[This post picks up right where Road Warriors: Fury Road left off. So, you know, if you haven’t read that one yet, you’re only cheating yourself.]
4:54 p.m. January 16, 2016. We made great time from Ski Cooper to Crested Butte, where we met up with Rob, Stacey, Aidan, and Colin in the hot tub at the Grand Lodge for a couple pre-dinner beverages. A cold Jack and Coke always tastes great. But there are certain times when a Jack and Coke tastes especially delicious. And one of those times is right when you sit down in a hot tub after waking up early and driving for four hours and then skiing and eating lunch on the lift and listening to kid jokes and then driving another three hours so you’re ready for the next stop on your Ski All Colorado odyssey. Yep, that’s one of the times when there isn’t anything fucking better than a cold Jack and Coke.
7:52 p.m. There are plenty of establishments you can count on finding in every Colorado ski town. Sports bars, gear stores, burger joints, weed shops, pizza places, and the like all are prevalent. A real good house of fried chicken, though — as in rivals-New-Orleans-Jazz-Fest-good fried chicken — not so much. Which is why, as far as Dade is concerned, dinner at Slogar is as much a part of a Crested Butte trip as skiing The Headwall.
And it’s hard to argue with him. The corn, the mashed potatoes, the biscuits. It’s all fantastic. The main dish is transcendent, and turns whatever night you’re there into fried chicken Thanksgiving. I didn’t think the eight of us stood a chance of finishing the two monstrous plates Meghan brought out. But with just one wing left, and everybody already pushed away from the table, Colin reached into the fray one final time. No chicken left behind.
9:08 a.m. Sunday, January 17, 2016. First chair today to be sure we could get in plenty of riding before the Broncos/Steelers game. When it comes to skiing, I’m not big on claiming bests and most loved. If you ask about my favorite resort, I’ll paraphrase Warren Miller: “Whichever one I’m at that day.” But I will say this: If there’s a more striking base-chairlift scene than the Silver Queen Express, I’d sure like to see it. The way the 12,162-foot-high knife edge of Crested Butte (code name: Mount Crumpit) splits the sky between flat ranch land to the south and steep and deep terrain (thanks again, Mr. Miller) to the north must be some of Mother Nature’s finest work.
9:18 a.m. Dade is a lot of things. Subtle and sensible are not two of them. Maybe six turns into our first run, and definitely less than 10 seconds after Rob had explained our route, Dade accelerated to warp speed and swerved blindly into a mogul field toward the top of Jokerville (which makes all the goddamn sense in the world, doesn’t it?). The crash was fairly spectacular — pole jammed into the snowpack, face smashed against said pole — and left him with a bloody lip/chin combo that made his balaclava look like a $35 gauze pad.
Rob and Stacey saw the mayhem play out, and then simply shook their heads and said, “Only Dade …” before helping him gather his belongings and moving on, because we ain’t got time for him to bleed.
9:47 a.m. to 12:48 p.m. We rode hard for the better part of three-and-a-half hours, alternating laps between Big Chute off The High Lift, Hard Slab and The Glades from the North Face Lift, and the Paradise Express chair to take us back up.
12:52 p.m. Stacey bugged out to secure a table for the game, and the boys were ready to head down for a bite to eat.
“You want one more, Rob?” I asked. “From the top?”
I don’t think he even answered, just started gliding to The High Lift. I genuinely love skiing with my boys, and on the hill, Aidan and Colin — and all of our friends’ kids, for that matter — are like an extension of them. They can handle anything, and tackling gnarly terrain together makes my day on the mountain better (not to mention the stories at the bar later). But there’s still something special about a grown-ups’ run. Even though I never worry about the boys, obviously they’re still my responsibility. When it’s just the adults, well, there’s an unspoken sense of every man for himself. And in our world of never-ending work and school functions and youth athletics and teenage social calendars, that’s pretty fucking liberating.
12:58 p.m. Rob and I were perched just a bit less than 2,775 vertical feet above Butte 66, where Stacey already had cocktails waiting. I can’t tell you which run we started with. Big Chute, Paradise Cliffs, something unnamed in between. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. It was steep. The snow was soft. The trees were tight. And we had to avoid an exposed boulder here and there. Pretty damn liberating.
2:40 p.m. Kickoff. Our whole crew was gathered, united in orange. We had wings and nachos and other sports-bar food around the table. Drinks in our hands. Michelle was texting me from section 119 back at Mile High. The game was, let’s see … tense. Dade was pacing, going for “fresh air” out on the deck at every commercial break. We were chanting in-com-plete! whenever the opportunity presented itself. I was rocking back and forth in my chair, fighting the urge to stand up and throw my hat. People were looking at us as though we were a touch off.
And then a late turnover made everything okay.
6:24 p.m. Rob, Stacey, and I got in the hot tub at the Grand Lodge and collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief. I took a sip from my Rambler. And let me tell you, after a day of skiing where all the signage is trying to talk you out of it, followed by watching what might be the most stressful playoff victory of all time, there isn’t anything fucking better than a cold Jack and Coke in the hot tub.