social media experts seemed to take place as much inside the meeting halls as outside. That only makes sense, especially with this group of folks, most of whom are avid skiers and snowboarders themselves.

The Big MTS Party

The Big MTS Party

Ullr Warriors

Ullr Warriors

In the Snow Spirit

In the Snow Spirit

Absinthe:  A Good Networking Lubricant

Absinthe: A Good Networking Lubricant

The ski industry is filled with adventuresome types that like to have fun. That became abundantly evident at MTS’s main event, a big bash hosted by Breckenridge and GoBreck, the ski resort and the tourism board respectively. This year’s theme was inspired by Ullr Fest, Breck’s signature, annual event when free-spirited locals invite all to give thanks to everything winter. An avalanche of toasts were shared, most beneath the cloak of a furry throw, a Viking helmet or a shabby beard. (The last one is easy in a ski town.)

Fortunately after all that hooting and partying, the big powder day of the week did not occur the next day but two days later when fifteen inches of fresh was dumped on Breckenridge within a twenty-four hour period. I had already enjoyed a fun springlike day with a friend and fellow ski instructor from Telluride before the storm, yet the excitement of discovering the mountain—which is actually made up of six peaks—grew exponentially with every flake that fell. Breckenridge, known to be a terrific snowcatcher, lived up to its reputation and I had the thrill of standing in the powder line with my hunny, Steve Togni, and another top hotel GM from Telluride, on one of the best days of the season. I was almost trampled by some aggro dudes behind but I held my own. I cut the guys loose and played in the pow on my own. (Best to live by the ‘ole adage:  “There are no friends on powder days.” Especially girlfriends.)

Toasting Girl Power at the Base of Peak 7

Toasting Girl Power at the Base of Peak 7

We met up for a late lunch and ski and I was happy to recount that I found my way around this expansive resort just fine. It takes a bit of doing at first, but it’s easy to find your fun whether you’re charging down blacks off of Peak 10, cruising along rolling terrain on Peak 7 or pushing your comfort zone to the max by hiking out to the Whale’s Tail or other hinterlands off of Peak 6. You’ll find some of the best high alpine, awe-inspiring, snow-white scenery in these latter spots, but you’ll need to brave the wind, traverse and push on through to find some of the best skiing on the mountain. I did that off the Imperial lift with Steve, dropping in off of a frightfully high cornice and enjoyed some fantastic, wide-open, bowl skiing. I challenged myself almost as much the next day and dubbed Intuition, a black off of Peak 6, my favorite run of Breckenridge, another sweeping swath of white which I’m sure always boasts the best snow on the mountain.

Stopping to Pose with Steve After a Long Powder Day

Stopping to Pose with Steve After a Long Powder Day

Breck's Renowned Whale's Tail

Breck’s Renowned Whale’s Tail

My Sweet Spot Off of Peak 6

My Sweet Spot Off of Peak 6

Selfie on Top of the World---at Least Almost

Selfie on Top of the World—at Least Almost

Sure, Breck is known for its seemingly endless series of traverses and run outs, yet I ended up finding it more than manageable to find my way from Beaver Run, the conveniently-located resort where the conference was being held and where we were staying. I headed out from here each day, venturing to every end of the ski resort and back without a single glitch. I can understand how people stay in Breck for a whole week and still have more to explore by the end of their stay.

Keystone Resort

Keystone Resort

Steve and I skied Keystone the last day and were delighted to discover such a resort, characterized by excellent terrain for every level (except for double black diamond skiers—which didn’t even bother Steve). We loved the layout and were happy to discover many north-facing slopes which left the snow creamy soft even with the rising springtime temperatures. We were stoked about the overall feel of the resort—from the friendliness to the lifties to the warmth of the architecture of the on-mountain facilities. As we turned, turned, turned down one long, languorous blue at the end, reveling in how we felt as our skis cut through firm-ish snow, then butter, then corn, I know we both felt like we never wanted the season to end.

“Shall we go up again?” Steve asked.

“It’s up to you, Hun,” I said. “I know we’ve got a long ride home and you’re the driver.”

“I guess we’d better go then,” Steve said, practically wincing with every word.

More Killer Views at Keystone

More Killer Views at Keystone

Top of Keystone

Top of Keystone

The Front Range is about five and a half hours from Telluride, a long drive even by Western standards. On the way back we chatted about all that we discovered and experienced. In more ways than one, it certainly felt like a big mountain travel symposium for us as I’m sure it did for attendees from all over the country and the world. Ditto for the visitors.

Colorado is one heck of a Rocky Mountain state and the Front Range serves as a terrific playground for all.

This is Keystone’s closing weekend. Thanks largely to our epic ski year, Breckenridge has extended its opening through April 27. A-Basin should remain open through early June; read Arapahoe Basin and Vail:  Where Spring Skiing is King in Colorado.

For more related stories, read  Vail Resorts:  Fun of Epic ProportionsSki In/Ski Out to Great Snow in Colorado and Shopping, Dining and Spa-Going Small in Breckenridge.

The Fixings for Beef Fondue

The Fixings for Beef Fondue at Swiss Haven

Apple Strudel and Apple Brandy

Apple Strudel and Apple Brandy

Zee Cheese

Zee Cheese

Swiss Haven Restaurant, an authentic fondue restaurant in Breckenridge, provided us with the most memorable dining experience of our trip. Come hungry and plan to stop downstairs afterward at The Absinthe Bar, an equally original establishment owned by the same person, obviously a gentleman knowledgeable and fond of fine European food and drink. Caution:  After even just half a glass of this powerful drink, you’ll feel like you’re in a Toulouse Lautrec painting.

Thank you to Keystone Resort, Mountain Travel Symposium and my trusty iPhone for the images in this post.

Absinthe Silliness

Absinthe Silliness à la Toulouse Lautrec

 

 
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