Saturday, March 14, 2015

Skiing & Snowmobiling in Colorado

After 2 busy months of nothing but work, eat, sleep; it was great to finally have some down time and go on our first vacation for 2015! So glad that we found these (relatively cheap) return tickets from Nashville to Denver for $170/pax in December and went ahead to book them, just in time to catch the end of ski season in Colorado. =) Our trip started with some hiccups due to nasty weather but fortunately the rest of the trip turned out perfect!

Bought a bunch of GoPro accessories for our first ski trip and many future adventures together. =)

March 4 (Wednesday): Huntsville - Nashville

2 days before our departure day, the weather forecast showed this - "Winter Storm Warning in effect from 6pm Wednesday through noon Thursday. A Winter Storm Warning means significant amounts of snow. Sleet and ice are expected or occurring. This will make travel very hazardous or impossible." Guess what, our flight was scheduled at 6.05am on Thursday morning and our original plan was to drive up to Nashville that morning to catch our flight. Ironically, I was telling mom a week ago that if the snowmaggeddon is to happen one week later, we'd be screwed. 

So instead of allowing the weather to ruin our trip, we decided to make a last minute change to our plan by driving up to Nashville on Wednesday evening before the weather turned bad and spend the night there. Found a place to stay near the airport for $56 on Airbnb to make sure that we can get to the airport on Thursday morning. The weather changed pretty dramatically (from 23 to 6 celcius) within 2 hours drive to Nashville...crazy! 

Halfway along our journey, we received this 'lovely' email from Southwest informing us that our flight has been cancelled. That's the last thing we want happening and at one point, we really thought about cancelling our trip. We called Southwest immediately and managed to reschedule our flight to the last available flight for the day at 4.45pm with a transit in Kansas and would arrive Denver only at 8.25pm...12 hours behind our original plan. =.=

After settling down at our accommodation, I continued looking on Southwest's website for available flights coz the website was like stock market, the flight availability changed every 5 minutes. When I saw that the 2.45pm non-stop flight arriving Denver at 4.40pm was available, I tried my luck to call and managed to re-rescheduled our flight to the 2.45pm one. The lady told us that we got the last 2 available seats...lucky us!! =) Fortunately, we didn't have too much planned for the first day of our trip so the delay wasn't that bad after all. Just gotta stay positive and be flexible when things don't go as planned. :P

March 5 (Thursday): Nashville - Denver - Salida

Woke up the next morning to this scenery. There was no way our original flight could take off in this weather/road condition. 

The flight delay gave us time to sleep in, enjoyed the pancake breakfast prepared by our host, and got some work done before heading to the airport. =) Our host was also nice enough to allow us to park our car at their house while we were gone and hooked us up with a special Lyft offer that gave us free ride to the airport. Our first experience using Lyft was definitely a good one, especially finding someone who was willing to drive on icy road to bring us to the airport. 

After all the 'adventures' the night before, we were finally on our way to the real adventure. =) As you can see, lots of flights were delayed or cancelled but luckily our flight was good to go! Gotta give credit to Southwest for being efficient and flexible with all these last minute changes. 

This was my first time flying with Southwest and even though it's a budget airline, I have to admit that it's really good coz it gives 2 free checked bags, free beverage & snacks, and no change fees. The 3 hours journey was a pleasant one.

Landed in Denver at 4.30pm, picked up our rental car (Hyundai Accent) from Payless, and started our 3 hours drive to the town of Salida. Just in time for the pretty sunset. 

Stopped by Dick's to buy hubby's snow pants and had dinner at Chili's. I really liked the Chipotle Fresh Mex Bowl. =)

Continued our drive in the dark with only brightness from the full moon and our headlights.

After hours of traveling, we finally made it to our accommodation at 11.45pm...pheww!! There are plenty of world-class ski resorts in Colorado but we opted for the more bargain-conscious option - Monarch Mountain and stayed at the nearby historic town of Salida. Found this place on Airbnb for $66/night, not too bad of a deal coz we were able to use the kitchen, washer and dryer. I was impressed by the Japanese style toilet/! =P 

March 6 (Friday): Snowmobile

Hubby found this snowmobile tour in Monarch and we decided to give it a try since both of us had never rode on a snowmobile before. We chose the 5 hours Local's Favorite Tour at $240 for a double, not the cheapest tour available but oh well, this is probably the first and last time we will ride on a snowmobile so it's alright to splurge a lil'. =P

I was happily being the passenger & camera-woman most of the time. It's actually kinda scary being the passenger and I was using one hand to hold on to the snowmobile for my dear life. :P My other hand was busy filming with the gopro stick. =P

Visited some historic silver/gold mines and quaries.

Interesting toilet break...the restroom was surrounded and covered by snow.

We were given some free riding time and photo op at this spacious scenic area...time for me to take over the wheels! :P

Quick stop at this viewpoint overlooking the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. I was having fun playing in the thick snow. :P 

After lunch, we continued exploring other areas of the mountains and stopped by another viewpoint for some panoramic shots before calling it a day.

March 7 & 8 (Saturday & Sunday): Skiing at Monarch Mountain

Off to the mountains for 2 full days of skiing! The drive from Salida took approximately 30 minutes and by the time we arrived, the parking lot was already filled with cars! Monarch Mountain isn't usually this crowded but it was weekend and probably spring break for the kids so lots of families drove up to the mountains to ski.  

Stopped by this ski rental shop along the way to rent our skis, boots, and poles for $16/pax/day. Much cheaper than renting it from the ski resort. =)

I found the corporate discount for Monarch Mountain lift tickets through our company's website just in time before purchasing the lift tickets + equipment rental package on Monarch's website. So instead of spending $76/pax/day on the package, we got the exact same thing for $58/pax/day. =) That equals to a total savings of $72 for both of us, and yes I'm an!! #win

This was my 3rd time skiing. First time in Korea (2006) doesn't really count coz I was posing more than I skied. 2nd time in Gatlinburg (2009) wasn't as fun coz it was more of skiing on ice than snow. So after 6 years, I still consider myself a beginner and wanted to warm-up and start off at the bunny hill before doing anything too intense. 

But before I had time to figure out how to get to the bunny hill, we were already on a ski lift going up the mountain and I was freakin' out. No warm-ups no training and we're going up the mountain?!?! I thought about taking the lift back down but the staff up at the station said that we could only take the lift up. =.= 

With only one option left, I had no choice but to ski down. We asked around and was told that Rookie was the easiest slope. What a suitable name for a 'rookie' like me...haha!! And guess what...I successfully skied all the way down without falling at all!! Not bad huh! :P

We tried out almost all the green (easiest) slopes in Monarch Mountain and I can proudly say that I am no longer a beginner after 2 days of training. =) I'm happy enough to be able to ski the green slopes, blue and thank you. I'm getting too old for that...haha!!

As mentioned, we started the trip with some nasty weather but we had the perfect weather for skiing in Colorado...clear blue skies and plenty of snow the week before. Even the locals told us that we went at the perfect time. We couldn't have asked for a better weather. Absolutely breathtaking!! =)

Thanks to our Airbnb host for telling us about the Panorama lift that brought us to this amazing view from the highest point of Monarch Mountain. =)

While most people were busy hitting the slopes, I took my own sweet time taking countless photos & selfies while enjoying the beautiful scenery. We realized that I seemed to be the only Asian there, so it made it more legit for me to be the one using the 'shameless' selfie stick to take selfies...hahahaha!! 

Of course gotta make sure that we get some good 'posing' photos for FB. :P The bottom left photo is the 'aftermath' of hubby's attempt to challenge the blue!!

The weather was so good both days that we got a pretty good tan from this trip. Overall, this was a successful and enjoyable ski trip!! =)

Bidding goodbye to the Rockies after 2 good days of skiing and 1 day of snowmobiling. 

March 9 (Monday): Salida - Red Rock Amphitheatre - Denver - Nashville - Huntsville

Our trip finally came to an end and it's time to head back to Denver to catch our 8pm flight back to Nashville.

Thanks to hubby for being the driver throughout our journey. This 'compact' rental car has been a good ride. =)

Stopped by this viewpoint along our way for a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains...nice!!

Since we had some time to kill before going to the airport, we made a detour to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Pretty cool place to watch a concert. Best of all, it was free of charge for visitors.

As usual, took plenty of photos from all different angles of the 'rocks'. 

Goodbye Colorado!! It's been short but great vacation!! =) 

Last but not least, our total expenses for thie 5D4N trip. =)

I'm hoping to start editing all the videos we took this's gonna take awhile but hopefully I can get it done before I get busy with work soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's Snowing!!!

25 Feb 2015 (Wed): Snow Day
Just as I thought winter was gonna be over soon, we encountered snowmageddon here 2 weeks ago. It rarely snows in the South and when it does, almost everything shuts down. Fortunately, our team wrapped up our work the night before so it was the perfect time to stay home, chill and enjoy the snow. :) 

It started snowing around 4pm and didn't stop until the night. Huntsville recorded 8.1 inches of snowfall, making it the second-snowiest day in the city's history. :P 

Gotta get out to experience the snow coz it was probably the only snow we're getting this winter. =)

Entire neighborhood buried in snow!!

Since there was so much snow, I decided to attempt making a snow man. Apparently I wasn't very good in it and made this creepy little snow man with long!! 

Woke up to this scenery at our backyard the next pretty!!

1 March 2015 (Sun): Celebrated Anna's birthday at Connor's and Red Robin.