Valentines Day has always been just another day for me, both when I was single and now as I am married. I do like celebrating ANYTHING, but am less dogmatic about having to orchestrate something on a particular day. So when my husband conferred with me about a business trip that would take him away this Valentines Day, it didn’t phase me. His mom is visiting us this weekend, so we will have our special date night a few days later than the Hallmark Holiday. Besides, why do we need one day to shower those we love with our gratitude and affection? We should do it all year long, whenever we feel compelled to!
So how did I spend my Valentines Day 2013? I went to the LAND of LOVE – Loveland, Colorado! Loveland is a ski resort in Summit County Colorado, right off the I-70 corridor. Well, let me revise my statement. It is not really a resort, more like a ski area. It is definitely NOT a resort like Vail with all of its glittering amenities and people (yes some of the people in Vail actually glitter); but it is also not just a lift stuck into the side of a mountain, off a back-country road like Silverton.
So here are my reasons why I love Loveland on Valentines day:
Closest ski area from Denver
Drive time from my front door in the south suburbs to the parking lot takes me 1 hour and 20 minutes, traveling between 60-80 mph. It is 53 miles from Denver proper.
Short drive time
This counts when you wake up late or need to leave early. The lifts open at 9 am, so you can get up and have your coffee, wait for the city traffic to die down a little, then jump in your car and head on up I-70. Also on the return home, you are already closer to the city than some other resorts, so you can ski longer. I-70 further west can get backed up with traffic returning to Denver in the afternoon. Most of the drive is two lanes, so it can get pretty crowded with interstate truckers, tourists, day-trippers, and locals all trying to navigate winter driving conditions. A short drive is also important when you are paying for a babysitter at your house! Self explanatory, but I can feel good about leaving my daughter with a sitter in our own home and not blowing my monthly “fun money” on one babysitting day.
On the occasion that I do bring my daughter, Loveland’s day care is great. For $15 an hour I can snowboard for a few hours and then grab her to share lunch together in the “lodge” before we head home. Or if she stays in day care over the lunch hour, food is included in her hourly fee. Considering that I am a stay at home mom/blogger/entrepreneur who has only let my daughter be supervised by ladies from church and a few other mommy friends, I feel that this day care situation is ideal for short term snowboarding adventures.
One lodge / Two hangout areas
Loveland does not have a swanky lodge like a lot of other resorts, which is a turnoff for some of my friends who are really into ambiance for Apres Ski. Don’t get me wrong; I am a total foodie and ambiance plays a major factor in where I spend my time and cash, but I can overlook it in this situation for all the other benefits I get at this mountain. Loveland’s facilities include a cafeteria and dining area upstairs with a small bar; and then a lower more traditional bar area with a better beer selection. I will say, that if they did not have good local craft beer that I would not have bought a season pass; that is a must. My favorites are Tommyknocker IPA and Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale. The lower level is my preference because it is less crazy (less families), but I do bring my toddler down there and she is well behaved so as not to disturb the other adults – yes, my toddler is well behaved, but I think she minds me so well because she missed me for the past few hours. A walk along the wall-length over-sized fireplace in the downstairs bar keeps her happy too! And come time for spring skiing, I will be so excited to hang out on the patio and get sun on our faces.
The lack of ambiance and amenities probably keeps a lot of what we like to call “Euro-skiers” away. These are the furry-boot-stomping, cell-phone-on-the-slopes-talking, butt-hugging-neon-unisuit-wearing, flashy-trashy-look-at-me, one-ski-vacation-a-year-tourists that annoy us regular skiers. If you are an infrequent or first-time skier, please DO GO TO LOVELAND; you are welcomed! But if you’re looking to be seen, this is not your place. The mood of Loveland is very mellow and friendly. There are definitely lots of locals and ski bums who are there, but it is not territorial like the coveted local surf breaks in California. Since I am usually by myself (I prefer to ride alone), I always choose a seat at the bar even if I am not drinking and I usually end up in a spirited conversation.
Although I have not encountered the entire mountain, what I have explored on my own thus far is super fun. One challenge of snowboarding by yourself on a new mountain, is the risk of getting stuck on flat terrain and having to take off your board and walk – we are always looking for at least a little bit of “vert” to keep moving. Loveland has a great combination of wide open bowls to traverse and link turns, with croppings of trees if you want to duck away and challenge yourself. Like most mountains, they have green runs mixed with blues and blacks so you can always find the level that works for you if you are skiing in a group of mixed abilities, and you can always find the easiest way down if necessary.
For many people, skiing and snowboarding can be intimidating. Helpful professional liaisons can be invaluable in creating the right experience. I’ve had interaction in the restaurant with staff on their breaks, ticket window, child care, bartender, equipment rental and all have been pleasant and not pretentious. Since these are people who love the snow too, they are usually really helpful in making sure your experience is a good one.
Good rental equipment
I don’t usually have the occasion to rent gear since I have been snowboarding for 20 years now (wow-this is my 20th season!); but one day I forgot my boots at home. For $13 I rented a brand I had never heard of, expecting them not to be as comfortable as my own, and maybe even doing only a few runs, but the boots were super comfy and MUCH easier to get on and off and adjust than my own boots! Loveland has tons of demo equipment too if you are looking to try something new.
I have not yet taken a lesson, but for my birthday next month I am going to hire a guy/gal for a private lesson. My goal is to learn more about the mountain since this is my first year skiing here; and to also have him evaluate my abilities. I only took two lessons when I first learned 20 years ago, so I figured a professional might have some pointers on my stance, linking turns, how to be more comfortable with speed…and maybe show me some secret spots on the mountain…they all have secret spots! For $50-70 I can get a private or semi-private lesson for about 2-3 hours, and I think that is worth the investment.
My season pass
This is the first year in 6 years that I have had a season pass! Ankle surgery and pregnancy has precluded me from snowboarding as often as I would have liked in the past few years. But now, I have an amazingly affordable weekday pass that lets me ride unrestricted Monday-Friday all season. I purchased in back in May for around $250 (you get a discount for buying early) and each single day ticket is $61 – so for the pass to have “paid for itself”, I only needed to go 4.2 times!. Once that happens, I don’t feel guilty about escaping for just an hour and maybe only getting three runs in; or if I decide that 5 degrees with a windchill of -20 and white-out conditions is not what I am up for that day! Loveland also has lots of other pass options, including a 3-Class pass where you pay for three ski lessons and you get a season pass for free!
This is a great change from some of the other resorts in Colorado. Because many of our state’s resorts are world renowned, we attract people from all over the world – that is a wonderful thing to share with them and great for our economy. But it is not always great when you just want to have fun and not worry about dodging that newbee in jeans haphazardly criss-crossing the intermediate slope, or listening to the real estate deal being negotiated on the chairlift behind you. Most of the time, I am on the chair lift alone and I don’t have to wait in line to get on! Sometimes there is no one else on the run except me! My heart races with joy when I am whooshing down a run, listening only to my board cutting into the snow and kicking it up at my heals and I glance over the ridges and not see a single sole! I feel strong and humbled at the same time to be conquering the mountain with my board all alone, yet dwarfed and enveloped by the majesty of the mountain. Now, it can also be kinda scary when you find yourself in a situation like I did on my last trip where the snow was blowing so badly that I could not see the run in front of me and I ended up in the trees…for a snowboarder who has fallen in many a tree well and had to dig herself out, it can create some anxiety imagining a repeat with no one likely to follow behind and rescue you if need be. But the overall serenity of being alone is one of my greatest joys, and often, my special alone time with God.
Parking at Loveland is just are relaxed as the overall vibe. It is a dirt lot, right next to the ticket booth and base chairlifts. You drive up, and park two by two on your own if there is not a parking guy directing you, and walk right up to the slopes. I’ve only ever seen a parking-guy one time, but since people are all pretty mellow and respectful, the parking rows tend to be very orderly as a result. You’ll see some dogs running around as their owners release them for a break, people eating/drinking and hanging out in their cars too, perhaps an occasional aroma of ‘wacky-tobacky’ from someone who is obviously only smoking for medicinal reasons so that their body doesn’t ache from skiing (pot can be legally possessed if you have a medical marijuana license/card – thank goodness it’s not Amsterdam yet, folks; although we had a ballot measure pass this fall to legalize completely…a nightmare for legislators to navigate now, but that is another post…). Did I mention the best part about the parking? IT’S FREE! Some other resorts charge upwards of $20 to park at their resort, so this is a great deal. There is also a free shuttle to take you between the two ski areas.
Two separate ski areas
There is a separate area mostly for beginners to learn in a safe and less challenging environment. In addition, it keeps beginners out of the way of more advanced skiers who will likely be at the other area. Free shuttle every 5-10 minutes between areas.
Loveland has several cool events that I want to participate in this year including a scavenger hunt on the mountain in conjunction with Fort Collin, Colorado brewery New Belgium Brewery, Ski with a Forest Ranger, and the 22nd Annual Mountaintop Matrimony ceremony and reception – this is a Valentines Day Loveland tradition where new couples are joined in matrimony and married couples renew their vows in a mass wedding at The Ptarmigan Roost Cabin, elevation 12,050 feet, located at the top of Lift #2. Since my hubby was gone this year, maybe we will do it next season!
Typically Loveland is open from October to May…depending on snowfall. It is always one of the resorts in competition for coveted (unofficial) title of First Colorado Resort Open for business each season. Lots of other resorts are restricted by the US Forest service on when they can open/close for ski season, usually due to animal migration on the land that the Forest Service owns and rents to the resorts.
So these are my reasons for loving Loveland Ski Resort, especially on this Valentines Day. This list is far from comprehensive, and I know I will be able to think of many more reasons to love Loveland as I continue to snowboard there. I will admit that I was reluctant to buy a pass to this resort this year, site unseen, because most of my time riding has been spent at Vail and Breckenridge. But I am so overjoyed at my choice because a mellow experience is what I wanted this season, after several years hiatus.
As an aside to my list above, I also wanted to write about the ski resort located in the Valentines Day capital of the world. Loveland, Colorado is the home of the Valentine Re-Mailing Program. each year since 1947, people from all over the world have been sending Valentine’s Day cards to the city of Loveland, Colorado to be hand-stamped with a cachet and verse, and a specially designed postal cancellation. A new verse and stamp are selected each year through a contest held by the Loveland Chamber of Commerce and residents can submit their poems and artwork to be judged. On average, this program re-mails more than 160,000 cards from the United States and more Each year, an average of 160,000 valentines needs stamping – they come from every state in the US and about 50 countries around the world. For decades people from across the world have sent their valentines to Loveland, Colorado, than 110 countries.