Tag Archives: skiing

Winter Break!

For the first year ever, Alex took off the two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years and we stayed home with no plans or agenda. It was wonderful and so perfect.

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One of the biggest highlights was sleeping in, popping some cinnamon rolls in the oven, lighting a fire and hanging out in the living room all day for most of the first week off. Our living room is an underused room in our house, but it’s probably our favorite because of our fireplace, and now our leather chairs. It was so nice to spend so much time in front of the fire these last two weeks.

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Another major highlight was skiing. The whole west coast got a really big Christmas present in the form of a gigantic snowstorm. It snowed so much here that one of the ski resorts couldn’t keep up with it and couldn’t open {they got 96 inches of snow in 3 days!!}. We skied four days during the two-week break.

{After the snow storm the temps dropped and the sun came out! It made for a couple of chilly days with sensational views.}

{After the snow storm the temps dropped and the sun came out! It made for a couple of chilly days with sensational views.}

 

{Jackson had the best day ever when he got to come with us to the mountains and play in the snow.}

{Jackson had the best day ever when he got to come with us to the mountains and play in the snow.}

{Yesterday we braved the chilly weather {12 degrees with -2 windchill}  and embarked on our first backcountry ski tour together. The avalanche danger was very low and our trek was super mild. It was really fun to get out and explore and get some exercise together.}

{Yesterday we braved the chilly weather {12 degrees with -2 windchill, which is about as cold as it gets here} and embarked on our first backcountry ski tour together. The avalanche danger was very low and our trek was super mild. It was really fun to get out and explore and get some exercise together.}

{Skinning up through the trees on a very well-traveled trail...}

{Skinning up through the trees on a very well-traveled trail…}

{Didn't do too much skiing down, but we made a few turns.}

{Didn’t do too much skiing down, but we managed to find a spot to make a few turns.}

We spent some quality time with lots of our friends, too. Alex’s friend Brian was here visiting for a few days, so Alex got to catch up with him. We also spent a day skiing with Nigel, and another day skiing with Patrick. We spent a rainy morning at the dog park with Ali, Tyler and their two kiddos {and then warmed up with some hot chocolate and grilled cheese for lunch!}. Ryan and Mary brought their babies over to our house one day, and we met them up at Carrie and Patrick’s new house another day. It has been so nice to be able to spend this much time with friends, too!

{Oliver and August at 4 weeks old!}

{Oliver and August at 4 weeks old!}

Henry seemed to love having both of us home during the days – probably because he got to bug us both to let him outside all the time!

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Jackson on the other hand was completely thrown off his kilter with Alex being home and our change of schedule. Towards the end of our break he seemed to be adjusting a little bit to the temporary normal, but I’m sure once we go back to work tomorrow he’ll be happy to have some consistency.

{Hopefully giving Jackson a cheeseburger as a treat on our way home from skiing made up for him being off his schedule. And no, this is not a normal occurrence for Jackson!}

{Hopefully giving Jackson a cheeseburger as a treat on our way home from skiing made up for him being off his schedule. And no, this is not a normal occurrence for Jackson!}

Our vacation was so relaxing and on the one hand I feel like we did absolutely nothing, but then when I look back at what we did do and realize that’s not quite the case. I am so thankful for this break and for the time we spent together. Who knows when the next time we’ll have two weeks off at home by ourselves will be!

Ski Season is Here!

Alex and I packed up our car and headed for Crystal Mountain yesterday to take advantage of the ski season getting started! Last year our ski season was very short-lived in Washington – there was only one day where we woke up at our house and drove to the mountain and skied in Washington last year. Usually we have at least 12 if not many more of those days each ski season.

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The projections for this ski season aren’t great, but the last thing I heard was it’s supposed to be a good early season so we wanted to take advantage of the snow while it lasts…

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Jackson loves the snow, so knowing it would be a short day for us, we decided to bring him along to partake in the fun, too!

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When we arrived at the mountain it was snowing like crazy and it was really windy. Unfortunately the wind was so strong they had the upper mountain closed, so the operations were very limited – just the beginner areas were open.

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I think the beginner areas are the most dangerous spots on the mountain so I avoid them at all costs. We took a few runs before getting hungry and calling it a day with lunch up in the Bullwheel Restaurant. We had a short day skiing but it was so, so, so nice to get out in the snow and play in the mountains!

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It turned out that Crystal received 17″ of snow from Saturday morning to Sunday morning and ended up opening almost the entire mountain this morning, so I guess we picked the wrong day! Oh well – I’m pretty content hanging out by the fire at home today! 🙂

Jackson Hole Ski Trip

To finish off our virtually non-existent ski season we took a long weekend trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with my dad.

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Knowing that the snow conditions in the Tetons weren’t ideal, our spirits were still high and we were all looking forward to spring skiing, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort culture, hot tubbing, eating the fine foods that Jackson offers, catching up and just spending time together, and that is just what we got!

{our first day was bluebird all the way! we could see forever.}

{our first day was bluebird all the way! we could see forever.}

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{music under the tram on Saturday night}

{music under the tram on Saturday night}

Our trip consisted of three full days of skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Alex and I had been to Jackson to ski once before – four years ago with my dad and brother. My dad, on the other hand, is Jackson Hole veteran, having spent quite a bit of time in his late teens ski bumming in Jackson, and made two trips out there last winter. Needless to say, he knows this special mountain very well!

{60 years young and still rippin' it at Jackson Hole!}

{60 years young and still rippin’ it at Jackson Hole!}

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We spent our time skiing the mountain wall to wall seeking out the best conditions. I should preface this by saying that consisted of trying to gauge the exact moment when the snow would turn from ice to a soft, slush, but before it went to absolute mush in order to maximize the conditions.

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Thankfully for us we were quite successful in our mission. We enjoyed some really fun soft, spring bumps, along with some cruisin’ groomers while we explored some new areas of the mountain.

{one of our favorite areas to ski - off the Sublette Chair}

{one of our favorite areas to ski – off the Sublette Chair}

{I probably ask Alex every time we ski together if he will carry my skis back for me and he finally said yes!}

{I probably ask Alex every time we ski together if he will carry my skis back for me and he finally said yes!}

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When we weren’t skiing it is most likely you would have found us eating somewhere. We ate quite well while we were in Jackson. There is little to be desired in the Jackson Hole restaurant scene. It’s really hard to pick a favorite because we never had a bad meal. Here is where we ate:

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  • Cafe Genevive – an old cabin in town that prides itself on home-cooking.
  • Corbett’s Cabin – located at the top of the tram, a measly 10,000 feet in elevation, Corbett’s Cabin serves waffles with a twist!
  • Teton Thai – my dad and Alex’s favorite. Exceptional Thai food and fantastic service.
  • Persephone Bakery – best grilled cheese ever?!
  • Alpehof – Swiss-style slopeside dining complete with amazing fondue. So good we ate here twice!
  • Mangy Moose – you can’t go to Jackson Hole without stopping at the Mangy Moose, an iconic apres ski bar at the base of the mountain.
  • The Handle Bar – an apres ski bar that is more my style – this one is located in the Four Seasons and has a lovely patio and beautiful interior.

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Another memorable highlight was our day in the town of Jackson. We took one day off to recover and just spend some time in town. The day started at Mountain Man Toy Shop where we got to throw tomahawks. Yes, we got to throw tomahawks.

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With full bellies after an amazing lunch at Persephone we headed to the National Elk Refuge, a 25,000 acre prairie just outside town where 8,000 elk call home for much of the year. We did a “sleigh ride” which was more like a wagon ride due to the fact that there was no snow. Either way, it was a true highlight of the trip.

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We got up close and personal with the elk and it was extraordinary to see the creatures so close. The refuge has always been home to sleigh rides which has made the elk quite tame and used to people stomping around on their turf, though the guide stressed that if a person was just wandering around on his feet inside the refuge it would be a different story. The tour was very informative and provided a unique experience we all thoroughly enjoyed.

{thanking the horses for a great tour}

{thanking the horses for a great tour}

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In the end, we all had a wonderful time and shared a lot of great ski runs, apres drinks, sunshine and made many new memories. Until next time, Jackson, until next time…

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Let’s Get Caught Up

Not a whole lot has happened since our trip to Mexico. Amidst the transition to my new full-time job, decompressing after our trip, watching House of Cards season 3 {honestly, we watched it fast so we could be done with it…}, enjoying the ah-mazing weather and trying to get into a new routine I neglected to keep up with our blog. So, let’s catch up!

{The weather was nice enough to warrant an early-season opening of the Bottlehouse patio! We indulged this past weekend.}

{The weather was nice enough to warrant an early-season opening of the Bottlehouse patio! We indulged this past weekend.}

The weekend before last was awesome – we had a great time reconnecting with some friends through a night out in Ballard, a trendy neighborhood in Seattle, and then drinking wine in Woodinville on Saturday.

{We went out in Ballard with four other couples and had an awesome time! Mary, Ian, Ryan, Alex and I shared this weird lava punch bowl - it arrived to us on fire!}

{We went out in Ballard with four other couples and had an awesome time! Mary, Ian, Ryan, Alex and I shared this weird lava punch bowl – it arrived to us on fire!}

{Dog park days are back!}

{Dog park days are back!}

{The girls enjoying a very sunny, warm afternoon drinking wine together}

{The girls enjoying a very sunny, warm afternoon drinking wine together – Trish, me, Mary and Carrie}

{so thankful for these beauties! what an awesome day we had in Woodinville!}

{so thankful for these beauties! what an awesome day we had in Woodinville!}

This past weekend was more leisurely, but we headed up to Stevens Pass for what we expect to be our final ski day in Washington. It was around 50 degrees on the mountain and in the mid-60s in Seattle, so the conditions were spring-like. We met up with our friends Carrie, Patrick, Chris and Diane, all of whom are fantastic skiers. I love spring skiing – it’s such a fun, low-key and relaxed day on the slopes, and that is exactly what we had!

{Carrie and me stopping for a quick pic}

{Carrie and me stopping for a quick pic}

{ski buddies!}

{ski buddies!}

Last night we brushed off the dust and cobwebs from the grill and officially started our grilling season. Our cat and dog were ecstatic. Henry cat kept running in and out of the grill cover and Jackson tried to eat everything involved with the grill. I think this means spring has truly come early and we are going to really need to stock up on charcoal.

{This guy is so loving the time he has been spending outside!}

{This guy is so loving the time he has been spending outside!}

Along the lines of our backyard, we are trying to decide what to do back there. Initially we had discussed hiring someone to do an overhaul. At this junction we are not interested in the investment it would take to complete that project, particularly because we have realized that Jackson is the culprit and he’s not going anywhere, so it makes us nervous that if we fork over all of this money for a complete renovation back there, that he might just wreck it next winter and we’ll be back where we started, but several thousand dollars poorer.

{Henry running along the fence while Jackson follows along from inside the backyard.}

{Henry running along the fence while Jackson follows along from inside the backyard.}

{Maybe someday we'll have a nice, big yard for this guy to play in.}

{Maybe someday we’ll have a nice, big yard for this guy to play in.}

So, right now, the popular idea on the table is literally just to throw some grass seed back there, keep the dog out of the backyard for a month and water like crazy to see if we can build up the grass again. Another idea is to do the work ourselves and build out our patio and either lay sod or grow seed and do some additional landscaping. I have a feeling we’ll go for the former.

{Henry cat is loving being back outside - he mainly hangs out in our yard and has been a real trooper through his recovery.}

{Henry cat is loving being back outside – he mainly hangs out in our yard and has been a real trooper through his recovery.}

For this week, we are enjoying the weather and getting ready for one final ski trip. Our summer plans are really starting to take shape, so those will need some finessing. We made a big spring cleaning list, along with some projects to tackle after our trip. Otherwise, we’re just taking things a day at a time and enjoying a more calm schedule.

 

Backcountry Ski Camp

After months of anticipation around my Women’s Backcountry Ski Camp it is finally over! I am relieved to have the experience behind me and am pleased to report that I came away with an appreciation for the backcountry and an admiration for people who care to spend time back there – I can certainly see the allure. My experience was filled with mixed emotions, but I learned an enormous amount and enjoyed myself and met some really nice ladies.

{The crew of ladies I spent the weekend with}

{The crew of ladies I spent the weekend with / photo credit: Erin}

The week or two leading up to the class was filled with much uncertainty. I was really nervous about skiing in the backcountry because it is an area that is outside of a ski resort, which means that it is not patrolled and there is no avalanche control. Separately, mother nature has not been very kind to Pacific Northwest skiers this year and our snowpack has been very, very low and our weekends full of rain instead of snow in the mountains. The forecast for the weekend looked pretty dismal for the mountains – snow levels were at 12,000 feet and there was a lot of rain expected.

{windy, foggy, drizzly conditions on our first day}

{windy, foggy, drizzly conditions on our first day / photo credit: Erin}

It wasn’t until the day before I was slated to leave for the course that we got the final go ahead from the instructor of the class that confirmed it was going to be held for sure. At the very last minute she changed the location for the first day to a different area because the forecast looked better, which turned out to most certainly be the right call. I felt like I was able to go with the flow for those elements fairly well, though it was just difficult to know for sure if I was going to have the class or not. I still struggled with nervousness of being in the backcountry.

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{photo credit: Erin}

 

Alex and I headed out to Leavenworth after work on Thursday so that I didn’t have to leave Seattle at 5 a.m. the next day to make it for the start of the class on Friday morning. We spent the night together at Sleeping Lady, a really neat resort in Leavenworth, which is also the location I was to stay for the remainder of the weekend with the class. It was nice to have Alex there to help me get settled and feel comfortable and run through my gear before the class.

A little terminology before continuing on:

*Beacon = a device that is worn on your body that transmits a signal of your location. This can be used to locate yourself or you can use it to search for someone. It is vital to wear a beacon when backcountry skiing in case you get buried, as that allows your searchers to find you.

*Ski touring = basically the act of moving up a mountain on skis. It is similar to cross country skiing. Special ski bindings are used so that you can essentially glide or scoot forward without picking up your skis – these bindings keep your toes attached to your skis but allow you to pick up your heels. When touring you slide your toes down while picking up your heels and keeping your skis flat against the snow. Skins are attached to the bottom of your skis to prevent you from sliding backwards.

*Skinning = kind of interchangeable with ski touring, but it implies that you have “skins” on the bottom of your skis. Skins originally were literally animal skins, but today are more like a fabric that feels like carpet that is attached to the bottom of your skis and helps provide friction so you don’t slide backwards when you are ascending a mountain.

{getting my gear ready to go skiing}

{getting my gear ready to go skiing / photo credit: Erin}

Friday morning we headed to Mission Ridge, a small ski area in Wenatchee, Washington, where our class was re-located to. I arrived and met up with the group where we got acquainted and learned about each other’s past experiences and goals for the class. I was surprised to find that I was the only one with no backcountry skiing experience, though it was an “intro to touring” class. One of the girls on the trip had done the Haute Route, which is a guided backcountry ski trip in Europe where you’re up on the alpine (very high elevations) skiing from hut to hut. It takes several days. Another lady’s husband is an avalanche forecaster and instructor. There were two gals who had done a bit of backcountry skiing before but were a bit unsure of their abilities. I was definitely the least experienced, though I thought I was going to be in good company.

{Olivia showed us what she puts in her backpack before we even got outside}

{Olivia showed us what she puts in her backpack before we even got outside / photo credit: Erin}

The morning was spent chatting, learning what Olivia, our main guide, carries in her pack and doing beacon testing drills before hitting the slopes.

{running through beacon drills / photo credit: Erin}

{running through beacon drills / photo credit: Erin}

We skied a few runs in bounds which allowed me to warm up and test out my brand new skis for the first time {LOVE them!}. The wind was howling and we found a bit of shelter in a flat section to learn and practice kick turns, which is a technique that can help you make very short/narrow turns on skis.

{practicing kick turns / photo credit: Erin}

{practicing kick turns / photo credit: Erin}

After the next chairlift ride up we met up with the assistant ski patrol director who took us to the backcountry gate. We chatted for a few minutes about how to put skins on and how to transition from skiing to skinning and skinning to skiing. I had never done this before on snow, but thankfully Alex had shown me how to do this at home so at least I had one prior experience.

{the group just before we headed out to the backcountry}

{the group just before we headed out to the backcountry / photo credit: Erin}

At this point in the first day I was really struggling to hold it together. The day hadn’t gone as I had expected it to and when we began to put our skins on I had no idea where we were, where we were going or really what we were doing. I had anticipated we would have done more skiing in bounds and that we would have broken out into two smaller groups. I expected to have some conversations about the avalanche danger that day, the weather, things to pay attention to and just basic information about what we were doing. To make things worse, the weather was horrible by this point. I felt like I was going along for the ride completely blind. Oh, and I also had expected we would have eaten lunch, which we did not that day!

{the terrain above us - not too gnarly, but still worth paying attention to}

{the terrain above us – not too gnarly, but still worth paying attention to}

With my unmet expectations and nerves running high I slowly trailed along as we skinned our way out of the resort and into the backcountry. I eventually stopped and talked with Solveig, one of the instructors and mentioned how nervous I was. She did her best to understand and try to get me to calm down, but I was already having a hard day.

{transition time!}

{transition time!}

After skinning for what felt like four days and was probably 20 minutes we stopped at a clearing and began to transition to skiing. At this point the guides were discussing that yes, as a matter of fact, the terrain above us is avalanche terrain (slopes between 30-45 degrees), but no they’re not worried about it even though there are pinwheels (signs of avalanches) because it had just started raining at that point and the slope above us was so small that it wasn’t a huge concern. If it had been raining for a longer period of time or rained heavily, they would have been much more concerned, they said.

{not the best ski conditions, unfortunately}

{not the best ski conditions, unfortunately}

We skied down a very low-angle slope of absolutely nasty snow, one at a time, and met way down at the bottom and transitioned to skinning again. Once we skinned back into the ski area boundary I was able to realize that once I got comfortable I could definitely see myself enjoying ski touring.

{new skis, new ABS pack}

{new skis, new ABS pack}

After we got back to the resort I had some texting conversations with Alex and my dad and let them know I wasn’t sure I was cut out for the backcountry. As always they were both very supportive and encouraged me to hang in there. I did speak with Alex on the phone that night and he was very understanding and suggested having a good talk with the guides to make sure they knew what I was so uncomfortable about.

{chatting with Solveig}

{chatting with Solveig / photo credit: Erin}

After our wonderful dinner at the resort I did get a chance to speak with Olivia and Solveig about my nervousness and asked if they could share our plans for tomorrow a little bit more openly with me as a way for me to feel more comfortable. They agreed and then we headed to the Grotto Bar for an after dinner drink and to discuss the plans for the next day.

{Olivia giving the run-down}

{Olivia giving the run-down / photo credit: Erin}

On Saturday we ended up staying in the breakfast restaurant all morning and discussed avalanche dangers and route planning. The forecast was abysmal at Stevens Pass so we opted out of skiing that morning. Eventually everyone got antsy so we packed up and headed up the pass to do a quick tour to Skyline Lake.

{crossing the boundary line}

{crossing the boundary line}

I rode in the car with the guides and got to ask them a hundred or so questions about what we were doing, where we were going and the avalanche risks for the day and just things they were thinking about and things that I should be thinking about. That seemed to set my mind at ease a bit, especially when we arrived at Stevens Pass and found that we were skinning up a snow-covered road that wasn’t even in avalanche terrain.

{getting ready for our beacon drill}

{getting ready for our beacon drill}

Even though it was raining and hot, the Skyline Lake tour was so much more enjoyable for me. We broke up into two groups and I chose to stick with the slow group that wanted more instruction along the way. There were four ladies plus Solveig, the instructor, in my group. It was a fairly steep tour and not having alpine touring boots {special ski boots that offer a lot more flex than regular ski boots} I tired easily. We made it up a bit then stopped to do some beacon practice. The snow was so heavy and wet that we opted to ski down the road we came up to avoid any injury. The biggest risk of the day was personal injury, as opposed to avalanche danger. We did one more beacon drill on our way down and then headed back for a hot tub and dinner.

{Skyline Lake road terrain}

{Skyline Lake road terrain}

We had another nice evening at the restaurant and Grotto Bar and I got to chat with most of the ladies on the trip. Everyone was extremely nice and friendly and it was fun to learn about their backgrounds. I think our ages ranged from 28-50, which was a much bigger difference than I expected.

{skinning up / skiing down through the trees on Sunday}

{skinning up / skiing down through the trees on Sunday}

Sunday was a full day of touring. We packed up right after breakfast and headed to Stevens Pass for our final day. The rain had moved on and the sun was out. The anticipated high on Sunday was 50 degrees in the mountains, which is unusual, of course. The warm temperatures combined with the rain the previous days made for very low snowpack and very heavy, gross snow.

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We took the chair up to the top of the mountain, skied halfway down to an area where we could get out of bounds, then we did our beacon checks and put our skins on to get ready to begin our tour.

{getting my skins on}

{getting my skins on / photo credit: Erin}

The final day was a much longer tour that covered more distance. We ended up losing two skiers this day because one of the gals, who was five months pregnant {I know, right?!} and a snowboarder decided that she was just too tired to keep going, and then another woman fell getting off the chairlift and hurt her knee. This meant we were down to seven of us. Myself and another less experienced skier, Allyson, joined Solveig again, just the two of us, for a slow-paced day full of stops, explanations and questions.

{going through our route plan with Solveig}

{going through our route plan with Solveig / photo credit: Erin}

Our last day seemed to pull a lot together for me. I was able to recognize various elements on the slopes, I measured the slope angles, I asked a lot of questions about what I was seeing and discussed scenarios for skiing this terrain but under different avalanche conditions, and really got a little more confidence in my decision making abilities when it came to backcountry skiing.

{mid-tour pow wow to discuss our options}

{mid-tour pow wow to discuss our options / photo credit: Erin}

The tour we did on Sunday was much different than I expected, though. I really didn’t ever think of touring through the forest, but that’s just what we did. I can’t believe we skied back through very tight trees and on the snow we did it’s really quite surprising that no one got injured.

{just scooting along through the trees... yes we skied down this too!}

{just scooting along through the trees… yes we skied down this too!}

{the other group heading up the mountain}

{the other group heading up the mountain / photo credit: Erin}

{gorgeous, warm weather for our last day}

{gorgeous, warm weather for our last day}

Overall, I learned an enormous amount, both about avalanches and myself. I was able to push my own limits immensely, but I spoke up when I felt I needed to. I was so far out of my comfort zone, but some of the things I was nervous about were easier to deal with than I thought, which was good. I think it’s always good to push yourself a bit and have new experiences. It’s how we grow and learn, right?

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I’m not sure if or how often I’ll find my way into the backcountry. If I do, you can bet it will only be on low or moderate avalanche danger days and I will absolutely be very involved in terrain selection and research about the dangers to pay attention to that day. We’ll see if that time comes… Until then, I’m doing my snow dance and sticking to the resort.

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Utah Ski Trip

After a wonderful Christmas Alex and I decided to hightail it off to Utah to take a ski trip just the two of us. It’s not too often that we take a trip other than to visit family or friends, with family or friends or to attend a wedding, so it was a real treat to spend this time together.

{Utah here we come!}

{Utah here we come!}

We flew out to Salt Lake City the morning of New Year’s Eve and after a few minor flight delays arrived at lunch time. The first day of our trip and a few days leading up to it were a bit odd. Logistics and details became more difficult than they should have. Long story short, we thought we reserved a hotel room at a hotel via booking.com but it turned out to be a vacation rental through either a private owner or a property management company – honestly we still aren’t even sure! It was such a mess and the owner/property managers were not experienced in dealing with renters which makes me shocked that we were able to get into the room at all.

{such a nice day for flying!}

{such a nice day for flying!}

On top of the lodging confusion, the specific car we reserved to rent was unavailable and we had to seriously upgrade {which ended up being okay because we got to drive a brand new SUV}; the restaurant we wanted to eat lunch at was closed for a health inspection; the lines at the state controlled liquor store were out the door; the truck with all of the produce going to Whole Foods broke down in Wyoming, so there was a complete shortage of food; and then the unit we reserved did not have heat or hot water the first night. There’s a lot of details I left out but what matters is that eventually we got heat and hot water and the place we stayed was beautiful, it just was a really weird, weird experience topped off with unmet expectations.

{exploring Park City}

{exploring Park City}

Our New Years Eve celebration was wonderful. We had a really fun, unique dinner at Fireside Dining, which is a fondue restaurant at Deer Valley. Our evening started with a horse drawn sleigh ride around the area. Mind you it was about 5 degrees below zero…

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We quickly warmed up inside, as the restaurant boasts four open, wood-burning fireplaces, which is how the fondue is prepared and served. There are four stations – one raclette station where there is a block of cheese propped up next to the fire that literally drips down onto a plate that you take and fill with little dippers, like bread, pearl onions and potatoes.

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Another station hosted soup where huge kettles of thick, hearty stews rested on the hearth of the fireplace to keep warm. These were so tasty! I had the wild mushroom stew and Alex had the hunter’s stew that was full of wild meats. The third fireplace had lamb legs cooking over it. I don’t usually care for lamb, but this was delicious!

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Finally, the fourth fireplace was home to dessert! There were three different pots – chocolate, white chocolate and caramel – then you got to choose from a sampling of desserts, like pound cake and strawberries, to dip into the yummy sauce.

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We shared a bottle of prosecco, lots of memories from the year that was coming to an end, and great conversation about what our hopes for the year approaching might be. We both agreed that the years just keep getting better and better and that 2015 is going to be full of new memories.

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New Years Day meant that it was time to strap our skis to our feet and hit the slopes! Our first of three ski days was at Snowbird, which we had been to previously. Snowbird is amazing and we were so excited to be back. Utah is known for its blue skies and champagne powder. We only experienced the blue skies during our trip, but it sure beats skiing in the gloom Washington has to offer. We missed the big powder fest by a few days, though we did find a few secret powder stashes in the trees.

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We rocked around the mountain all day, mainly sticking on the Peruvian Express, since the north facing slope seemed to boast the best snow. I was wishing we could have spent more time back in Mineral Basin where it is completely wide open, full of bowls and beauty, but the snow was really firm and crusty there.

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All in all, it was a great first ski day of the new year!

{Our stats from all but the first two runs at Snowbird - we forgot to download the tracking app!}

{Our stats from all but the first two runs at Snowbird – we forgot to download the tracking app!}

Our second ski day was spent at Alta, which is right next door to Snowbird – you can ski between the two mountains. Together, they have 4,700 skiable acres, but on their own, they are both smaller than our home mountain, Crystal Mountain Resort. We had not been to Alta before but had the preconceived expectations of it being an old-school resort without any glam. That definitely was true, but it had some nice updated technology features, like RFID passes, and a new lodge.

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The runs were longer than we expected and we had a really fun time exploring some bowls and the trees. I spent most of the time “in the lead” which is unusual for me – usually I am the caboose because I am slow and can wrangle any stragglers – but Alex said I am more adventurous in new terrain, which was also news to me. I had a lot of fun hopping all over the mountain, ducking into the trees and trying to keep us out of the deep mogul ruts.

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Unfortunately our day at Alta was cut a little short, though. I had been having some issues with my helmet for quite a while, but the last straw finally broke and my head couldn’t take being in my helmet for another second, so we called it a day when my head was screaming, and headed home early. The silver lining that day; however, came when I got a call from my boss informing me that I got a raise!

{After the final straw I finally got a new helmet and all my cares are to the wind. Here is my new helmet!}

{After the final straw I finally got a new helmet and all my cares are to the wind. Here is my new helmet!}

Since we got back to our “hotel room” a little earlier than we had expected we decided to do some Apres skiing and celebrate my exciting news. There’s really no better place to celebrate such a thing when you’re in Park City than at the one and only St. Regis in Deer Valley. When in Rome…

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We set out for the St. Regis Bar and had such a lovely night. We parked in the Deer Valley parking lot and had to take a funicular, think slow motion roller coaster, up to the hotel. We timed it perfectly because we had to put our name on the list for a table which allowed us a little while to wander the beautiful hotel. Boy were we glad we had some extra time when we stumbled upon the most impressive hot cocoa bar you could imagine!

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Each of these beautiful hammered copper urns contained homemade hot chocolate, really probably the best I’ve ever had, and then there was another table with copper bowls filled with toppings, like marshmallows, fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings. You better believe we indulged!

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We had just enough time to enjoy our hot cocoa outside by the fire before we got called to sit down in the bar. Our experience at the St. Regis Bar was wonderful. Our beverages were fantastic! While we appreciate a good drink, neither one of us is much of a cocktail snob, but these drinks were incredible. Alex ordered a Moscow Mule and I ordered a Winter’s Dream, which was hot chocolate, Irish cream and amaretto {the key ingredient!} and they were out of this world. To go along with our drinks we decided to order fondue since it had been two whole days since we’d eaten it…

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The evening was topped off by a champagne sabering ceremony. Yes you read that right. One of the staff at the restaurant literally sabered off the top of a champagne bottle {yes, with a sword} under the almost full moon and treated all of the diners to a complimentary glass of bubbly. It was a great celebration!

Our final ski day was at Snowbasin, another resort we had not been to previously. We started the day rather early, as we drove into Ogden to buy me a new ski helmet. We timed it just right and as we pulled into the parking lot of the resort, the snow started to fall. We were eager with anticipation, as some of our friends had been to Snowbasin before and alerted us to the expansive resort that it is, plus, the icing on the cake that comes in the form of incredible lodges.

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We were blown away by how stunning the lodges at Snowbasin are. They all have a log facade, multiple chandeliers, and wood-burning fireplaces. We really lucked out, too, because it seems like everyone who goes to Snowbasin sticks to the beginner trails, so we felt like we had the mountain all to ourselves. As if that wasn’t enough, the food was exceptional. I had chili for lunch and it was absolutely fantastic.

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It was so fun to be able to ski at three completely different resorts. Snowbasin was so huge and open, with all kinds of wild, unkempt terrain, and extremely long runs. Alta was really old-school and had a lot of challenging terrain and odd fall-lines, but was really hard to navigate. Snowbird was wide-open and full of fast groomers and powder pockets, and we felt like it was laid out exceptionally well. We really hope to get the opportunity to come back to the Park City/Cottonwood Canyon area again soon!

{Our most impressive stats! 18,500 vertical feet in 8 runs... no wonder why we're still tired!}

{Our most impressive stats! 18,500 vertical feet in 8 runs… no wonder why we’re still tired!}

Our Christmas Vacation

The theme of this holiday season for Alex and me has been family, friends and new traditions. While we still have a few more days left of the season, I’d say our Christmas surpassed my wildest expectations of new traditions and time with family.

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We just returned home from our Christmas vacation in Leavenworth, Washington with both of our parents and Alina and Alberto. We spent five days in the mountains, as well as a day on either side in Seattle. I found a cabin for us to rent that came with a huge kitchen meant for entertaining, a great big wood burning fireplace, a fabulous hot tub, a dining room table to accommodate us all, a shuffleboard table and a wine fridge.

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Our trip began in downtown Leavenworth where we stopped for lunch at Munchen Haus to enjoy a sausage, sauerkraut, as well as beer and mulled wine. We walked the streets of town and got our bearings before setting off to check into the lodge.

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While it was a little different than I expected, the lodge worked out really well for us. I wish there would have been two more bedrooms and bathrooms, but the three {of each} that were there sufficed pretty well. The layout was meant for entertaining, though was still a little sectioned off. I would definitely stay there again – the hot tub was awesome, there was a huge deck off the back overlooking the expansive property and onto the mountains. The kitchen was enormous and had a lot of space to set food out for all of us to indulge in. We brought our own Christmas tree and a few decorations, as we had been told that the lodge wasn’t decorated for Christmas. As it turned out, there was a huge artificial tree and tons of decor in the closet. I guess the property manager was just too lazy to decorate for us!

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The trip was a wonderful hodgepodge of cooking, eating, drinking, skiing, chatting and playing games. The first night we were treated to an Italian meal called Spetzatinna {or something similar}, which is a ragu with slow cooked beef served with polenta. It was divine!

Our first ski day was Christmas Eve. We woke up to find an early Christmas gift in the form of new snow! I think it’s safe to say we all enjoyed getting back on the slopes at Stevens Pass.

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Donna prepared our delicious Christmas Eve turkey dinner and we spent the evening playing the game called “Things” which is a new favorite.

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Christmas day started out with homemade cinnamon and orange rolls, opening our pajamas and gigantic stocking and just hanging out. We spent the day at the lodge and went in the hot tub, played Uchre, worked on the neverending puzzle and the ladies did Pilates. My mom arrived just in time for our prime rib dinner on Christmas night. She flew in late so she could spend Christmas morning with my brother back in Minnesota. Our night was finished with a grossly inappropriate game of Cards Against Humanity. Nothing like playing that game with your parents!

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The day after Christmas we all piled in the SUVs and headed back to the mountains for more skiing.

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We had planned on doing a sleigh ride that evening but there wasn’t enough snow for the sleigh so it got canceled. That meant we had more time in downtown Leavenworth to taste wine at Icicle River Winery and eat dinner at Gustav’s.

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On our final full day in Leavenworth the moms treated themselves to a day at the spa while the rest of us made our final turns at Stevens Pass in one last day of skiing. It snowed quite a few inches during the day, which conveniently provided us with free snow refills.

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We headed back to Seattle on Sunday with two very full SUVs, while my mom made her way slowly back to the airport. She went back home a day earlier than everyone else, and just as she was getting ready to leave the lodge we found out that chains were required to get through the mountain pass. Having a rental car meant she didn’t have chains, so she had to take the long way around through a different mountain pass. Of course less than 30 minutes after she left, the restriction was lifted so she could have gone the original route anyway. Oh well!

The rest of us packed up and headed back to our house since we still had one more night with the rest of the gang in Seattle. We spent quite a bit of time playing the game Fibbage on the Xbox before settling in for an evening of drinking wine at Bottlehouse.

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Our house is now empty and feels much too quiet. It was very sad to see our families leave today after such a wonderful Christmas vacation with everyone. We are so grateful that our family was willing to come out to Washington to celebrate Christmas with us in the mountains. We knew it was a lot to ask but now that we’ve had our first Christmas out here we hope it won’t be the last. This holiday will go down as a highlight of my Christmas memories from recent years.

 

Our Skiing Evolution

As we patiently await the start to the 2014-2015 ski season Alex and I have been recalling just how far we have come as skiers over the last several years. We also realized that we are entering our seventh ski season in Washington, making that Alex’s eighth overall ski season.

{From the 2012-2013 ski season at our home mountain, Crystal Mountain Resort}

{From the 2012-2013 ski season at our home mountain, Crystal Mountain Resort}

Somehow I had a lot of confidence as a skier back in 2008-2009 while I was rocking my two-sizes-too-big white, down puffy coat that I had to get that big so it could fit all of my layers underneath {thanks mom}, my hand-me-down snowpants, another thanks to my mom, and my old school hand-me-down straight, skinny skis from my aunt who is at least 5 inches taller than I am.

{Whistler December 2008!}

{Top of Alpental, March 2009! Either I look like a snowman or a marshmallow? What’s your thought?}

Really, though, I remember thinking I was too hot to trot back then. And looking at the pictures I am really not sure what I would think if I saw me standing in the lift line for an “expert only” area of the mountain. Actually, I do know what I would think!

{Our first ski trip together - skinny skis and all! Whistler, December 2008}

{Our first ski trip together – skinny skis and all! Whistler, December 2008}

{We fell in love with Whistler back in 2008, even with the temperatures down to 30 below zero, hence the gigantic mitts on my hands.}

{We fell in love with Whistler back in 2008, even with the temperatures down to 30 below zero, hence the gigantic mitts on my hands.}

Moving on… Skiing in Washington has really been probably the best thing that Alex and I have done. As a kid I had fond memories of skiing, though I wanted to ditch my parents and just go find the jumps. Eventually in high school I became too cool for skiing and tried my hand at snowboarding a couple times before giving up on both completely. Somewhere along the line in college I yearned to go skiing again.

{I believe this was taken at Buck Hill in Minnesota around 1988}

{I believe this was taken at Buck Hill in Minnesota around 1988}

At that point, Alex had never tried skiing or snowboarding, and finally, our senior year of college Alex’s family took a trip to Breckenridge. I encouraged Alex to ski instead of snowboard and thankfully he listened. His family secured a ski instructor and Alex was hooked. Just like that.

{The family that skis together....}

{The family that skis together….}

There are a lot of people who I credit Alex’s unbelievable transition to becoming an exceptional skier. The person who wins the gold star is really Alex, though. I have come to realize how difficult it is to learn how to ski as an adult, mainly because you understand pain and risk and it’s a bit unnatural to fly down a snow {or ice} covered mountain with two wooden planks attached to your feet.

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Alex bit his tongue and followed his ski instructor’s words of advice, then trying to be Mr. Big Shot, kept his mouth shut as I dragged him down a double black diamond mogul field known as Parachute. Oh the fond nights we spent learning how to master the Pacific Northwest at Snoqualmie those first few years. Neither one of us had any idea what we were doing. We just went for it.

{Backseat Betty! Alex's first time skiing powder in March 2009}

{Backseat Betty! Alex’s first time skiing powder in March 2009}

{I had such great form!}

{I had such great form!}

{My brother wins the award from that day - it was also his first day skiing powder but he flew down the hill like a bullet and left us in the dust!}

{My brother wins the award from that day – it was also his first day skiing powder but he flew down the hill like a bullet and left us in the dust!}

The second year we lived in Washington we looked the part a bit more. I got a new more modern ski coat and pants, along with my first pair of shaped skis. We both got helmets to complete our look. I think this was the year that Alex bought his second pair of skis.

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{Showing off my new ski gear in Whistler, 2009/10}

Our third ski season in Washington was the turning point for us, I believe. This particular year we had the opportunity to follow Patrick around Crystal Mountain during the four weekends we rented a cabin near the resort. Patrick is a fearless skier to say the least. We explored Crystal Mountain together with him and Carrie, as well as his childhood friend Chris and his wife Diane, both of whom are incredible skiers.

{Our perception changed a lot this winter. Behind me is a Breckenridge double black diamond. We're fairly sure that this would be a blue in Washington...}

{Our perception changed a lot this winter. Behind me is a Breckenridge double black diamond. We’re fairly sure that this would be a blue or single black in Washington… Either way, I LOVED Horseshoe Bowl – one of my favorite areas on the mountain.}

In addition to our local charades, we also took a trip to Breckenridge and had a private ski lesson from the man who taught Alex how to ski. That was singlehandedly the best thing we have done to improve our form.

{Putting the new skills we learned in Breckenridge to the test in Cheyenne Bowl in Jackson Hole}

{Putting the new skills we learned in Breckenridge to the test in Cheyenne Bowl in Jackson Hole}

I’m not sure how many ski days we had during the 2010-2011 ski season, but I bet it was pushing 40. That was the year our foundation was set and our skills and techniques were on their way.

{One of our trips to Whistler - we both agree that Whistler is our favorite ski resort and the place we wish we didn't have to go home from}

{One of our trips to Whistler – we both agree that Whistler is our favorite ski resort and the place we wish we didn’t have to go home from.}

The years that followed have allowed us to refine our form and continue to improve, but no ski season sticks out in my mind as much as 2010-2011. It paved the way for us. The following year we kicked it up another notch by taking another ski lesson, and I got a new ski outfit that made me look a bit more professional and put together and ready for several more years of adventures on skis.

{Sometimes I even surprise myself by pushing the limits a bit more. Last winter we hiked for what felt like a day, but was probably 30 minutes to Southback, an area of avalanche controlled backcountry terrain at Crystal Mountain.}

{Sometimes I even surprise myself by pushing the limits a bit more. Last winter we hiked for what felt like a day, but was probably 30 minutes to Southback, an area of avalanche controlled backcountry terrain at Crystal Mountain.}

{Alex got into backcountry skiing a while back and has taken several avalanche safety courses.}

{Alex got into backcountry skiing a while back and has taken several avalanche safety courses.}

{We took advantage of a really long snow season and did a ski tour on August 28th back in 2011.}

{We took advantage of a really long snow season and did a ski tour on August 28th back in 2011.}

We are both so thankful to our families for providing us the opportunity to learn to ski. We are very fortunate to have been able to take up a sport like this in the way that we have done. It’s a focal point to our winters and it makes me wonder what we would do all winter long if we didn’t ski. Now, here’s to the 2014-2015 ski season… if it ever comes to Washington!

Ski Season is Coming!

The snow has started to fly here in the Pacific Northwest! At the start of the week Crystal Mountain’s measuring stick was showing 9 inches of snow at the mid-point of the mountain, and resorts across the west coast are continuing to post similar updates and show photos of the progressions towards opening day on their Instagram accounts.

This year in particular Alex and I are extremely excited for ski season. While we don’t have season passes anywhere this year, we did purchase the Mountain Collective pass which basically gives us 2 ski days at around 10 resorts across North America {and one in South America}. We have plans to take advantage of this pass with a few ski trips this year, including a trip to Whistler, Utah {Snowbird, Alta, Snowbasin and maybe Park City} and Jackson Hole.

Alex is the proud owner of a new ski get-up. He wanted another set up to be able to mix and match with for all of the skiing we are planning on doing this year. I, too, will eventually get a new coat and pair of snow pants for the ski season, but will probably hold off for a little while.

Last week I signed up for a backcountry ski class that is so out of my comfort zone and really is a little bit crazy. Alex is pretty into backcountry skiing, which means skiing outside of the resort on un-controlled, un-groomed terrain. This has always freaked me out immensely because there is a serious danger of avalanches that you just don’t get when you ski in a resort. I am very un-educated on avalanche forecasting and the sheer nature of avalanches, so Alex has encouraged me to educate myself to see if that changes my opinion and makes me more comfortable around the scenario.

A while back as a very early Christmas gift, my dad bought us ABS {Air Bag System} backpacks. These ABS backpacks are like regular backpacks except if you pull on a cord, out pops an airbag {think of an airbag in your car}. The research that supports these ABS backpacks suggest they have a 97% success rate in avalanche safety – so that means if you are caught in an avalanche and use your ABS you have a 97% chance of surviving. What the airbag does is increase your size and helps you float to the top of the avalanche. It also helps protect your head from debris and trees that you could hit on the way down. Hopefully we will never have to pull the cord, but it is reassuring that we have the ABS backpacks in the event that we ever need them.

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That said, I will be joining seven other women and a couple instructors on a guided backcountry ski course in late January. The point of the course is literally to help women feel more comfortable about backcountry skiing and learn about group dynamics and decision making in the backcountry. So, you can see why I am intrigued. I think I am pretty open-minded, so I told Alex that I would be interested in taking the course to open my mind and educate myself about backcountry skiing and see what all the fuss is about.

Sooooo, now I have to get ready for this intensive 3-day ski trip. Alex found a screaming deal on a pair of skis last week and I conveniently already had a spare pair of alpine touring bindings to work with the new skis. Other than that I just need to read some avalanche safety materials, figure out how to use my new backpack and practice with the new skis. Oh, and get my legs ready for 3 days of climbing mountains on skis.

We have a big ski season ahead of us and can’t wait for the resorts to start announcing opening days… Hopefully Whistler will open early and start strong because that’s our first trip… Let it snow!!

Packing, Sunshine and a New Dog Trainer

Two of our major priorities the last couple weeks have been getting Jackson and his anxiety under control and preparing for our trip to Europe this summer. We have mixed in a few fun activities the last few days to enjoy the unbelievably gorgeous weather, too!

I had a HUGE milestone with Jackson last week. We went for a run on Friday around Seward Park and he did awesome! I needed a win like that.

I had a HUGE milestone with Jackson last week. We went for a run on Friday around Seward Park and he did awesome! I needed a win like that.

Last week we had Katie, a dog trainer from Pawsitive Packleader, come over to our home to give us an evaluation and discuss how she would go about working with us to help ease Jackson’s anxiety and curb some of his unwanted behaviors. She was amazing, simply put. We had a 2.5 hour long session with her last Thursday at no charge and we learned several strategies to implement immediately. We have officially hired her as our trainer and she begins on Friday! Here are some things we’ll be working on with her:

  • Minimize stress
  • Help meet his drive needs (scavenge, dig, dissect, chew, etc.)
  • Build confidence
  • Teach impulse and arousal control
  • Enhance leash walking manners, especially in distracting environments
  • We had already discovered that Jackson needed more exercise than the 5-7 mile walks we were giving him, so we now play ball or go for a run about 5-6 days a week, replacing one of our walks with the more heart-pumping activity
Katie recommended this Kong Wobbler for Jackson - it is bigger than my hand and fits one of his meals in it. He knocks it over with his nose or paw and it dispenses his kibble. This allows him to work for his food and scavenge for it, which helps him meet his drive needs.

Katie recommended this Kong Wobbler for Jackson – it is bigger than my hand and fits one of his meals in it. He knocks it over with his nose or paw and it dispenses his kibble. This allows him to work for his food and scavenge for it, which helps him meet his drive needs.

We ended our ski season on Saturday with a perfect spring skiing day at Crystal Mountain. It’s sad to wrap up such a short ski season but we had an amazing day on the corn snow under the sun.

See ya later ski season!

See ya later ski season!

I spent a couple hours going through my closet and recommendations from travel experts to see what I could come up with to bring in my teeny tiny carry-on bag for our trip to Europe. Somehow I am going to live out of a backpack for a month this summer. I really am not sure how this will work but I know it’ll come together.

Some options...

Some options…

We ran over to REI on Sunday so Alex could purchase his Europe backpack and some travel accessories. He picked up a few packing cubes to help keep his clothes organized. We also found a compact daypack that folds up into itself that we plan to bring with us and will probably use every day while we’re there.

Alex and his new backpack

Alex and his new backpack

After our REI trip we headed over to the Millers house to discuss travel plans and packing solutions. The Millers are leaving in just a couple weeks for their trip to Europe so we were comparing notes and ideas. It was a spectacularly gorgeous day on Sunday so we spent a few hours drinking wine and snacking on their back patio. It was a glorious way to spend the day! Plus, we made some progress on our Europe trip and schemed up a summer trip to take together.

Our Sunday wrapped up with Chris and Heidi coming over for dinner. We had a lovely time catching up with my cousin and his wife and always enjoy spending time with them. Plus, it was nice enough outside to where we could grill and sit on the patio past 9:00 p.m.

Gorgeous weekend

Gorgeous weekend

Monday was our anniversary, which we spent celebrating at Bottlehouse and Restaurant Zoe. We enjoyed a delicious glass of bubbly at BH then moseyed on down the hill to Restaurant Zoe to take part in their three-course Restaurant Week special. It had been a while since we had eaten at Zoe but both of us were glad we made the choice to return. Everything was excellent!

We’re looking forward to Jackson’s first training session this Friday and a fun weekend of seeing friends and getting things done around the house.