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Up a mountain (and back down again)

Written by Emmy on 17 September 2012

I learned to ski at a very, very young age. There are photos of a year-old Emmy bundled up, smaller than the scarf thoughtfully draped around me, standing between my parents’ legs as they prepare to take on the mountain. Many of my childhood vacations centered around snow-filled mountains and days spent in ski school. (Fun fact: I met Chaz’s friend Diana when we spent a week together shuffling around the mountain at age 9.)

This is all to say that a snowy mountain crowded with skiers is a familiar sight to me. This, less so:

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Vail Mountain, a place I have been many times, looks very different without snow covering its sides. On a quick weekend trip with my family in late July, I could not stop commenting on how strange the mountain looked with chairlifts running and trails visible – but lined with grass and mud, not snow and ice.

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The back story: My dad had a business trip that took him out to the area and never a group to pass up on an adventure, the Liss family followed along. So on a Friday night in July, I landed in Colorado very late at night, following a crazy work week, and in just the right mood for an open-air vacation. So we all woke up on Saturday morning, surrounded by trees and mountains, and ready to go.

Given our historic visits to Vail, we’ve skied down the front of the mountain many a time. But up? In summer, that does seem to be the way to go. So we walked our way to the base of Golden Peak, one portion of the Vail area, and started up the side of a familiar mountain face.

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The hike was strenuous (steep mountains + altitude + a lifestyle of sitting at my desk in front of a computer) and unbelievably gorgeous, but also the source of a bit of cognitive dissonance as we came across posts for ski trails and markers for where the snow makers normally reside.

IMG_9191A familiar stance for the Liss family patriarch

Several hours after we began (and it’s only a 15-minute chairlift ride; truly quite deceptive) we arrived at the top and were provided a bird’s eye view of the mountain and its surroundings.

Before having to head back down for a work meeting, my father paid tribute to the beautiful landscape surrounding us.

The other four of us – my mom, sisters Jessica and Alix, and me – took the when-in-Rome approach, or rather the when-on-top-of-a-mountain-in-the-Wild-West approach, and tucked into a hearty lunch at the smokehouse on top of the mountain. We felt very deserving of our (aggressive) barbecued brisket sandwiches.

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To complete the somewhat reversed nature of our journey, we hopped onto the gondola atop the mountain and rode it down to the bottom, looking out at the tree-lined hill as we went. (Well, some of us looked out. It can be a bit disorienting and nauseating to descend in such a fashion…)

IMG_9216Alix Liss, woman of the mountains

Back a bit closer to sea level, we sat ourselves down by a lovely creek to read and bask in the afternoon light. A very welcome change from the hustle bustle of my usual Saturday afternoon.

We spent the rest of the weekend maintaining a similar balance between family time, aggressive athletic activity and delicious local eats. On Sunday, we boarded a raft and made our way several miles down the Colorado River through a handful of raging rapids. (My camera did not make this journey with us.)

The following day, we attended a cooking demonstration, where local chefs showed us what exactly you should do with the fish that come from the Colorado.

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During the course of the lunchtime cooking tutorial, we learned all about the fresh ingredients grown and sourced from the area. The main attraction was a local fish, sliced and deboned, and then cooked with crab on top of it. We learned the secrets of fruit-based gazpacho (who knew??) and fancy Italian dessert cookies.

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We spent a decent amount of time riding around the area on bikes, which was another new way of seeing Vail. Biking on ice-covered roads is not something we’ve ever entertained as an option, but grassy summertime paths are a different story altogether.

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All in all, it was a great long weekend with my family, a nice escape from the city, and a wonderful trip to a familiar place.