What Surrounds 2 Dozen Picnic Tables at 11,000 Feet?

What I saw were 15 restaurants and their chef’s cooking on their own grills. Chardonnay chilling in piles of snow. Bottles of Stella in buckets of ice. A few 100 people dressed in street clothes or ski gear holding small plates of samplers from each of the vendors. And a ton of Colorado blue sky.

On Saturday it was the annual Taste of Vail Mountain Top Picnic held just above Eagles Nest. Lets talk about a festive atmosphere.

We arrived at the picnic after attempting to make a few runs on the front side before the sun had time to “soften” things up a bit (Chris R has the perfect analogy; “It’s like skiing on corral”). Mr. Sun was only shinning on the back and we chose not to venture that way with the risk of not getting our fair share of grouper fish tacos, cherry bbq ribs, craw fish pie, lemon seared quail, and a few other delectables I don’t remember because of all we tasted to wash it down with. If it all wasn’t so perfect, I would call it decadent. Or maybe it was almost perfect with a little sprinkle of decadence.

We behaved enough though, and rather than ride the gondola the wrong way down, we decided to ski in what was now soft snow. So much fun we did it again. A little warm up for things to come. I can’t wait for the “Mother-In-Law Picnic” coming to a ski area near you soon.

Stephanie and Randi chow down……But where is Greg?

Ahhhh….All the comforts of home.

……..And ……Relax.

My Ski Day

My name is Rob and I want to apologize to the youngsters that saw me after a face plant under chair 5.

Their wide eyes said it all and then they asked “Are you all right mister”?

Just a little dazed, I replied “I love right where I am”.

They skied on and so did I.

If you need to unexpectedly shorten your ski day, best you do it half way down Forever.

 

Greg’s Delayed Ski Report

It’s Sunday, February 14th, Valentines Day.

Myself, Randi, Rob, Danny, and Lisa along with 4 friends from Ohio, 4 friends from Denver, Rob’s brother-in-law and nephew, and a couple thousand strangers went out to see what all the buzz was about on Vail Mountain.

Snow, and lots of it. The superlatives can not adequately describe how much fun this place can be after 3 days of dumping. Suffice to say, one of the best ski days of the year.

A few quotes from the gang:

Randi, with a huge smile and a gleam in her eyes said “The Forever run was the best of the season. I could have made it top to bottom, but I stopped to wait for all the other old people”.

Tim (Ohio buddy) said “I’m a lousy skier and Blue Ox was easy. I’m re-naming it Little Calf”.

Dave (Denver buddy) said “If it wasn’t for Vail, I’d be at home shopping for an inappropriate Valentines card. I love this place”.

As we stared down knee deep powder, Lisa said to me (for the 4the time) “Just let it go”. (This time I was determined to fall on purpose and make her wait).

Rob remarked “Has anyone seen my brother-in-law”?

The 2 o’clock picnic beside chair 5 was the ideal ending to a glorious day. The back-packs came out from under the trees and were undressed on the table. The typical ingredients were laid out for a mountain top picnic. Something to eat; hot dogs, chips, grapes, cheese. Something to drink; wine, sambuca, champagne, beer, brandy, and melted snow for hydration. Then Rob opened his pack and started grilling a couple of racks of lamb, garnished with goat cheese (I could make this stuff up but I’m not).

One more Forever run before the Bowls close and then in for the day. What a Happy Valentines Day. I hope everyone’s night was just as exhilarating. Personally, I called everyone I knew and left messages begging for a return call. I didn’t want to fall asleep on the couch at 7:15. I made it to 7:45.

That’s your Hallmark Holiday Ski Report.

Greg Z

Top Ten Things to be Thankfull for on Turkey Day

10. Snow Plow Drivers on I-70. I especially want to thank them for spraying that Mag. Chloride all over the road. It’s so refreshing to drive along at 65mph with my head out the window so I can see. That stuff also serves as a great hair gel.

9. Music. You can listen to it day and night and it remains infinitely different and timeless. TV, on the other hand, has gone from 3 networks to 500 stations and nothing is ever on. God bless em’ for trying though.

8. Kids. I love mine un-conditionally but you never stop worrying about them. I asked a wise person once “when do you stop worrying?” She said “never, and then they start reproducing”. Mom – call me, I have an ow-wee.

7. The Broncos. In spite of the fact that it’s only entertainment, after all these years, I scream when they play, cry when they lose, and wonder why when they win.

6. Chickens. I love chickens. Think about what they give us. Wings, soup, salads, eggs, jokes and much more. These fouls roam their cages, are injected with steroids, have no home life, and then offer themselves to us at least 3 times a week off the grill, a grease pit, or even as an Italian dish. They are a special species. Is anyone listening? Dial 1-800-icareaboutchicks.

5. Nancy Pelosi. Because of her, Capitol Hill is the #1 reality show on any network. You either love it or hate it. Hollywood will soon release the movie “Nancy and Harry, a Love Story” starring Tatum O’neal, Kelley MaCaulkin, and Gary Coleman as Barrack.

4. My Car. Although I leave a carbon footprint every time I drive, it gets me where I want to be. Even faster than an airplane and I don’t charge for luggage, my cell phone can stay on, and, if I please, I can eat Kentucky Fried Chicken getting there. Grab your keys, it’s on.

3. Beer. What a great invention. I don’t know exactly of it’s origin, but I think Pete Coors or Bill Budwieser had a lot to do with it. Thanks guys for mixing all those healthy vegetables together and adding a little fizz for tickle. The common man thanks you.

2. The Antlers at Vail. What a place. A great staff, wonderful owners and guests, comfortable units, free $200,000 parking spots, and an un-limited supply of smiles. I can’t believe I work here.

1. It’s Snowing Right in Our Backyard.

Greg

50 Years ….

Charley and Helen have trouble putting cake in their mouths

Charley and Helen have trouble putting cake in their mouths


Three generations later....

Three generations later....

…..and the Wachendorfer’s are just as handsome a couple as they were back then.

Charley and Helen celebrated with 85 of their closest friends on Saturday night, October 3rd right here at the Antlers. Actually the celebration started on Friday and continued until Sunday brunch was over and the final group picture was taken on the pool deck. They came from all over the country (and China) to hold their glasses up for two of the nicest people you’ll ever want to meet.

Their 4 children and all the grandkids along with many from the original wedding party, were treated to old story telling, sing along’s, a wonderful dinner, and a whole lot of dancing. Arguably, this was one of the best weddings I have ever attended 50 years after the wedding.

Thanks Charley and Helen for letting us be part of a very special evening.

Rob and Randi enjoy dinner with ” Greggy, The Blow-Up Doll”Rob And Randi enjoy dinner with Greg, the blow-up doll

What Is A Legacy… Millie Barela

Quietly Going About Her Business

Quietly Going About Her Business

Grandson Brian is a Third Generation Employee

Grandson Brian is a Third Generation Employee

She came to Eagle County with her husband Willie in 1959. Think about that. What in the world was here in 1959? For those of us that say we have been here for 20+ years and think it deserves an award for longevity, take a seat.

Millie Barela was not even married a year when Willie was lucky enough to land a job with the Gillman Mine operation. Their plan was to settle right here in Minturn and start their forever adventure together. They rented a house “on the other side of the tracks” for $22/month. They saved what money was coming in and bought their first and last house for (and this is not an over or under exaggeration) $650.00. Life was good and Willie was making such a good wage ($1.20/hour) that Millie did not need to work. Her job was to get ready for the camping and fishing trips they would do in their free time.

Being the progressive young woman that she is, Millie decided she wanted a car. It was 1964 and Vail was a place that still wasn’t on the map, but things were starting to happen. The Christiania Lodge was hiring and Ted Kindal gave Millie one of the first housekeeping jobs ever in Vail. She car pooled with her friend Lucille until she could buy her Jeep. She learned to ski with the originals on Vail Mountain, but really preferred skiing Meadow Mountain in Minturn. Yes there was a ski area where sled hill is now and as Millie describes it, “they had a chair lift and a place to drink coffee at the bottom”.

The years past at the Christiania and Millie commanded the respect she was due. Her pay escalated to $1.90/hr. In 1972, when the Antlers was still operated by Gore Range Properties, she applied and was hired as Head Housekeeper “by a guy named Richard, I think”. I asked her why she changed jobs and she simply said “more money, they paid me $2.50/hour”.

That is the rest of the story and it ends this year. After 37 years with the Antlers, Millie Barela is going to retire and this time she means it. We could speak all the stereotype phrases, “she will be missed”, “how can we replace her”, “the place won’t be the same”, but Millie deserves more than that. It’s not very often that an employee and a beautiful person can walk away from your daily life and truly have an impact on how you carry on.

Her gift to all of us, our owners, and guests is the gift of example. We all need to pattern ourselves as she has lived and worked. That is the legacy of Millie Barela.

Greg Z

(Of course she will be missed, but we can understand she wants to spend more time with Willie and all those beautiful grand-kids). We love ya” Millie.

Have a story or a fond memory?  Feel free to leave a comment for her.

I Was Scared…

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HUMANITY AT 2:00 PM

When I slid off chair 4 on Sunday, April 19th at 1:00 in the afternoon, I could not believe my eyes.It was closing day in Vail and the 2009 ski season had only hours left. I personally have never participated in the activities that make our mountain different than any other mountain in the world on this particular day. Simply put, it is a party. It is a big party and it’s organized. Organized chaos, but organized just the same.

THESE GUYS HAD A CRUSH ON LISA
THESE GUYS HAD A CRUSH ON LISA

I was riding up the chair with a very friendly couple from Steamboat and they told me they never have seen anything like this anywhere. “They begin to close our mountain at 1:00 and encourage people to go home. They never would allow an open container in a lift line, let alone the party that’s going on up there”. We reached the top and I saw what they were referring to for the first time. I thought, “Welcome to Vail”.

THE SHOT-SKI

THE SHOT-SKI

THIS IS KINDA HOW IT GOES…..Friends and hundreds (thousands) of others gather at Belles Camp in Blue Sky Basin at 10:30 or so, for the “lunch”. If you can’t find a grill, no problem. This is about sharing, and people will cook for you and offer most anything they have. Woodstock at 11,500 feet. This includes whatever their pouring for the shotski.

IT TOOK ME 25 MINUTES TO GET DRESSED

IT TOOK ME 27 MINUTES TO GET DRESSEDEventually, everyone skis to the confluence of chairs 4, 11 and 5. This is where, if you have not seen this before, you actually have second thoughts about skiing right to church and praying for these souls. Well, I don’t hardy pray for anyone anymore, so I found my friends and lots of others. You then realize this is the only place in the world you want to be right now. Then the avalanche canons fire and the lifts are officially closed for the season. The champagne corks are popped and you toast with anyone holding a paper cup. Next stop, ski (pole) over to Wildwood. Then down to The Gazebo toward Eagles Nest. Then home on a lonely mountain.

MONIQUE, JEANMARIE, LISA & RANDI ENJOY LUNCH

MONIQUE, JEANMARIE, LISA & RANDI ENJOY LUNCHThe only thing I was scared about now was getting hurt on the last day. I was actually feeling a little sad. For the first time ever, I wished a ski mountain would stay open just a little longer, just for me. I stopped several times to take in the sunset and a have a deep breath. As far as I know, every crazy human that participated in the closing day festivities went to work the next day and now life goes on without a chairlift. Maybe that’s a good thing.Greg Z

What’s Everybody Up To?

The 2009 ski season has reached its final few weeks and this is the time of year that employees start making plans for the exodus to near or far away places. I asked a few what plans they have in order to regenerate and then return to start the summer season.I asked Darci what she is doing now that the season is over and she has won the Super Bowl title of front office managers…..“I’m going to Disney World!” Herself, Joel and Mariah are headed to sunny Florida to party with Dumbo and Pluto.Chris Ratz. and Sara have plans that are a bit similar (warm weather) but have no fun parks to visit. “We went to Hawaii a few years ago and had to come back after 3 days. This time we plan on staying for the whole reservation.” Book em’ Danno.”Magda, you’re from Ecuador, are you going home to visit?” “No. My crazy Grandma is visiting my crazy sister in New York and that is where I would like to go. She is here until July and we will need to take turns taking her to the discotheque.”Chris A. and Erin managed to get a house on a beach and are spending a week in Cabo. “We got a good price. Free. I’m really happy my girlfriend knows people in right places.”Matt Z. is going to spend time in San Diego and visit with some friends. “My beloved Cubbies are in town that week and I hope to catch some rays, the beach, and a ball game or two. They’re going to win it all this year, you know.”Tom S. has already been and back. “Eleven of us were on this 100 foot chartered boat and we floated around the Socorro Islands for a week swimming with the fishies and we didn’t run out of beer this time.”Amy S. is going to “almost heaven”. “I haven’t been back to West Virginia in awhile. It will be good to see the farm agin’.”Rob, you have to be going somewhere this year? “Yep. To the golf course every chance I get. There still is hope.”Yours truly plans the most opulent trip of all. First it was Italy. Then I considered Malta. I looked into Uruguay. Then I booked it….Cleveland. Lots of friends and family and it really is a great place to visit, but after 35 years here, I wouldn’t want to……..See you all for summer time in VailGreg Z

Bitter-Sweet, Happy-Not Sad

do you recognize this hand?

do you recognize this hand?

Let me tell you about my ski day on Saturday.It was a beautiful day. You know,sunshine, 30 degrees. Myself, Randi, Lisa and Bob were having a few laughs on chair 4 and we were nervous with excitement as we headed toward the back bowls. It was 10:30 in the AM and at 11:00 I was lying on my back in the snow on Genghis Khan. My ski was over there, my face was bleeding a bit, but the view was incredible. All that blue sky and I was alone. My friends had already reached the bottom of what I now consider a cliff.They were kind enough to ring my cell phone. “Hello, this is Greg” I answered. The sweet voice on the other end was Randi. “Greg, where are you?” she asked. I calmly replied “I’m the one lying in the snow, taking in the view. My ski is 20 yards up and I don’t feel like getting it. Something is broken, but I’m not sure which part.””Oh, we see you” she exclaimed. I waved to my little dot friends in the valley below and they waved back. It was an enchanting moment. They looked like they were 4 miles away. “We’ll wait for you” Randi said and I thought “How kind and patient my friends are”. (If you were to have a heart attack on the golf course, you’re playing partners would put you in the woods, cover you with leaves, and finish the round without you.) I felt obligated to gather myself, meet my loyal pals, and continue, broken or not.The rest of the day was great. I played in pain and knew cocktails were not far away.My friend Bob from Denver stayed the night and acted as my personal nurse. “Do you want another beer?” he would ask and I would reply “Yes, Bob, thank you.”On Sunday, I woke up with a melted and open bag of ice in my bed. My thumb was swollen and my friend made the coffee. We chatted quietly over joe and he remarked “It looks broken to me, I’m going back to Denver.” I said “I’m going for X-rays, have a nice day.”‘Yes, it’s broken” the doctor told me and all of this as golf season is upon us.The world waited for Tiger Woods to return and even though there is no similiarity to him and I, I believe my few fans will be there when I return to Vail Muny. Golf Course to conquer its fairways once again.I will have to wait untill next ski season to conquer Genghis Khan.

I'll be ready

I'll be ready

Greg ZComments please, no sympathy

THIS WAS SPECIAL

I’m skiing with a friend and I really want to learn how to do the bumps. We’re getting off of Chair 11 and I say “lets just do Powerline on the way back. I can’t learn unless I start.” I began the run behind her and was distracted by at least 8 youngsters next to me getting a lesson from one of the blue coats. I fell at least once after not following a “line”. I realized there was no line, but continued to ski out of control anyway. When I finished the 300 yards or so and stopped next to my friend who kindly waited, she said “Look at that”.These 6 to 8 year olds are following each other and coming down like troopers. The instructor was yelling up the hill ‘You’re doing great. Keep it up”. We were looking up and saw a bunch of kids falling behind moguls and and getting up, one at a time , four at a time, three at a time. Their little heads would disappear behind the snow and then reappear. It looked like a bunch of colorful bobble head dolls on skis. They gathered around the instructor at the bottom and they all had smiles on their red little faces. I heard one say “lets do that again.”If skiing can be “cute”, we witnessed it.We continued down back to Lionhead on steep, groomed runs, and for ten minutes I felt like a kid again. The future is looking good on Powerline and I have a feeling they will be doing the bumps before I am.Greg Z