A peek at Columbia Sportswear’s mysterious #omniten adventure to Park City, UT

I’m going to upfront about this: I have absolutely no idea what I’m getting into when I fly to Park City on Wednesday morning.

If you follow me on social media, you’ve been seeing a lot of the #omniten hashtag over the last two years – and lately,  #omnigames has become a new buzzword too. If you don’t already know, here’s the TL;DR version: I’m part of Columbia Sportswear’s inaugural Omniten ambassador program, and after an amazing trip to Sedona and Havasu Falls last summer, they’re reuniting my crew and the rest of the Omniten seasons for a mysterious trip to Park City this week for an event called “the #omnigames.”

While the details are sparing, we’ve all speculated plenty. Heidi Kumm suggests a little snow kayaking, Rebecca of Calipidder.com is banking on some bear wrestling, Heather from Just A Colorado Gal is scratching her head,  and Michelle has promised to make us homemade poutine. Basically, no matter what our itinerary ends up looking like – it’s going to be epic.

The #omnigames with Columbia Sportswear are on!

For those of you following along at home, here’s what I do know:

  • I’ll be flying into Salt Lake City on the morning of January 8th, then being shuttled to Park City where I’ll stay until Saturday morning. While there, we’ll be staying at the beautiful Hyatt Escala Lodge in suites with our respective Omniten crews. We’ve also been told to pack swimsuits for the hot tubs.
  • There will be at least one day spent out on the slopes. If you know me, you know that I am neither a skilled skier nor snowboarder, so I reckon there will be plenty of wipe-out photos of me. Columbia is providing all the equipment, so I decided to stick with skiing since I’m sorta-kinda-maybe okay at it.
  • On the 8th, Columbia Sportswear is unveiling the USA freestyle ski team uniforms. They haven’t officially linked it to the #omnigames, but we all have a feeling something is going on with that!
  • The Columbia team won’t spill all the beans, but “what we can say is that you’ll be eating well, testing gear, getting to know each other, playing in the snow, and…

I’m no winter sports gal, so I’m going to be severely under-packed and underprepared, but judging by the photos the early arrivals have been posting of the gear Columbia Sportswear is hooking us up with, my current lack of snow pants won’t be an issue for much longer. But forget the sweet gear, what I’m looking forward to most is reuniting with my Omniten family, meeting the new folks, and joining the crew for an unforgettable trip playing in the snow of Utah.

Want to follow along on the adventure?
Keep an eye out on the #omniten and #omnigames hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Ski Trip Packing Tips: Planning a Ski Trip in Three Easy Steps

I'll totally admit it, I felt like a bad ass on those bunny slopes in Vail.Spring may have sprung for southerners, but up here in Utah, the snow is still dumping. In the spirit of inspiring all you adventurers up north to get in a few last turns on a spring skiing trip. Today’s guest post was written by Micah Moon – who I hope is getting in a some last-minute snow bunny adventuring before the heat sets in! 

When planning a ski trip there are many things to consider. From deciding where to go and how long to stay to choosing whether to drive or fly, there are many decisions to be made. But possibly one of the most important decisions you have to make is deciding what to bring and what to leave behind. Here are just a few ski trip packing tips whether you drive or fly.

1.     Consider the cost.

Whether or not you own your own ski equipment, there is a cost to consider when packing up heavy snow gear for a ski trip.

  • Driving – When driving you need to consider how your ski gear will slow you down and how much more gas you’ll use because of the extra cargo in tow. Also, the more large-sized gear you bring, the less room you’ll have for suitcases, snacks and passengers. Say for example, you’re planning a ski trip for four, and you pack your skis so you have to take two cars. Is it cheaper to rent skis at the slopes if it means driving only one vehicle? Whenever you drive with gear strapped to your roof, make sure it is strapped securely in place. Loose equipment and luggage can pose a hazard to your visibility while on the road. Also, you should consider increasing your car insurance to full coverage insurance anytime you travel. If you think you may not have enough coverage, request an insurance quote or two to make sure you and your vehicle are protected while traveling to and from the slopes.
  • Flying – If you fly, most airlines let you check one ski or snowboard bag and one boot bag in place of your suitcase. However, always check with your preferred airline before heading to the airport, because fees and restrictions do usually apply. This means that depending on cost, it may be in your best interest (and the best interest of your budget) to rent your skis (or snowboard) and boots at the resort. Because, remember, the fees will apply both on your flights to and from your skiing destination.

2.     Carry it on. 

If you’re flying to your ski vacation, never check any items you won’t be able to do without, advises Frommer’s writer Kara Murphy. Whether it’s your favorite gloves, goggles or knee brace, always be prepared for delayed luggage at best and lost luggage as the worst case scenario. If you keep necessities such as these in your carry on, even if the unfortunate occurs and your luggage was lost or delayed, you’d still be able to have an enjoyable ski trip. On the flip side, if you’re driving, always bring valuables with you when you head into a rest stop or gas station for added protection of the items you certainly can’t live without. This includes purses and wallets and cell phones, but can also include other ski items that you don’t want to risk losing.

The fresh colors of the leaves were complimented beautifully by the contrast of the pristine snow. 3. Choose double duty items.

The way you pack your car for a ski trip or even just your suitcase can be the thing that can make or break your trip.  Consider packing items that can do double duty while you’re away. For example, instead of bringing a stack of books you hope to read, a camera, a music device and a video camera, why not load up your smartphone to save space while doing double duty at the same time? Most smart phones come equipped with a GPS, a music device, camera, video camera and more so you can pack one item that has multiple uses, saving you space and sanity. Another way to do double duty is to consider the clothes you wear under your snow suit while skiing. Can they also be used as your work out gear or cozy, casual clothes for when you lounge in the resort when you’re not on the slopes? Can your hiking boots also be used to go snowshoeing or worn with a cute outfit for a chilly night out exploring the resort’s surrounding town? Consider how what you pack can be used in multiple ways – it’s sure to save you space and make packing a lot easier before you embark.

Whenever you’re driving or flying to your next ski trip, these are just three of the many ways to save space in your car or your suitcase, save money, and even save your sanity as your get ready to hit the slopes this winter.

Sponsored content was created and provided by Nationwide Insurance.

Should You Buy or Rent Skis? – Ski Equipment Tips

Today’s guest post comes from Dale Cooper, who has been blogging professionally for three years. After earning an English degree, he spent a year working as a ski lift operator in Aspen, Colorado. Dale now lives in Cleveland; in his spare time, he enjoys cooking and traveling. Enjoy! 

There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when gliding down a freshly groomed ski trail, or bouncing through powder after a heavy snowfall. And whether you’re an expert skier or are just starting out, you may wonder whether to buy or rent ski equipment. Here are a few things to consider, plus a couple reasons why even advanced skiers may be better off renting.

My resting rental skis from Vail Mountain, proudly delcared as mine!Cost – Skiing is a relatively expensive hobby, so look for ways to save money where you can. A good way to determine whether buying or renting skis will be more cost effective is to know how often you plan to ski that year. According to onthesnow.com, you’ll save more money by renting if you ski fewer than 10 days per season. That’s because rentals usually cost between $25 and $50, and exceeding the cost of 10 rentals should be enough to buy a good pair of skis.

Wear and tear – Skis wear out and need to be replaced more frequently than you might think, which means even expert skiers may save money by renting. Luxist.com explains that skis are not designed for long-term performance, and estimates that typical skis will last through about 20 weeks of use. At that rate, someone who skis 60 days or more a year may need to replace their skis every other year.

Skiers coming down from the slopes at Vail Mountain in Colorado.

New ski technology – Another way advanced skiers may benefit from renting is by staying on top of new ski technologies. Many pro ski shops will offer long term rentals of ‘demo’ skis, which are new, high-end products. Since you don’t own the rental skis, the ski shop will take care of equipment maintenance and repairs, and next season you can get a fresh pair. These demo rentals are much more expensive than typical ski rentals, and should only be considered by advanced skiers.

Transportation – Skis’ long, skinny shape can make them difficult to transport, and renting skis eliminates the need to attach them to a car rack or take them on a plane. Transporting skis also makes them vulnerable to theft. If you typically keep skis in or on your car, remember that automobile insurance will not cover property theft.

If you’re a beginner, chances are renting is the best way to go. There’s a smaller upfront cost and no commitment if you decide that skiing isn’t for you. Intermediate and occasional skiers may benefit from buying skis. [Read more…]

Wandering through Vail Village – a quaint morning journey through town

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not the fanciest gal in the gang. My travel style borders on vagabonding, and my adventures are always executed on a fairly frugal budget. However, my trip to Vail, Colorado was a glaring exception, thanks to my phenomenal parents who spoiled me with three days of indulgent mountain vacationing.

After a gnarly day of skiing in a mild snowstorm left me too exhausted and sore to hit the slopes again, I joined my mother for a morning spent exploring the charming (read: expensive) area of Vail Village.

We strolled through the cobblestone streets, admiring enticing window displays with exquisite clothing, not daring to enter the shops for fear of the inevitably outrageous price tags attached to everything. Alongside the exclusive boutiques sat restaurants, gear rental shops, and a handful of lodging establishments. 

As two women who pride ourselves on bargain bin finds and snagging swag during sales, we didn’t even bother stepping inside the ritzy shops – a 10% discount on a $200 jacket doesn’t quite tickle our fancy. Instead, we played with our cameras and searched for a tempting eatery as we planned the evening’s dinner.

Aside from the absurdly priced shops that line the quaintly designed streets, Vail Village is a great little area to spend a few hours meandering around, taking in the snowy sights, and ogling crowds of bundled-up skiers and snowboarders heading towards the slopes. 

Some of my favorite stops included the pedestrian covered bridge in the heart of the village, the Colorado Ski Museum (which is FREE), and the two ice rinks that sit in the middle of the shopping areas.

Okay, so maybe the Colorado Ski Museum is more of an extensive giftshop with a lot of really cool ski and snowboard memorbilia – and maybe it’s attached to the middle of the giant Vail parking garage – but check it out, it’s pretty cool!

To be fair, not every shop is loaded with overpriced clothing; we went into a few little stores that were pleasantly full of unique items and gifts. My favorite encounter was as my family during the morning before we jetted out of the mountains. My father realized something he’d forgotten and loudly said “Crap!” An eccentric woman standing in on of the shop doors, and proceeded to inquire if my dad planned on coming into her shop, since it was the least he could do considering he said “crap” in front of it. We all laughed, and proceeded to get lost in the beautiful ornaments and little decorations she housed in her shop. I’ve generally found that the folks who live and work in Vail are always in good spirits – and it’s no wonder why.

While I won’t likely return to Vail on my own dollar, it was a wonderful experience to spend a few days there with my family. Any occasion when I can share adventures with my parents is always thoroughly enjoyed, and it was great to finally try skiing in the Rocky Mountains before I left for Florida.
 

The day I became a skiing snow bunny at the top of Vail Mountain in Colorado

Note: Excuse the lack of my usual high-quality photos a la my Nikon D7000 – all of these photos were taken on an iPhone 4s due to the sketchy weather conditions on the mountain. Stay tuned for a slew of the usual photography during upcoming posts that explore Vail Village and more!

After an unpleasantly exhilarating drive into the mountains with whiteout snow conditions, a handful of hours spent snoozing on the plush pillows of the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, and a massive breakfast feast at The Little Diner, the time came for me to finally learn how to ski.

I think my favorite aspect of Vail is the accessibility of absolutely everything. The main mountain gondola, ticket area, and rental centers were situated amongst numerous restaurants and quaint shops sitting a short five-minute walk from my cozy hotel room. The more historic and happening Vail Village was settled a few minutes up the road, but all areas on this mountain are easily accessible via complimentary shuttle services.

I scoped out the crowd of eager early bird boarders and skiers before wandering around the square in search of what I needed to do to secure a beginner lesson and some sweet ski gear.

While being outfitted for my skis and boots in the warm rental facility, I bumped into another woman, Kelsey, who was also gearing up for the beginner course – instant friends, thanks to our common I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing perspectives.

My fellow snowy ski-mates included my comrade Kelsey from San Francisco, a Tampa chick who had never before seen snow, a friendly married couple, David and Michelle, a funny man named Jeffrey who had already taken a lesson the day before, and Karen, our fearless leader on the bunny slopes. We quickly lost Natalie from Tampa, as well as the female half of our married duo, but the remaining bunch stayed together for the remainder of the day.

Unlike my uncomfortable slope fumbling that I struggled with while snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, skiing came naturally and flowed like an activity I had know how to do all my life. After Karen taught us the fundamentals of our new winter hobby, the real lesson began on gently curved miniature slopes.

I am proud to say that I only fell a total of three times during my entire day – if you don’t count two incidents where my unstoppable speed caused me to just kind of sit on the snow to slow down. Where snowboarding left me feeling anxious and uneasy, skiing was a snow sport I could actually excel in. Picking up speed wasn’t a harrowing rush of adrenaline, turning was a fluid, controlled process, and by the end of the day, I had learned how to come to a safe stop on my own accord.

There’s really only one thing I can say:

I love skiing.

The weather conditions weren’t exactly ideal on this day, with gusty wind that left me flabbergasted as Karen bellowed instructions to “keep your eyes where you want to go,” while the gray snowy winds were entirely destroying any visibility in front of me. Regardless of the iffy mountain conditions, our group had a fantastic day learning the ropes and putting our newfound skills to the test.

Plus, occasional periods of particularly ugly bouts of weather offered an ideal excuse for our crew to take a break and warm our fingertips in the dining hall area.

By the end of the day, I was skiing laps down the big beginner slope and sharing the lift back to the top with my fellow skiers Jeffrey and David over and over again. Kelsey was a bit shaken after a high-speed crash into a crowd of us waiting at the bottom of the bunny slope conveyor belts, but she eventually braved a run down the beginner terrain as well – largely because I kept motivating her with the promise of free drinks if she stayed with me all day.

At 3:30, Karen reminded us that our long lesson was finally over, and our group rode the gondola back down to the Vail courtyard area. We bid our farewells, and then Kelsey and I returned our rental gear before indulging in those highly anticipated libations.

We shared tequila and whiskey shots at Garfinkles, a casual dive bar conveniently sitting right next to the slopes. Her boyfriend and his cohorts had gotten a hefty head start on the drinking, so Kelsey and I worked to catch up. We exchanged battle stories of our respective days, downed wine and mai tais, and although I can’t quite recall all the details, I remember there was a lot of boisterous laughter being exchanged.Effectively hammered (that high elevation will get ya), I returned to the hotel room where my parents were waiting to head out to dinner. We journeyed to Moe’s BBQ, which happened to be featuring a live banjo band. The funky music combined with extra tall 24 oz. Pabst Blue Ribbons, and savory bites of saucy ribs provided the perfect way to top off an extraordinary day.

I’m telling you: If you ever find yourself taking a lesson at Vail –

Ask for Karen!

She was the best instructor, and I honestly give her full credit for my success as a novice skier. Her gentle demeanor combined with a relentless motivation helped to develop my skills and foster my confidence on the mountain. Our group planned to reconnect the next day for a second lesson, but my toes once again bailed out on the cold, and with painfully swollen feet, I was unable to make it back for another early morning session.

Karen, if you’re reading this – thank you a thousand times!
I had a phenomenal experience braving the brutal weather with you
and our little crew, and am already eager to get back on the slopes.

Starting a day of skiing in Vail, Colorado with a big breakfast from The Little Diner

The trek from Denver to Vail was a harrowing experience packed with white-out snow conditions, icy roads, and the thrill of reuniting with my parents to explore the wintry Colorado mountains. We arrived at the Vail Marriott Mountain Lodge a bit around midnight, and quickly crashed into plush beds.

In the morning, we woke at the crack of dawn to make an early breakfast at The Little Diner, which had attracted my attention with rave Yelp reviews and claims that it offered reasonable prices – a miracle in this expensive ski town. Arriving shortly after the tiny eatery opened, we easily snagged seats along the U-shaped counter, which offers space for less than two dozen hungry patrons at a time. The cozy, open atmosphere of this little shop reminded me of my favorite Cuban eatery in Miami, Ruben’s. The menu offers a variety of early morning grub, from traditional breakfast skillets to sweet and savory crepes. The small cooking space is situated in the middle of the counter area, so you get a meal and an entertaining experience at the same time. My bar stool sat next to the grill, and as soon as I laid my eyes on huge chunks of sizzling hash browns, I knew I had to try them.

As usual, I ordered the traditional breakfast platter with wheat toast, scrambled eggs (with cheese, of course), homemade hash browns, and extra crispy bacon. My father opted for the chunky french toast – another dish that was prepared right under my nose, and smelled delicious. Always the elegant one of the group, my mother was keen on sinking her teeth into a spinach, mushroom, and egg crepe.

Everything tasted outrageous. Not one for fancy plates and food that looks more artistic than edible, I can always appreciate a home-style helping of hearty grub. I surprised myself by demolishing the entire platter, even though I was stuffed full about halfway through. I regret not snagging a bite of the thick french toast that was sitting just inches away from me at the counter, but I definitely enjoyed a small sampling of the healthy crepe my mother ate.

Don’t let the title or cramped quarters of The Little Diner fool you; this restaurant packs big flavor and breakfast satisfaction into generous portions that will leave you struggling to clean your plate. Being early birds, we were amongst the first handful of people to arrive at the joint, but by the time we left, the diner was jam-packed with eager snow bunnies waiting to load up on savory goodness before hitting the slopes. I wouldn’t have asked for a better way to start my first day of skiing in Vail, Colorado.

Getting stoked on the wintry Vail spirit?
Stay tuned for updates on my very first ski lesson, exploring Vail Village, and more!

Hittin’ the road – I’m going to the winter X Games in Aspen, CO!

Often times, travel plans involve weeks of planning, coordination, and thought – and then sometimes, plans just present themselves as just the right moment. This rare, serendipitous style of traveling on a whim so delightfully brought about this announcement:

I’m going to Aspen for the 2012 Winter X Games!

Anyone familiar with my lifestyle knows that while I would like to portray myself as a spontaneous fun-loving road tripper, I am actually quite keen on practicing my planning and organizational skills before I hit the road. However, this was simply one of those opportunities where you just have to say “I’m in!” – and hope that it all works out.

Here’s how it went down.

Last week, entirely out of the blue, my wild climbing buddy Dan sent me a message that read something like this:

“Boue! You should come up with Adam! We’re goin to Aspen next week for the X Games – got a house and lift tickets, you should come play, plus maybe ice climbing in Ouray. Think this trip is right up your alley. No Excuses!”

Committed to using my time here in Colorado to do as much exploring as possible, this proposition immediately piqued my interest. Free place to stay? Check. Free ride out to Aspen (since my tiny Scion tC doesn’t take well to snowy mountain drives)? Check. A legendary sporting event with free admission? Check! It didn’t take me long to decide that I was in.

After a long week of deadlines, social media marketing, photo editing, and all the usual fuss, I’ll be dusting off my winter gear and road tripping out to Vail and Aspen for a wild weekend of skiing, snowboarding, and presumably, heaps of beer drinking. Can’t wait to return with a full report and a camera full of photos for your viewing pleasure.

UPDATE: I am so not going to the X Games anymore – oops. As quickly as those plans so whimsically came together, they rapidly fell apart. Between a series of miscommunications about driving dates, accommodations, and work schedules, it ended up in such a mess that I am sadly no longer going to be heading out to Aspen this weekend. Oh well, such is life!

As always, you can follow my adventures as they happen via Twitter (@themorningfresh).
Heading to Aspen this weekend too? Drop me a tweet, I’ll buy you a beer!

Check out this sweet urban skiing video from the documentary All.I.Can

A few weeks ago, Hannah, a temporary addition to my Colorado family arrived in Denver just in time for a premiere screening of a Sherpas Cinema production called “All.I.Can” – and it would quickly become the object of her obsession, for good reason. As we sat in a crumbling indie theater, drinking local brews and snatching up free alpine company stickers, we became enthralled by the documentary’s stellar skiing shots, gorgeous footage of nature, and the general spirit of mountainous camaraderie that filled the venue.

The segment I’m sharing with you is from my favorite part of the film. During this clip, skiier JP Auclair ditches the slopes in favor of dominating the streets, car port rooftops, stairwells, and every inch of urban pavement in sight. Not to mention the fact that it’s all set to one of my favorite tunes, “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem. Check it out, and thank me later.

[vimeo clip_id=”32863936″]

If that wasn’t enough bad ass skiing sweetness for you, check out the behind-the-scenes look at the making of this segment.