I live in Colorado but I’m not a skier.

This takes some explaining when I first meet people.  I did not grow up in Colorado, and my family was not particularly athletic.  (Okay, my family was not the least bit athletic).  My first ski experience was as a teenage exchange student.  My host family took me skiing in France’s Massif Central range.  They stuck me on a pair of skis and let me loose on the bunny slope.  Honestly, it was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life.  I could not stay upright and spent most of the day on my derrière.  Not an unexpected result given that I had not taken a ski lesson.

Sadly, this experience has stayed with me over the past two decades and I had been reluctant to attempt downhill skiing again.  But in 2011 I resolved to be more adventurous, and when a group of colleagues invited me to take part in a ski weekend in what is essentially my backyard, I thought it would be a great time to write a new ski chapter.

Breckenridge is less than two hours from my home, an easy drive along U.S. Interstate 70.  When entering the town I was on high alert for the welcome sign, and I was not disappointed.

Northbound on Colorado 9

The sign is not unlike those in other mountain/rural/remote areas I have visited – wooden and rustic.  But the professional calligraphy gives it a refined and sophisticated feel.  Perhaps my only criticism of the sign is the fact that the elevation is not labeled – I know it’s 9,600 feet, but with so many international visitors the potential for confusion exists.

Just over 150 years old, Breckenridge was named after U.S. Vice President John Breckinridge.  Essentially it was a bribe – the goal of local leaders was to secure a post office, and it worked.  But the town’s pro-Union citizens soured two years later when Vice President Breckinridge sided with the Confederates and they changed the spelling – the first i was replaced with an e.

The town is home to less than 2,500 full-time year-round residents, but as one of the most popular ski resorts in the world, the population swells in the winter.  I was one of this year’s Spring Break skiers and the mountain was extremely busy when I visited in mid-March.  The weather was perfect – upper 30s (Farenheit) and sunny skies – and I was told the snow was perfect, too.

I’m happy to report that my second ski experience was a resounding success.  I learned to stand, stop and turn.  By the end of my full-day lesson, I could ski down a green run without a problem (although I still need to work on getting off the ski lift).  It has almost erased the memories of my first ski trip and I am confident that I will not wait another 20 years before taking to the slopes again!


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