Spring fever anecdote
Editor’s Note: Locals living in the Vail Valley often exchange careers and money for the everyday recreation fun to be had in the mountains. This is the seventh story in the “Winter Quest for Fun” series that reveals some of our favorite activities, dinners, snow outings and pure mountain magic.VAIL – It’s about March when my mind starts to wander. Longer days and warmer sun have triggered a distracting dreaminess in my attitude. I want to frolic – sans snow – and slip my toes into a cushy pair of flip-flops, free from the rigid confines of ski boots. My diagnosis: spring fever.Having lived in the mountains for six years now, I know these snow-melting days in March are just weather teasers. There is plenty of wet snow still to fall and days filled with gray skies and blistering wind yet to endure. But on those blue-bird days when you can actually smell the fragrance of spring, the best place to indulge that fever is Belle’s Camp at Blue Sky Basin on Vail Mountain. Ski boots are still required, but a day spent chilling at Belle’s Camp is more like a day at the beach than it is a day on the ski hill. Our best friends from Chicago recently visited for a 48-hour mini-vacation. With such little time to show them everything the High Country has to offer, we decided to take them for lunch at Belle’s Camp. It’s a quintessential Colorado afternoon, packing in skiing, panoramic views and plenty of sunshine (if Mother Nature cooperates), and with two electric grills, it’s a perfect spot for an upscale picnic.The day prior, I marinated chicken, steak and veggies in three large plastic bags for kabobs. Double-bag it, and slide the soaking grillables into a backpack for easy on-mountain transfer. You can assemble them right at Belle’s Camp on one of the many picnic tables.
Throw in some crackers and gouda, hummus and raw veggies, homemade chocolate chip cookies and a couple bottles of vino and voila – lunch for six. (Two Elk eat your heart out.) Don’t forget forks, napkins, plates, a bagged mixture of salt and pepper and the corkscrew. If packed correctly, it should all fit in two backpacks.The trek toBlue Sky BasinThis particular trip back to Blue Sky Basin proved true the old cliche about getting there is half the fun: The visiting couple included never-on-skis-before Dusanka. With four other local cohorts, one dressed head to toe in neon, we figured we were properly equipped to help the beginner reach our destination. One can ski to Blue Sky Basin strictly using cat tracks. From the top of Chair 4, take Sleepytime road, then merge with Silk Road, ski over the first bridge and then over a second bridge to Skyline Express Lift, which leads right to Belle’s Camp. Being the strongest skier, Mr. Neon coached our first-timer, Dusanka, the whole way there, giving her tutorials on the pizza pie, helping her on and off chair lifts and stopping her if she got skiing too fast. “People think I got a deal on this ski instructor,” Dusanka joked, as curious on-lookers stole photographs of the two making their way down the cat track. “They think he hasn’t changed rates since he bought his ’80s one-piece.”If everyone can ski at least a blue, which is highly recommend for this trip, there are other, more intensive routes. Ski China Bowl, for example, and then take Silk Road to Skyline Express Lift.
Sweet successDusanka and the rest of our crew’s reward for skiing to Belle’s Camp is undoubtedly the stunning views, which unfold like a map at the top. You can see Mount of the Holy Cross, Ten Mile Range, Homestake Reservoir and parts of Mount Massive and Mount Elbert, among others. Belle’s Camp is crowded at noon on a Saturday, so we start to scout out a table. “Use your aggressive city skills,” I said to my buddies, “and snag us a table.”A big group departed, and we slid into place, unpacking our lunch goods to claim territory. The rest of the time was spent soaking in much-needed sun, sipping wine, preparing, grilling and eating the kabobs. We caught up on old times and even made some new friends, who just wanted a snapshot with our tall friend dressed in the yellow, pink and orange relic.The sun dropped lower in the sky and nothing was left but a few crumbs; we knew it was time to go. Ski Patrol rounded us up and we stubbornly made our way out – spring fever cured for the time being.If you go …
Call Ski Patrol (479-4610) beforehand to make sure the grills are on andworking.Make sure everyone in your group can at least ski a blue.Watch the weather: A picnic is never fun if weather turns sour.What to bring …Grillables (meat, chicken or veggies) And don’t forget salt and pepper.Utensils for eating and grilling, including forks, knives, plates,
napkinsWine, cups and a corkscrewSides, which can include potato salad, hummus, cheese and crackers and raw veggiesDessert. Cookies or rich chocolate bars are most convenient.No need for money, use of the grills at Blue Sky is free.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado