Thursday, January 03, 2008

park city wrap-up from munich airport

I'm writing this from the Munich airport, where there's no wi-fi at the moment, but hopefully I'll be able to post this in the not-too-distant future. We just arrived here for the opening World Cup races in Abtenau, Austria, which begin in a couple days.

We raced Nor-Ams on Tuesday and Wednesday i Park City, Utah, and I had mixed results. I felt awful on my GS skis, and I made a lot of big mistakes on the first run of the GS before crashing and failing to finish the second. But the next day in slalom, I put together two really solid runs and finished second, about one second behind.

Just getting from my house in Winter Park to Park City on Dec. 31 was a real challenge. I was scheduled to fly from Denver to Salt Lake at 6:10 in the morning, so my girlfriend M. and I set out for Denver around 6 p.m. the night before. The plan was to drop her off at the airport that night for her to catch her flight and then spend the night at Brad's parents' house in Highlands Ranch. But unbeknownst to me, a winter storm had been brewing, and by the time M. and had all our stuff packed into my van, Berthoud Pass was closed. Berthoud is on US 40, the main route in and out of Winter Park, and it's a twisty, tortuous drive that only takes 25 minutes in good weather, but it's possible to be stuck up there for hours during a blizzard. Thankfully, that didn't happen to us, since they had already closed the pass. I would almost certainly me missing my 6:10 a.m. flight out of Denver, so at that point, there was nothing to be done but go to the store for some veggies, tofu and wine, go home and make a stir-fry, and play some Guitar Hero on Wii. (I kick ass at "Anarchy in the UK," but I'm still struggling with the solo on Tenacious D's "The Metal.")

The next morning, New Year's Eve Day, periodic checks of the CDOT website revealed that the pass was still closed — and that key portions of Interstate 70 were shut down as well, meaning that the alternate route out of Winter Park — west through Kremmling, south to Silverthorne, and then east to Denver via I-70 — was also a no-go. M. suggested an alternate alternate route, heading south from Silverthorne down to Fairplay (of South Park fame) and then back northeast to Denver:

View Larger Map
Google Maps pegged the route at around five hours under normal conditions; with the roads in such a condition, it was sure to take even longer, but it seemed like our only hope of getting to Denver before the dawn of 2008. So M. packed up some snacks, and around noon we set out on the road. By now it was mostly sunny, but fierce winds still kicked up snow and blew it across the road, making it difficult to see very far during the stronger gusts and requiring a driver to use a firm grip just to keep the car going in a straight line.

We made it to Silverthorne with no trouble, but it seemed like all of Colorado was stuck in that strip-mall, outlet-store town and trying to get out. There was quite a queue of cars waiting for I-70 to reopen, and another heading south out of town on Highway 9, our route. We inched our way through Breckenridge and then up over Hoosier Pass, which somehow remained open. By the time we reached Fairplay, it was nearing five p.m. — two hours before the day's last flight to Salt Lake on Delta, the airline the team had booked me on. M. and I frantically started calling other airlines and found a flight on United leaving at 8:48 p.m., which seemed within reach. I sped toward DIA as fast as I thought I could get away with, and M. and I talked through the logistics of how we were going to get me onto my flight with my five checked bags, her onto her flight home to Boise at 9:40, and my van into some sort of parking area. We pulled up to the curb at about 8:00 — three minutes before the check-in deadline — and I went straight to the United desk and said, "One one-way ticket to Salt Lake, please." (I have always secretly wanted to buy a last-minute plane ticket that way, although I never knew they charge you an extra $20 for the privilege.) I made my plane, wasn't charged for my excess bags, and even got upgraded to first class, while M. made her flight home as well.

I later found out that Berthoud Pass reopened mid-afternoon, which means we could've taken a much more direct route to the airport and arrived there earlier, in time for the last Delta flight — but also found out that I would have almost certainly have been charged at least $225 in excess baggage charges, which United waived. Missing my flight and buying a last-minute ticket for $150 ended up saving me $75... how about that.

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