By JB Bissell

One Sentence at a Time

Thank You Note

Part 1: The Phone Rings

When we started this endeavor, one of my goals was that Dade and Roan not miss any school to make it happen. As I wrote back on November 16, 2015, it’d be easy to find the time to ski everywhere if we just said fuck it and took the boys out of school for two days here, three days there, whatever. But I didn’t want to do it like that. Except for Vail.


There was a period of time, for two or three consecutive seasons a decade or so ago, when I got both of Colorado’s big ski passes. I went to Copper and Steamboat with the family and rode with friends at Breckenridge and Vail. Good times. An embarrassment of riches maybe, but shit, we live in Colorado for a reason.

During that time, I skied quite a few Tuesday or Wednesday mornings with Mike, who lives right in the Vail Valley. (You may remember him from an earlier post; you know, when he was pedaling through Durango with a donkey riding shotgun). Anyway, Mike’s enviable homestead is rivaled only by the fact that his job makes it possible for him to “sneak” out of the office now and then for a few hours of skiing during the workweek. And if you’ve ever ridden Vail for a few hours during the workweek — say, on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning when everybody else is plodding away behind their desk — you know how precious those few hours can be. I’m talking no-line-at-Game-Creek-Express-Lift-fresh-tracks-in-China-Bowl-all-by-yourself-at-Blue-Sky-Basin precious.

Ultimately, I decided I wanted the boys to experience that Vail. So in early March, I explained that when a mid-week storm hit, I’d wake them up and we’d go. No school. No questions. It happened Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

I rolled over about 5:00 a.m. and checked the snow update. Vail was reporting eight inches, and it was still coming down. I looked outside. It was snowing in Denver, too.

“Boys, let’s do this,” I said as I poked my head into each of their rooms. Their reaction was one for the Proud Dad Record Book: Neither one said a word, but they knew exactly what was happening. They sat up in bed with a huge smile, hopped out from under the covers, and started getting dressed.

And then the phone rang, and anybody who sends their kids to school where winter happens knows exactly what that phone call means. Thank you, snow gods.

Part 2: The Traffic Stops

Without getting too metaphysical here, it should go without saying that when the snow gods hook you up with a late-March school closure, they’re going to want a little something in return. From us, it was time. Three hours to be exact. We got to where I-70 and 470 cross, and then we got no farther. For three hours. The photo can explain the rest (one of these trucks is not like the others …). Although, I would like to officially acknowledge the boys’ outstanding attitudes during the delay. Neither uttered a single complaint.


Part 3: The Boys Leap For Joy

Vail is huge. So huge that it’s probably a little overwhelming for some folks. But I’ve figured out a secret: You need a good friend who’s willing to play private tour guide as soon as you show up after a five-hour drive. “How was traffic?” Mike chuckled. “You boys ready to ski?”

Fuckin’ A.

From the parking lot, we went Gondola One to Mountaintop Express Lift to making turns in shin-deep powder on Windows in Sun Down Bowl. Dade was so excited he straight-lined past me, hit an even deeper patch of soft stuff, and tumbled to a stop. He disappeared for a moment, a whirlwind of white flotsam careening down an all-white mountainside. When everything settled, I saw a vigorous puff of snow shoot skyward, like a whale spouting air at the ocean’s surface. And there was Dade. Laughing and loving it.


Roan, never quite as daring as his big brother, took full advantage of the fluffy conditions, too. After runs in Sun Up and China bowls, we progressed to Blue Sky Basin, where we went skier’s right off the Skyline Express Lift.

“This looks fun, Dad,” Roan said at the top of Lover’s Leap, a black-diamond run that begins, fittingly, with a choose-your-own-adventure-sized cornice. He didn’t exactly launch off the lip with wild abandon, but have you ever seen the movie The Abyss? Remember when the dude was descending into nothingness? With the monochromic conditions, that’s pretty much what the upper section of Lover’s Leap looked and felt like. Might be a rock just out of sight. Or a tree. Who knows. Fortunately, Roan had no problem trailblazing, so we all happily followed him through the unknown.


The truth is, Mike’s been leading me around Vail for close to 20 years now. It’s awesome. I show up and ski. Don’t have think about a thing. And that my friends, as much as the lack of lift lines, is what I wanted for the boys. For the entire world to fade away (like the bottom of Lover’s Leap), so that all there is to worry about is when to make the next turn. Because when that’s your biggest problem … well, it doesn’t get any better than that.

So thanks again, snow gods. And thank you, Mike.


  1. This is great, JB!!! I’m glad you got to experience this day with the boys!!!

  2. Wow, what a day!!! Great, great pictures. It’s almost ski season again…. 🙂

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