I was scrutinizing the couch in the Ramada Inn Steamboat Springs. Engineer professors instructed a cost/benefit analysis be conducted prior to any crucial decision. It was spring break 1979.
A couple weeks earlier, University of Minnesota engineering classmate Dan Wirth suggested a Colorado ski trip for spring break. This would require skipping an engineering test, but the price of fun at times required sacrifice.
Dan even offered to drive to Colorado, provided I help on a car repair. Entering Dan’s garage, I noticed an engine hanging on a tripod, next to a large 1971 Ford Torino station wagon. Would this trip turn out to be a fantasy? My skepticism soon evaporated as the engine slid into place. After tightening a few bolts, we were ready to go.
Back to the couch. The Steamboat Springs hotel had a nice pool we were using after a hard day of skiing. The price of a room was too high for cheapskate college students, but we discovered a way to swim for free. As I relaxed on the couch outside the pool, I performed a thought-experiment; was it feasible to covertly sleep behind the couch for the night. The cost of getting caught was greater than the benefit of a warm night’s sleep- we spent the night in the station wagon.
We were frugal college kids with just enough money for necessities; gas, food, lift tickets. I had been schooled in frugality by my depression-era dad, Bill. I was his right-hand man on trips to the junkyard. Sometimes we found valuable “junk” to reclaim. I remember one occasion when we had to make a hasty departure, the junkyard dog had been released as we were scrounging a junk pile. This gave real meaning to Jim Croce’s “junkyard dog”; I relished playing the hard-driving rhythm in “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” on my Wurlitzer electric piano, playing in bands as a member of the Twin Cities Musicians Union.
After great skiing at Steamboat Springs, we headed to Vail. We found ourselves at the Christiania Lodge chatting with the Scandinavian manager. She looked us over & said that we were in luck, all the rates had just dropped for spring break. To this day I’m not sure if this was true or she just felt sorry for us. We were able to afford several nights lodging! The Christiania Lodge was the oldest lodge in Vail- situated right at the base of the mountain. We could ski down off the mountain, remove our skis & jump into the outdoor heated pool. This was luxurious living! We skied the famed back bowls in hip-deep powder. Little did I know that I would be ski-racing these slopes the following years.
Six months later found me as an engineering officer in the U.S. Air Force, 1st assignment- Colorado Springs. I tried out for the ski team & was allowed to compete. We raced at Vail & the other nearby resorts. At the end of the season we skied at the Air Force Invitational Ski Meet in Ogden, Utah. I returned to the Christiania Lodge whenever possible.
Fast-forward spring break 2021. Son Hans brought up the idea of a ski trip outside Alaska. Reliving 1979 was too tempting to pass up! We skied 5 days at Vail, skied down off the mountain to the outdoor heated pool- like walking into the past. We dined at the Red Lion, next-door in Vail Village, just as in 1979. We met Christiania Lodge owners Johnny, Heidi & their children. Heidi made snow-angels with us next to the pool.
Skiing through the trees we found the best powder. All the back-bowls were exciting. Hans used his GPS tracker to estimate that we were skiing 40-50 miles per day including lifts. Hans is the fastest skier I have ever been with including racers. I have never seen anyone faster on an un-groomed, un-scouted slope. He attributes this speed to his younger years when he had a season pass at Alyeska Basin Resort in Alaska. The high speed made for difficult photography.
Before flying home we stopped in Colorado Springs to revive old memories.