|The striking design of Denver airport
(Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport)
I don’t think I have ever drunk so much water as I did on our flight from London Heathrow to Denver, Colorado.
Aware that altitude sickness can affect people at heights above 9000 ft and conscious of the fact that I currently live a smidgen above sea level in the reclaimed land of the English Fens, I rejected the complimentary spirits and cute little bottle of wine with dinner, and religiously increased my intake of H2O.
Of course, the laws of biology state that what goes in will eventually make its way out, so my movie-watching marathon was punctuated with regular trips down the aisle. All that walking, however, would reduce the chance of a DVT so, all in all, a win-win situation.
Denver is called the Mile High City because of its elevation of between 5130 and 5690 ft and although this isn’t high enough to cause altitude sickness, our first stop at the ski resort of Winter Park has elevations from 9000 ft (2743 m) at the base to 12000 (3676 m) at the summit so there is a possibility of suffering from some effects of altitude.
Of course, these heights also make for superb skiing conditions. With snow not always reliable in Europe, as was the case in the early part of the 2015/16 season, you can see why people are willing to travel to the United States for huge quantities of Rocky Mountain powder.
A flight time of 9 hours 40 minutes might seem long but the direct BA flight was a dream: complimentary meals and drinks (ok, indulge if you must, but remember the water!) and a whole host of great movies to watch. We left London at lunchtime but, with a seven hour time difference, arrived only three hours later.
Dougie and I enjoyed the movie-fest (Him: Legend, Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E Me: Steve Jobs and The Intern) and were able to have more room by moving to empty seats around the cabin (on the return leg we had two seats each: plenty of sprawling space) The service from BA was excellent: I couldn’t fault it.
(Photo courtesy of
Denver International Airport)
At Denver, security was swift and we were able to appreciate the vastness of the airport for a short while before our transfer to Winter Park. Dougie had been doing some research and kept me entertained with fabulous stories of conspiracy theories, secret underground passageways and impressive statistics. He told me to keep my eye out for the massive blue statue of a horse we would see as we left the airport: Mustang, by Luis Jiménez, stands at over 9 m and has the most arresting red shining eyes which doubtless scare witless any unsuspecting motorists. I was quite spooked to be told that Jiménez unfortunately died before the sculpture was completed, as the horse’s head fell on him and severed an artery in his leg. A cheery tale.
I also had to listen to a story Dougie had remembered from a Jeffery Deaver novel, The Coffin Dancer, where a bomb in a plane was programmed to detonate at 5000 ft but disaster was avoided by re-routing the plane to Denver so it could land without dipping below the trigger altitude. That was reassuring as we made our descent.
If I’d been regaling him with stories about Denver airport I think I would have concentrated on the Free WiFi, solar energy and interesting artwork.
Our transfer to the mountains was courtesy of the aptly-named Home James shuttle company. The sun had now set and there was an urgency in reaching Winter Park, some two hours or so away, before the threatened storm caused conditions to worsen: we had to get over Berthoud Pass before they closed it, although this is a rare occurrence. We needn’t have worried: vehicles in Colorado are designed to cope with the weather – everyone has winter tyres for starters and the roads themselves are so much wider than in the UK, it seemed a breeze for our 4×4 mountain carrier.
|Zephyr Mountain Lodge in Winter Park resort, Colorado
(Photo courtesy of Winter Park)
|Santa’s grotto or the Private Lesson centre?|
As we approached, the ski village of Winter Park twinkled like Santa’s grotto in Lapland: delightful conifers, laden with snow, were dotted around the village and lit with tiny lights. It was quiet apart from the crunching of our feet on the snowy pavements. Tempting as it was to whoop with delight and throw myself onto the vast heaps of snow to make angels, I headed instead for the reception area of the Zephyr Mountain Lodge.
Perfectly positioned ski-in ski-out accommodation, our one-bedroomed apartment was toasty warm with a separate gas fire and the thickest mattress I’ve ever seen on our cosy double bed. The kitchen, though well equipped, had no food, and we were starving, having neglected to pick up any provisions on our rest stop from Denver. We unpacked, of a fashion, and belatedly headed back outside to find something to eat. Doc’s Roadhouse could still be open but when we walked in, they were vacuuming the carpet and all other diners had departed.
We rooted about for some dollars to pay him but he waved us away and told us there would be no charge, which made me realise we must have looked pretty desperate. He was the hero of the hour. We took our food back to the lodge and Dougie wondered if we could try that trick every night to cadge a bit of supper…
We retired to bed and set the alarm for an ungodly 6.30am ready for our first day’s skiing in the morning.
Despite the comfy bed, our sleep was fitful because of hourly trips to the loo but this proved to be a side-effect worth putting up with: no altitude sickness for us. We would soon be ready to hit the slopes the following day and discover if, at the ripe old age of 51, we could learn to ski for the very first time.
Watch this space…
This trip was organised for us by the resorts of Winter Park and Steamboat Springs. Accommodation, ski rental, lessons and lift passes were complimentary as were my flights. Dougie paid for his own flights which were £600 return.