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So lucky to live here

Elizabeth Chicoine

As the thrills and chills of Christmas and New Year’s Day pass, each of us is pulled back to the day-to-day grind of life. Do this, drive here, earn this, and pay for that.Before the strident call of your life’s happenings gets too tight a grip on you this 2006, stop to appreciate where you are today.Have you been told, “You’re so lucky to live here?”I was reminded of this message several times over the holiday. Visiting family and relatives at a distance phoning to wish us love and joy all noted that they heard over the news wires that Vail had unprecedented snowfall.Snow, glorious snow. We’re lucky to have it.But deeper than the drifts outside our doors today is the bounty and the quality of life offered by living in our valley.Do you ever stop to realize what paradise we have here? In 2006, I am resolving to say enjoy the here and now moments of life in the Vail Valley. Care to join me in creating this user’s manual of directions for residing in paradise?Step 1: Go skiing at Beaver Creek. I was stunned to hear a good friend admit that she had never skied The Beav’. Shock! How many other locals fit into this category? Her reasons are valid: a ski locker in Vail and access to a slope-side residence. But even so, throw those skis in the car and venture over to Vail’s sister resort. Prepare for a day of Austrian charm and luxury. Heated sidewalks, an escalator up from the village and warm cookies at the lift access await you. I like to stop at the Hyatt for a hot cocoa, too. A large gourmet curl of chocolate is tucked into the mug for true connoisseurs of cocoa. Baskets of kettle chips sit on the bar as well. Good timing might include a photo opportunity. Michael Rawlings, a local photographer, occasionally roams apres and snaps one complimentary photo for guests of the Hyatt. So curl up by the fire for a drink, and be a guest. Gosh, I’ve almost forgotten to mention my point of skiing at Beaver Creek. It is easy to get caught up in just the sheer luxury of it all. By the way, the skiing is awesome, too! My family’s choices are Zoom Room, Park 101, and Jack Rabbit Alley.Experience Beaver Creek for a day and find your favorites.Step 2: Access Beaver Creek from Arrowhead. FREE PARKING exists in this winter wonderland. Arrowhead offers slope-side skier drop-off similar to that of Golden Peak in Vail. You can drop off wee ones and pop down just a few hundred yards to a great free lot near the lifts. Locals like to ski from 10 to 2ish, and the Vail lots normally are filled by mid-morning. Arrowhead seems to embrace the ease of a skier day and even during the Christmas rush, my family was able to snag a parking spot at 10:30. We lollygagged to the lift and had a bite to eat at The Broken Arrow Cafe. Boy, do I love it when my sister comes to town. She is savvy and finds out about great niches in ski towns. She and her husband treated us to wood-fired pizzas and savory salads.Oh, and I almost forgot again, excellent ski terrain awaits you at Arrowhead. (Great food and drink really distracts me!)Step 3: Ski over to Bachelor Gulch. Arrowhead offers ski access to Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek. This is a crowd-free area to ski with great cruisers for all abilities in the family. Again, even during the Christmas congestion, we never experienced a lift line. We met up with friends at The Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. I have been both a host and a guest at this hotel. I booked a group of rooms once for Creative Memories and then also was an attendee at a scrapbook retreat. Both stays linger in my head as I write tonight. Such luxury exudes this ski haven hotel. Especially if you are a local and you ski prior to the 10:30 departure of my family, you’ve earned lunch at The Ritz! Take just one day this season to drop the brown-bag and let lunch at The Ritz be a part of your ski experience. You won’t regret the decision. Heck, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Surprise your sweetie with lunch.Step 4: Keep your ears tuned in. After following my family around the ski circuit of Beaver Creek, I heard mention of our famous resort on NBC’s “Today Show. “The segment was featuring the dog named Bachelor, who was on loan to guests staying at The Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, Colo. Hey, I had just been there. Cool. Gosh. I had been living life in the Vail Valley. Due to my out-of-town family, I ventured out of my cocoon of local doing, driving, earning, paying and played a little. I dropped my brown bag system for a day and ate at a slope-side restaurant. The pizza was less than $10. The experience was priceless. Step 5: Say “yes” if your guest wants to say thanks for the hospitality. My brother-in-law is taking us to a sleigh ride and dinner tonight at The Timber Hearth Grill in Cordillera. Another downvalley resort experience. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get my work done so I can revel in my last treat of the season. Hang up the dishcloth, Mama’s going out tonight!What I think is that Front Range skiers stop right at Vail. They don’t venture farther west, and the downvalley resorts seem to be less busy. Don’t get me wrong. I love skiing Vail Mountain. But as my longtime Vail local friend shared with me, many of us forget to experience all of our resorts. Sometimes it takes a guest who has made our home a destination for us to realize just how lucky we are to live here. We have lots to experience right in our own back yard. Pause a few moments and add some personal steps to this user’s manual to life in our valley. What would be your step 6, and so on? Why do we work so hard to live here and how can we enjoy this special place to its fullest? Elizabeth H. Chicoine can be reached at echicoine@centurytel.net Vail, Colorado


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