Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Steamboat and the Flocked Below Timberline

Today was slope day at Steamboat. The day started at zero degrees, which has been pretty typical for us out here, but somewhat unusual for the area norm. We lucked out by getting complimentary tickets from a property manager, so we did not have to pay the $87 or so that is normal for a lift ticket in the mountains. It snowed six inches the previous evening and we were looking forward to having some powder.

We started by getting property shots of the ski in/out access from the condominiums. (We had to take a short shuttle from the condo we were staying at.) After having my director act as ‘talent’ for the footage, we hit some of the slopes ourselves. Having that dang tripod on my back puts me off balance a bit and also gives me pause, keeping the safety of the equipment in mind. It also draws attention from other skiers who always ask things like “What is that? “ or, “What are you shooting pictures of?” Some want to get in shots and many are well-conditioned to videographers being on the slopes. At least I don’t have the camera as my movement would be even more psychologically impeded.

At the higher elevation of alpine we entered a little winter wonderland. The aspen were glazed in hoar frost and the trees were both caked and fully dusted in snow, giving the appearance of flocked Christmas trees. It was my first chance of powder within the trees. It was crusted and heavy, so not the most ideal. The snow had been carved up in spots so that gave me reason to pause, but we did get a bit of footage.

We dropped off our gear and had a quick Fat Tire for lunch. After getting rid of the encumbrance and having a tad bit of liquid courage (affects are much more profound at elevation, mind you), I took the slopes with much less hesitation. The puffy snow was sliced with a rhythm and the day took on a happy hum. For my final slope I hit the trees in an “Expert Only” run. Usually looking at double black diamonds with an “I don’t think so!” attitude, I made an exception here. After a few ridiculous bumps which put me on my butt and back edge, I flew in more consistent powder with a quick zeal. The bluebird sky provided a nice backdrop, the flocked pines pressed shoulder to shoulder and that was a good day.

Our attempt to get back to Heidi’s restaurant for a Swiss sandwich failed. I wanted to get a head cheese sandwich! Instead, we had some Mexican and journeyed to the hot spring again. This time the air was colder and a hazy mist combined with the dark to make visibility nil. However, even in the dark the water was nice and clear.

Well, that’s that for now. We head all the way back to film properties and location footage in Vail and film the US Free Ski Open at Copper. My director secured us press passes so I’ll be one of those yahoos you see on the ski slopes with a camera on ESPN! LOL. Then we’ll spend one day south of Denver before we take our flight home.

Once again I’m not sure if we’ll have internet access, but I’ll update lil’ tidbits when possible and if remotely interesting.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hot Springs and Rocky Mountain Oysters

On Saturday we stopped at Mountain Rose for breakfast we made a 2 hour drive north to Steamboat Springs. On the way here we passed through a stunning, narrow canyon of sharp spires which later opened to sporadic buttes. The further north we went the more we saw signs of recent snow. There were occasional pull-offs packed with big American-made trucks and snowmobile trailers. In the open glades, through the pines and even up the snowy side of mountain slopes you could see fresh paths made by sleds. After the town of Cremmling the valleys open up. You could see some vegetation growing on the dome-shaped, snow-dusted, crumbly granite mountains but very little in the slate valley. Down into Winter Park we go. The village composed of plenty of shops and nice condominium complexes which rose up to the base of the ski slope.

If it’s possible to believe there is more of a money-feel to Steamboat Springs than Winter Park. Not as much as Aspen, but still healthy with fancy leather, fur, jewelry shops and restaurants. We ate a Swiss/German lunch at Heidi’s. I had a liver loaf, roast beef, tomato, onion, horseradish and emmenthal (Swiss) cheese on sourdough bread. It was one of the happiest sandwiches I’ve eaten. Cut in half, the shaved meat was some two inches thick! It was served up with a pickle and some spatzle, which is pretty much like a scrambled dumpling plate. Very common in Germany, I guess. Yumm.

We visited in more shops. I’ve visited ski shop after ski shop after ski shop after ski shop after ski shop after ski shop. Not by choice of course, but I’ve had my fill. As an exercise, I am trying learn at least one new thing when I enter a shop. But that gets old too!

On Sunday we discovered that a client needed to reschedule so we set out to shoot Strawberry Hot Springs. Set in a valley, the hot spring river flows down rocks and into sandy-bottomed, rock-ridged pools. There are a series of different changing huts, all different in construction. One of the newer had a uniquely curved roof, one heated by a small gas stove and one was a teepee. You would change and then make your way down the slippery, encircling path. Each pool decreased in temperature. The first pool was where we spent most of our time. Being that there was an ice-cold mountain stream feeding the lowest pool, I had to be certain to give it a visit. The challenge of spending time in the freezing water was more enticing than its comfort. But it was a nice mental workout to enter the water without cringing or uttering a sound and then making ones way to the deeper areas. Snow caps iced the trees and it provided a Zen-like atmosphere to meditate in, and the occasional trout swam by my feet. Returning to the hot water was pretty cool, though. The previous hot spring pools I've visited had that 'farty bathwater' sensation. Not here. The water was crystal clear and there was no hydrogen sulphide odor. That's usually means it's a shallow spring unlike the deep ones in Yellowstone.

On our drive back we spotted some Reindeer laying in the woods. At first we thought they might even be caribou, but after a closer look, discovered they must be on someone’s farm. One had atypical antlers, which was a bit odd. I almost had the urge to herd them like my Sami ancestors (according to my genotype, eh, grandma?). JK. They make an ok picture, though.

Guess where we stopped after that? Just guess! Well, if you can’t figure it out I’ll tell you. We stopped at yet another ski shop. Luckily for me they had good book selection so I camped there. But I did have to peruse a little bit. North Face, Patagonia, Arcteryx, Marmot, Kuhl, Mountain Hardware, Cloudveil, Orage, and Outdoor Research are all popular brands here. Very good, expensive clothing, just like you find at REI. I even discovered a thin jacket for $900. That’s a lot of money. You can imagine the kind of people that would buy that. You get an idea of some of the upper end in these parts. Makes me miss Fleet Farm and Menards. I did buy a book of survival stories since it had a Victor Hugo tale and one on the Shackleton expedition.

For lunch I had a plate of testicles and a pulled pork sandwich. I had never had Rocky Mountain Oysters and when I saw that you could find them at Steamboat Springs, I had to have some. Double Z’s BBQ had them so we went and brought the video camera. Had to do a wee bit of a segment of me munchin on ‘em. We sat at a high table right near the kitchen. With music blaring bands like Rush and Extreme, I felt like I was back in high school working in Blackie’s or Ron & Ally’s kitchen. The testicles were batter fried and it really wasn’t anything at all to eat them. The bigger ones were a little cartlidge-chewy but they were not strikingly odd and tasted good. I’d like to try them raw and just see what that is like. That will be during a later trip.

On Monday we shot two properties. One was an old school hotel which had a fun sign now protected by the historical register. An old neon and cartoon rabbit sign. The other properties spread throughout many newer condominum complexes. The manager motioned to many other complexes, which in no way looked decrepit, but were to be torn down this year. The rate of development and money pouring into these ski towns is in drastic contrast to what is happening in the remainder of the nation.

We had a few tacos and then went to a soda fountain for a malt. Food is not in short supply. I also checked out cowboy hats at FM Hill & Sons. Quite an historical place. In 1905 Frank Hill left Ohio and headed west. Along with his wife and seven sons he was looking for a cure for his asthma. Along the way he discovered that Steamboat Springs did not have a men's clothes shop. So, he created one. It is now run by the fourth generation. I found a nice Stetson, much like Sam Elliot wears. Not much practical use for such a thing. I even resisted the adage that if you find one you like and it fits, get it! Though, the tag hanging on the brim makes quite the impression. Ghetto cowboy. I think I'll by a Winchester rifle first.

Tomorrow we hit the slopes. Although they have been forecasting deep snow, the predictions keep getting cut back. It would be nice to experience one day of 'pow' (powder). Though we haven't been able to find anyone to 'huck' (jump off of) cliffs, there is other footage to capture.

Oh, I've added music to the site. This is just a test. If it becomes annoying, scroll down to the right and click the player off. Have a good week everyone!

Post Script - The snow and wind just picked up real good!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Highest Lift in North America

Thursday we had a long day of property shooting and then met up for a drink or two with one of the property managers, her husband and their two kids. They were Montanans and very reminiscent of those I know. The dad, Jeff, was from Helena but has been here for 18 or so years. Like so many Montanans, they have an infectious love of the outdoors. He, for instance, was on the ski patrol and owns a fly fishing company called Grand County Fly Fishing. Their kids had much exposure to the outdoors and played just about every sport you can think of. He was nice enough to offer a tour of Winter Park slopes.

So, Friday, we woke up early and reported to the Ski Patrol headquarters. There we met up with Jeff and his son. Having the special authority of our guide we were able to hit the mountain before the general public. We rode up to the mountain patrol headquarters. The wind was already whipping the slopes and would increase in its ferocity throughout the day.

There were two younger patrollers that volunteered to do some tricks in the terrain park. But after getting word from headquarters that they would have to remove their uniforms and punch out, they changed their mind. This was more than fine for me, as I can’t say it’s the most fun job, carrying my director’s ski poles, chasing him in a terrain park whilst he chases them with the camera.

Instead, we joined Jeff and his son as they showed us some of the highlights of the park. The kids out here start skiing from and early age. The parks accommodate this and in Winter Park they can even take Friday’s off and go to ski/snowboard school. There are many facilities and its common to see these little mites even on the black diamond runs. Often you’ll see an instructor skiing switch (backwards) and a school of
these little, helmeted munchcins following their leader. And at the end of slopes there is a school train on skis which loads up with these little guys and girls and pulls them to their next lesson. I’ll be sure to include a picture.

One of the highlights of the day (for me) was taking the highest chairlift in North America. The wind began to reach speeds of 30-40mph and the wind and snow flailed any exposed skin. It became most intense as we climbed above the timberline where there was nothing but mountain
rock and snow. Jeff said that although the lift can run in winds up to 50mph the lift should be shut down as any technical difficulties would endanger people. At the top of the lift I wanted to get some video from the mountain peak and the surrounding cirque. This was partially an excuse to stand up on the peak, removed from the ski crowd and feel the full force of the mountain! Jeff walked me up through the snow in rock in his ceaseless, Montanan climb. Flatlander me kept strongly at his heels, fifteens days of acclimation to elevation had set in! He pointed at many things but most of his words were drowned by the howling winds. What I did catch is that we had risen 3,000 feet from the 9,000 foot base. I’ve included a dorky pic of me at the summit. Tough to look too cool with the fury in your face! Another pic emphasizes the strength of the wind. After only a few moments my director’s Telemark skis were covered in snow.

On our way down we bid farewell to our new friends and went about our own way. What kept my thin attention span from wandering the
remainder of that day was the increasing wildness of the wind. It would create a thin vapor above the snow and obscure your view of the terrain. It also blew with such strength that you’d have to brace yourself or be swept over. What was most nice is that it thinned the population of the mountain. By the afternoon it was just the two of us carving through the mountain slopes. Minnesota conditioning makes one tough!

Friday night we ate at Hernando’s pizza and I did some laundry and took a 15 minute dip the pool and hot tub. Saturday, we head for Steamboat, then back to Vail and possibly Copper. Beginning to count the days! Please take good care of yourselves!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sledding Fraser Valley and Mountain

Today we got additional footage for a property we had shot on Wednesday and caught some breakfast at a local joint. I actually got the half portion of biscuits and gravy. I’m trying to cut back. Although I’ve a Hobbit-tummy in rate of consumption I don’t want one in relative girth.

Next, I did one of the coolest things yet... riding a sled through the mountains! One of the cool things about this gig is getting to do amazing things in return for providing them some free advertising. So, working the ways, we got a comp 2-hour sled (snowmobile) through the Fraser Valley and mountains. Dressing in our warmest gear we grabbed the camera and arrived before the group of eight we were going to join. “Trailblazers” was one of the oldest snowmobile outfits in the state. Their sleds were primarily 4-stroke Yamaha and Artic Cat, many of which were mountain sleds, having a longer track which prevents them from flipping over backwards when you ascend steeps.

We met our two guides named Doug and Doug (good omen, eh Doug?). One would guide my director and I up ahead to catch some cool shots of the group of business folk, out for a team-building venture and lead by the other Doug. Did I mention that I’ve never really rode a sled before? So, you can imagine how the upcoming uncertainty provided a tad bit of anxiety for me. But I was going to roll with it, be honest about being a greenhorn and give it my damndest. Of course I knew it was going to be exciting, just no idea how.

After grabbing a helmet and boots and hearing the safety briefing, the three of us sped off. The guide Doug in front with 19 years of experience, then my director who used to race sleds and had stuck one 20 feet up in a tree and then me. You already know my experience.

At first the trails weaved this way and that through the trees. It was a forest and so you would weave back and forth through the pines with only a ruler’s length to spare on either side. I was only going about 10-15mph which felt plenty fast for me, not want to catch a ski on the adjacent trees already scarred from previous meetings. I kept my eyes ahead, mindful of the trees and the sleds ahead of me. At splits in the trail the two ahead would slow and signal to me and then carry on.

At times there would be glades or other nice places for a shot where we’d stop for a bit, then take off again. At more open stretches I’d throttle up to about 40 mph, but would quickly slow down with the turns, obscured by brush and trees.

There were plenty of times when my anxiety was replaced with joy. Here I was, sledding in the Vasquez Mountain Range, golden bands of sun breaking through the pines in their snow blankets and catching the mist of snow, all a-sparkling. And as we curved upwards on the switchbacks, the view to the valley-side was that of the 3 sisters, mountains that were catching the full final rays of the sun.

We stopped for a nice spot to catch some video of the group and then sped on. At our next stop, our leader Doug informed us that we were going to break trail. He gave brief instructions of keeping spaced out and to lean to avoid flipping. I gave a reassuring “sounds good” and thumbs up and followed into the deep wood.

Wow. I could tell that even the experienced rarely get a shot at something like this. Deep, untouched mountain snow which provided many opportunities of sinking too far to your right or too far to your left. I was being taken somewhere they were not bringing the rest of the group. The guide was taking full advantage of not being weighed down by a tour group and bringing us back country.

Throughout most the journey I was solo, trying to keep up but not ever over-doing it. It was a peaceful loneliness. Yes, the four-stroke, though quieter and more environmentally-sound than previous engines, was the noise I heard, there was quiet in everything around you. I was also determined to stay in control. The biggest challenge was about to begin.

Up ahead they signaled with their arm the “steep” and “stay spaced” signal. What we were doing now was going downhill. Following the trail in front of me, I aimed my sled downhill. There was a challenge. I could not simply apply the brake with my left hand. If I did that I could easily cause an uncontrolled slide and flip over or catch a tree. So, although one’s instinct fought providing throttle, I provided just enough to guide me through the trees and stay in some semblance of control.

So there it is! We eventually met the trail and sped on homewards. When we returned we shared polite banter and business info. They pointed to the setting sunlight on the mountains saying, “Look at the Alpenglow!” With that we were on our way back.

For din din we ate cheese fondu with bread, broccoli and apples, grabbed some chocolate and an Auto Trader of Colorado and Wyoming for dad and headed back to our den.

Thanks for tuning in. Thanks to those buds that ATV and sled. I now have more understanding of what you have done. A general thanks for also being able to harness what this life has to offer!

Concerning Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger is very much worth a quick comment. Throughout the years, he had begun to top my list of favorite actors. He was a young actor who actually turned down money-making roles in order to pursue things that were more substantive. Even when his family and friends thought him crazy and needing to put food on the table, he held out for more meaningful parts. In interviews and entertainment news junk you’d often hear what a good person he was. Yes, he certainly seemed like a good guy for what we could tell. But integrity was something that seemed to shine from his art and he offered a great deal of hope for the craft. If you have the chance please check out the movie Four Feathers or, better yet, Brokeback Mountain. I’m sure we will be drowned in a sea of media blitz concerning his passing. But this is a life certainly worth celebrating. This is just a sidenote, but a tribute to a great actor more than worthy of mention.

Rocky Mountain National Park

On Monday we got up early and drove from Silverthorne to Winter Park. We arrived at our first client who, unbeknown to us, had cancelled the shoot. Making the best of situation, my director suggested we shoot on up to Rocky Mountain National Park, only a half an hour away. We visited Kawunechee Visitor Center, then took Hwy. 34 into the park. The road only allowed us some ten miles in, as the mountain snow had closed the route for the winter. The skies were overcast, there was a light snow falling and the wind began to pick up as we slowly made our way up the road, gazing out for some sign of wildlife.

At the end of the road we found a parking lot, grabbed our cameras and warm gear and found a path. Fortunately for us, the path had been compacted by previous visitors. Step off the path and you were up to your crotch in snow. The pine forest, nodding back and forth from the wind, kept us in some comfort. As we marched in, I was giddy at the fun of it, and had a tough time controlling a doggish grin which spread across my face. Occasionally there was an opening in the wood where you could catch a glimpse of the alpine mountain face to your right, or the open expanse of a river glade to your left.

We did not go all that far before we turned around and headed back. Across the expansive glade the wind was blowing the wind with some ferocity. Wind was traveling a good mile, sweeping horizontally. We drove back, ever-searching for wildlife, but only seeing the tell-tale oval shape of the occasional coyote track, which were frequent throughout our walk. Dog tracks are very similar to coyotes. But, if you know dogs, you are also familiar with the fact that they tend to wander everywhere. Coyotes are much more purposeful, linear and often follow established animal trails.

Our drive back took us through such towns as Grand Lake, Grandby and Rendezvous. Some are tucked next to lakes, some are part of the open expanse. Across these open areas the wind would sweep up huge vortexes and mini storm-tornadoes. In one of these lakes, called Granby, an underwater tunnel pumps some 16 or so miles east beneath the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park. This is another good representation of the man-made feats which are accomplished just to bring water to such an arid region.

We putzed, filmed and ate at a sandwich and BBQ joint. That ended that day.

On Tuesday we filmed a resort, ate some Cajun then filmed a property management. In one of these small condos there was a pair of skis that supposedly once belonged to Johnny Cash.

Concerning the Cajun, I had gumbo. It was more a Creole than Cajun gumbo since it had tomatoes which an authentic Cajun Gumbo shouldn’t. Usually, a nice, dark roux is possible without tomatoes if the flour and fat are cooked right. I’m not sure if it had file(made with sassafras) or okra as I have difficulty distinguishing. But I usually look for crawfish gumbo as crawfish give things what I call a “swampy” flavor. This did not so must be more farm-raised than harvested. Makes me miss the South! My director mentioned that plague wiped out European crawfish and so Sweden is one of the biggest importers. Over there they cook them in dill. Oh that reminds me, in New Zealand they call their spiny lobster, crayfish. OK, enough about crawdads for now.

Last eve it was sushi in Winter Park. They had many unconventional concoctions but it was filling.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kites, Slopes and Summit County

On Friday some kite boarders caught our eye so we went down to investigate. They are harnessed to gigantic kites and, controlling these, cut back and forth across frozen lake beds on snowboards. At times they hurl themselves into the air and glide in the wind.

Saturday marked our slope day of the Breckenridge area. We were skiing at Keystone and meeting up with one of the property managers and his friend who volunteered to be subjects for some ski footage. So, with tripod and bag strapped to my back and camera and bag on my director’s, we followed this experienced duo up the mountain.

They said the lift would be quicker than the enclosed gondola. It was. It was also a whole heckuva lot colder! It was about 0 degrees with wind whipping up to about 25mph. But I could grin and take it and new the slope would warm me up.

The main dude was and awesome skier. We had shot some of his properties earlier. One of these rooms cost $3,000 a night and was used by MTV. His buddy was good as well but didn’t hit the bumps as much. So, my director did a follow, holding onto the camera in both hands and following them down as they slalomed in front of him. I was more than happy just to mind his polls and follow along. It was enough, boarding with a very expensive tripod, I in no way wanted to put the camera in jeopardy. So, he got some good footage, which concluded with a crash, as he rammed into them when they stopped abruptly. But, the camera was safe.

We then filmed them as they went down a shoot with trees on either side. At that point we had got enough footage and we headed to Area-51 (A51) terrain park to catch some skiers and boarders doing tricks and jumps. We got a lot of nice footage as people were there training for the X Games. We saw skiers and boarders do tricks you would only see in competition. They would wind up before they hit the jump and spin continuous 540’s, back flips, launch switch(backwards) and nail the landing perfectly (often switch as well). The park had rails, boxes and half pipes, but the biggest attraction was the continual series of jumps each bigger than the previous.

After lunch we jettisoned our equipment and took in more runs with a dude we met at the bar. He was very quick on his skis, my director was pretty quick on his Teles (Telemarks, which are unique, cross-country time bindings, but down-hill skis), and I pull up the rear on my board. I tend to be pretty casual on my board, the edge seeing a lot of attention on steep slopes. ;) But with consistent groom and on intermediate slopes and get into a nice rhythm. You won’t see me in chutes or trees or embracing steeps. But the culture here I’ve found to be ‘everything does their own thing and that’s cool.’

The most fun part for me is being up in the mountains, taking in runs that can be 3 miles long. Looking below you, the masses of cars and village buildings are minuscule. The winds screams up at you at times, blowing snow and trying to press you back up the slope. But I get bored quick, the elevation robs ones muscles of oxygen if not acclimated and after a while, it all blurs together to me. I’ve had my fill of these slopes but I do hunger for thick powder which is something we have not had yet.

Last night we went to Food Hedz again where I had some lobster and crab macaroni and cheese and my director had some scallops. It was as good as it sounds. Got some wood for the fireplace, some wine and chilled.

Today we hit Keystone village, the same place where we had skied the day before. It was full of traffic and human congestion. You will see skiers with designer suits, skis over shoulder and swinging them precariously back and forth in front of your face. Many borders have this hip, lazy tendency of just dragging their board, grinding down their tail edge, as they tramp forward in a sloppy, baggy pants gait. But in the sea of people, most are just like anyone of us.

Taking a little drive, we went up Loveland Pass. Connecting the Loveland Ski Area with Arapahoe Basin. Along the way there are many avalanche signs and those warning of anti-avalanche artillery. The route winds up snake-like into the mountains. Around you can be seen signs of littleavis’ (avalanches). The alternative is going through Eisenhower tunnel. Hazardous material vehicles must take the pass. But in the case that the pass is closed due to avi or snow, the HAZMAT vehicles alone must use the tunnel, causing all waiting to cars to back up as these procedure completes itself. We hung out at the pass, caught some video and pictures and then back down we went.

Then we went around Breckenridge, got shots of people, shop fronts and mountain sky lines. Tonight we had Himilayan again, Rogan Josh and chicken in coconut milk. Although not much a dessert person, I had one of best I 've ever had. Though relatively common, Gulab Jamun was new to me. It was 3 little red spheres of dough that sat in a wonderfully sweet, sugar water and cardamon syrup. You must try it if you haven't yet!

I’m glad to be finished with two area shoots. Up ahead is Winter Park, Steamboat, Aspen and then possibly onto Utah.

Area Footage Today, Hitting Some 'Sick' Slopes Yesterday

Today we do area footage of Keystone and Breckenridge. These days are nice as they are bit more laid back, less rushed and take-things-as-they-come. So, although there are no days off on this trip, it is definitely more chill. So, with the slack time I may float a quick call to peeps and feel free to do the same. Otherwise, catch you soon. I'll elaborate more on our ski day yesterday and other area attractions when I return this eve.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Of Frisco, Breckenridge and Ski Bums

Hey dudes! What’s up? (Slope-speak) I thought I would take advantage of this convenient internet connection and provide you with an update. We head to another condo tomorrow and so I don’t know when I’ll have such again.

So, here’s how a day goes, generally-speaking. Wake up, grab a quick bite to eat or some coffee and head to our first property. If it’s a property management gig, we connect with the manager, get a map, keys of the properties to shoot, or they accompany us. We’ll generally shoot 5 different places and try to include some of their amenities such as pool, spa, ski-to-lift, etc. Then we go get some lunch and check out some other interesting sites, stores, mountains and such. Next is the second property owners/managers and we repeat the process of the above.

I’ve been doing most of the shooting now, which is nice, because the more I shoot, the more comfortable I feel. Even with my director and property manager hovering about, it still feels pretty good. Of course, I will feel best when my stuff is found useable, gets edited and is on the video segment portion of property pages.

Eating has been a major part of this experience. Some places are rated at the fine-dining end and other’s mom and pop, but all have been great. Forgive any repetitions but the Hickory House in Aspen had some of the best Baby Back ribs in the world. (They ship ribs, by the way. You may want to check them out.) Il Poggio had great veal and gnocci. The asparagus held its own lemony, buttery sweetness apart from the veal, apart from the gnocci, which might indicate they were cooked separately. Fuel had a filling California-style breakfast burrito and great mocha. Here in the Breck village-area we’ve had some Cajun at Po’ Boys, one of the best Greek salad’s I’ve had at a place that escapes me, Himalayan fare (similar to Indian), and at Food Hedz, one of the best lunches I’ve had. Pheasant Peach soup and Burgundy braised short-ribs over penne. It had a thick, brown gravy, mushrooms and carrots. The short rib formed the spoke of the dish, circled with the pork, resting on the bed of pasta and friends. I’ve tried to vow to eat less, but this seems part of the gig as well. I’d like to get work outs in, but ‘When in Rome-ing’ it now.

The weather here has been cold lately. Today started at 15 below and warmed up to about 7. It was coldest when we drove up to the continental divide at 14,500 feet to catch a shot of Quandry peak, of which I’ll include a picture. The cold here does not seem to be as severe as back home, but it seems that you are getting similar temps there.

Takes on the the I-70 corridor: it is Western ski-culture here. Many ski bums that have since graduated to other professions, yet still maintain their slope-habit. The shops here are mostly expensive, yet villages range from the snow-globe pretention of Aspen to the bar, headshop, dude-ness of Frisco. (These are generalizations from an unexperienced flat-lander, mind you). Locals know the right places to go to avoid tourists and some of the excessive prices, but also use the nature of the place to feed themselves.

Music is played in every store and establishment. Common are such bands at Crosby, Stills & Nash, Beatles, Chicago, Phish, Doobie Brothers, Pink Floyd, Chili Peppers and the taste seems pretty consistent. People drive lots of Subarus, Jeeps and other 4x4 vehicles. Shops cater to many tastes but the alternative is prevalent and cool, but pricey.

The geography is dominated by, what else, the mountains. They are awesome, rising sharply, coniferous and snow covered. A common site is to see a white ghost of snow whipping from the peaks. The snow has a billowy, pillow-like texture, not common the Midwest. The trees seem to be quite happy with a heavy blanket. The very same snow coats roofs and creates gigantic ice dams. These ice-shafts often extend to the ground and if you had ice-climbing equipment, you could ice axe and crampon your way to the rooftops.

While these experiences are grand I am still in the training mode. My director and I get along well. The relationship feels at times like a little-brother trying to prove himself to the bigger. So, at times I’ll get the WTF-glance in response to a dumb inquiry or feel that I don’t want to do anything too stupid, technically or whatnot. My directory has the type of history that I find extremely intriguing and he quite enjoys telling me about it. We also share many a peculiar trait, such as where we get our mead, passion for flintlocks and the types of people we associate with.

Just today we picked up someone stranded, needing to go to town for some radiator coolant. After a brief introduction he drops the name of Fletcher Anderson having been one of his friends. This immediately rings a bell. His friend was no other than the extreme kayaker who shot the Colorado river faster than anyone in history. He died extreme- flying his plane. Flying too low, he hit cables some 20 feet above the Snake river. That very river and very cable I had seen many times, bringing students white water rafting down the snake. I had met a friend of his guiding our raft and who shared similar stories of that unique extremophile. Small world, eh?

Snowboarding has been ok. Even in the mountains I get bored of it quickly and would like to journey off into the woods or go hiking in the mountains. I know my limits and with a bag of gear and a tripod on my back, I am even more cautious. But my dude has been cool with everything so far and the elevation tires him quicker than me. Though, the final runs of our first time out found us both eating snow as our legs and fatigue wore into us. At Breck we have some experienced skiers lined up and perhaps some trick riders. We'll see. I certainly won't be doing any 'extreme' stuff but hope to find some nice powder!

So, a few more days in Breck, then Steamboat and Winter Park and, just added, Vail. We may hit Utah as well, but are still waiting on that. So, for now, thanks for tuning into the ramble and I hope to catch you soon. “Giddy-up!”

Monday, January 14, 2008

Snowmass Village

Well friends, here I am. It has been quite the experience! We flew into Denver and then drove our rental RAV 4 through the snow-covered Denver mountains. Dusk approached as we found our way past Aspen and into Snowmass village, tucked into the enormous ski mountain of Snowmass, in which some 16 Walt Disney Worlds would fit. We checked into our condo, which linked directly to the slopes.

Our days have consisted of filming properties and local sites. During the end of the first day of shooting I was asked if I wanted to have a go and so I said yes. I've been doing some property filming as well as taking footage of surrounding scenery. It is a tad bit different, doing this as a living. Knowing that I want to get every shot just right and also learning the equipment, has added a bit of an edge that effects my natural artistic judgment. But so far, so good. I just want to do the best job possible!

The lifestyle is a bit of an adjustment as well. I've participated in some pretty high-end stuff. Coming from the public sector and social service-oriented world it is a bit of cultural shock to be eating at such high end places and being exposed to top-end luxuries. I'm not complaining, but am looking forward to going about things with my own approach in the future.

It is a type of boot camp, being away from home and trying to do things the best that I can - proving that I am the right person for the gig. Like I said, it is going well, but oh so new. Our assignment may even keep us here longer than anticipated. It is possible that we will add a week or so to our agenda depending on what transpires. So, instead of a return on the 3rd, it may be the middle of the month instead!

Anyhoo, I've eating fabulous sushi at Kenuchi's (I recommend people try salmons skins as they are inexpensive and a secret treat) where we we had a wide range of fare, had some of the most tender baby back ribs ever at the Aspen Hickory house, and eaten at other incredible foods elsewhere. I've snowboarded at 11,000 feet, filmed Maroon Bells mountains, visited dogsledding huskies, walked the snowglobe town of Aspen, drank with an Irishman and a Brazilian and participated in other similar activities. Oh, for the the New Zealander's... The Irishman plays rugby and went on and on about it. He told me of being run over by a former All Black player. When I asked the name of that one All Black that I remember Kiwi's making such a fuss about, making a come- back from a kidney transplant, he stated, "That's the one!" I'll dig up his name to be more specific later.

I really miss the people that I want to be having these experiences with and am anxious to get home. But, only about 1/5 of the journey is complete. So, I'll do my best at doing my best here, so that I can secure this gig (which looks quite secured already) and then I'll be able to make the most of the time with the people I miss so much when I return!!!

Sorry for the ramble, but I'm doing this in a rush and borrowing this computer. I'll try to sneak some pics on as well. I miss home something awful but will promise to do my darndest here!

The next entry I hope to make more informative and less tangentle. Miss you, but on to Breckenridge I go!!!