For quite a while now, we’ve scheduled an “off” day in the middle of our skiing trips. We get “4 of 6” day passes. For these, you get four days of skiing in a six day period. We ski for two days, take a day off, and ski for two more. This gives our bodies time to heal and it breaks up the sheer boredom of having to ski all those days in a row (ha!). In the past, we have done a variety of things on our day off: nothing, snow mobiling, tubing… This year we decided on snow mobiling. There are a few main snow mobiling “outfits” around Breckenridge. The top two are probably Tiger Run Tours and Good Times Adventures. Several years ago when we were in Breck I went on a snowmobile tour, but couldn’t remember who it was. It was a nice tour. We went really high on the mountain and had a great view. More recently we went on a Tiger Run tour and we just weren’t impressed. We spent our time playing around in the forest and an open field. The tour guide stopped us from time to time and explained what a cabin meant and stuff like that. It was basically not very exciting, though. This year I did a lot of research before getting to Breck and discovered that the place I had gone many years ago was Good Times Adventures. They specifically mentioned going to a pass on the continental divide where you could see Mount Guyot. I found their website and sent them an email. The prices were $100 for a driver, and $50 for a passenger. I wanted to see if I could get a discount anyhow. Liz Elder mailed me back and said that she could give a 10% discount. On day 2 of skiing I called and set up an appointment with them. Brian was a little “if”fy at that point, because of his toe. Good Times said that they charged a 50% cancellation fee, but I figured we could probably discuss that stuff with them if we ended up needing to do so.

Tuesday morning came and it was all grey and overcast. Very little visibility. We had a 10am tour and to meet that, we had to be at the River Mountain Lodge at 9am. That lodge is on the south east corner of Park and Ski Hill, so it was quite close to our condo. We were there about 8:50 or so. The van finally showed up around 9:05. The lodge seems quite nice. They have a front desk, bellboys, and all that good stuff. It might be an interesting option in the future. The location is stellar. Right at the end of Four O’Clock and quite close to town. Anyway, the guy from Good Times showed up in his van, and we were the only passengers. He said that it would be 20-25 minutes to get to the snow mobile place. We had a good conversation with him. He normally did heli-ski guiding for a place in Alaska (h2o guides), but he had decided to stay in Breck this season because of money issues. They weren’t going to raise his base salary and he was concerned that the number of tourists would be low, which would affect the primary source of his income (tips). He said that a guide might only make $350 a week up there, which really isn’t enough to cover expenses. He said he had also guided for places in South America, but he was from the Breckenridge area. Guiding in Alaska normally starts in February. It’s too dark before that. Good Times has a permit to use the national forest land for snow mobiling. Once you get the permit you don’t have to continue to pay for it, but you can get re-evaluated each year. He said that a lot of times, people will get the permits and then sit on them. The national forest service only offers a certain number of them, and when they are gone, they are gone. So their value increases quickly. We went by the Breck golf course, and the guy said that that part of Breck had greatly increased in value after they put the Jack Nicolaus designed course in. They were in the process of building more houses. He pointed out an old half-decayed dredge. It had been decommissioned in 1942. The dredges (there were around 9 of them) basically went up and down the valley. They would dig down 20-40 feet to pure bedrock and find gold in the soil. They would then spit the remains out the back. So they basically covered ground like an earthworm. Eat from the front and expel out the back. There are still many tailing piles around Breck, and The Dredge restaurant in town has been designed to look like one of the dredges that lasted until 1942.

We got to the snowmobiling place, and the guy pointed out the new home of Good Times Adventures, and told us that they were planning to move into it “next week”. So we got to do everything in a large canvas tent. We made it inside, signed the safety waiver and paid for the trip. I had the email printout showing the 10% discount and we paid $90 * 2 and $45 * 1. Then we got fitted for boots, helmets and snowsuits. If you take your own stuff you don’t need to wear the equipment they provide. But, it’s easier to just use theirs. That way you can dress normal, and what they have is pretty warm. You need to take your own googles and gloves. I also had a beanie that I took with me and the camera. There were probably 20 tourists there, give or take a few. Once we were all dressed, we sat around for a while waiting for something to happen and they finally told us to go outside to get our picture taken. We went outside and they sat Mariya on a snowmobile and Brian and myself stood behind it. The photographer snapped a couple of pictures and said we could get them afterwards (they ended up being $20 and we didn’t get a picture). Shortly after that, we were led to our snowmobiles. Nathan, the guide, started all of them to get them warmed up, and then we picked our sleds and went through an orientation. He pointed out a dogsled team that was being trained by a guide. One of the dogs had a good sized bloody spot on his neck where he had gotten into a fight with another dog. Nathan said that sometimes the dogs wouldn’t get along in the pens, but when they were put into the harness they were very happy. There were 7 or 8 snowmobiles. Mariya and myself were the only couple where both people were planning to drive. For the orientation we were shown how to operate the snow mobiles (Polaris models). There was a square, orange kill switch on the right handlebar. The snowmobile wouldn’t operate if that was down. After lifting it up, you just turn the key and it fires up. Then, it has a centrifugal clutch, so you just give it gas and it goes. I started out driving. The guide headed out and everyone followed. We were in last place, and Brian was right before us. We had a lot of fumes from the other snow mobiles, but we had the luxury of slowing down a bit if we wanted so that we could speed ahead later. We drove through the woods for a while and came to a clearing where we were able to practice driving. We went counterclockwise around a track that was probably 1/6 of a mile or so. Brian said afterwards that we drove about 3-4 miles on it. I drove a few laps and then I let Mariya drive. She drove for a quite a while and then I drove some more. At the end, I was driving. Nathan said that we were going to head back to the base to let one girl drop off her snowmobile (she was going to ride with her significant other). So, we went for a long way through the woods and made it back to the base. Mariya then got into the driver’s position and we headed for the main part of the tour, which was a trip up to 11,500 feet at Georgia pass. This trip took quite a while. It was another 5-7 miles and we slowly gained in altitude. It was snowing at this point, and my hands and face got quite cold. The driver has heated hand grips which keep a person’s hands quite toasty, after it gets going (it takes a few minutes to start heating). Near the very end, the path got somewhat steep and then we came out on a large open area with a sign that said it was Georgia pass and gave the elevation and mentioned that it was on the continental divide. We drove around the large open area but you really couldn’t see a doggone thing because of the snow. The view was very disappointing that day. Nathan then stopped and we were given 15 minutes or so to “look around”. Since we couldn’t see anything, we basically just stood around and talked. Normally the view is fantastic. Mount Guyot is very close, and you can see South Park and Fairplay to the south. Really amazing thing thing to see. Two other groups of snow mobilers showed up at the top, and Nathan said that there was one more that was in route, and once they showed up, we would head back down. The last group didn’t show up after 5 minutes and we headed down anyway. Nathan had been trying to build up our confidence all along. Before we ever left the base he had said that “if we were adventurous” that we might get up to the top of the pass. When we got up there, he said that he could tell, from looking at us, that we liked adventure and wanted to know if we wanted to take the steeper way down. Everyone said “yes”, of course. We had taken this pathway when I had been here before and it was pretty steep. The snowmobile in front of me had decided to stop, and I couldn’t. It was just too steep. I had to slide off to the side of the path a little bit so that I didn’t run into the guy. I didn’t want that to happen this time, so I made sure to tell Brian to not stop on the side of the hill. Mariya had driven up, and I drove back down. The steep part was right off the top of the pass, and when we went over the edge, Mariya exclaimed “Wow!”. It was pretty steep, but it wasn’t terribly long, and Brian did an excellent job of not stopping. We quickly made it to the bottom and then we had a few miles of driving through the trees to get back close to the base. We were on normal national forest snowmobile trails, so we actually met a few loan riders that were traveling in the opposite direction. Near the end we hit a pretty long straight stretch and I got the snowmobile up to 45 mph, which felt pretty fast. We then went by a parking area where others were unloading their own snowmobiles. And, we did a loop where we had the straight stretch again. I think that Nathan just wanted us to have the straight stretch twice where we could get up some speed. Then we quickly found ourselves back at the base area and parking. One of the loops around, we saw a dogsled team with tourists. One person was mushing, and the rest of the people on the tour were being pulled in a sleigh by a snowmobile (in front of the dogs). So, if you get the dogsled tour, you get to mush for a little while, and the rest of the time you spend in a sleigh watching others mush. I don’t care for the bang-for-buck ratio, but I’ve never done it. It might be the greatest thing ever.

Once we got back to the base, Nathan spent a minute or two telling us how he needed tips. He said that he was paid very little and relied upon tips. He said that 15-20% was customary and that he would be inside where we changed clothes. Hmm.. 8 snowmobiles.. Probably $1,000 in tour fees.. If he managed to get 20%.. that wouldn’t be bad for 2 hours work. But, I know that there are a lot of other variables. Anyway, we tipped him $20 and Brian gave him $20. He really didn’t give a very hard sell (not nearly as annoying as the tour guides in the Wisconsin Dells) We took a couple of other pictures and headed inside. We changed out of our provided outerwear and Mariya excused herself for a bit and I headed over to make some hot chocolate for us. It was just hot water with swiss miss chocolate packets, but it tasted really good! They had a table of stuff to buy (socks, hats, etc) and Mariya thought about getting some ski socks (for $7) but they didn’t have her size, so we didn’t bother. After a while, a guy introduced himself as the driver and we ended up loading into the van with several other people and headed back to Breckenridge (around 12:20). On the way back into town, we discussed what we wanted to do for the rest of the day. We tried to describe the tubing that they have at Keystone to Mariya, but I don’t think we were very successful. We drove down Main Street to Ski Hill road and the driver let us off near the Ski Hill/Park avenue intersection and we walked back home to the condo.

It was time for lunch and I decided to have some Oatmeal. I wanted to try to use as much milk as possible. I looked up tubing on the keystone website and discovered all of the prices, and then discovered that they were closed on Tuesdays. After the holiday rush, they start a Wed-Sun schedule. So, that wasn’t an option. We kinda took it easy for a while. Mariya fixed some hot chocolate. Brian decided to do some laundry and Mariya and myself wanted to go into town and look around a little during the daylight and maybe take some pictures.

We headed out. Mariya wanted me to take the SLR, so I went back and grabbed it. I had made it halfway to Main Street when the battery died on it. Quite disappointing. But, we didn’t want to take the time to go back to the condo to get a new battery. So, we used our smaller cameras after that. When we got to Main Street, we decided to head north instead of south, which we usually do of an evening, because that’s where most of the restaurants are at. We took pictures here and there, and Mariya spied a sign for a thrift store. She wanted to go to it, so we walked to the back of a building, down some stairs, and around the corner, and we found ourselves in a small room (probably 20’x20′) with quite a bit of clothing and some other random things. Half an hour later or so, we emerged with a pair of Obermeyer ski pants for Mariya (listed at $14, bargained down to $10) a couple of pair of ski socks for a buck, and a goggle bag, which was thrown in for free.

From there we walked farther north to French street and decided to head back. We were about out of light and I was starting to get a bit cold. We did get a couple of nice views of the gondola and smelled some nice warm doughnuts at one of the shops. We had gone into a pottery painting place also. I was hoping for lots of little Breckenridge souvenirs that we could paint (kinda like we had seen in Acapulco) but it wasn’t like that at all. It was normal pottery that you could just paint. We weren’t really impressed.

We got back to the condo and prepared for supper. We decided to go to Mi Casa for some mexican food. We walked along Park Avenue and along the pond where the Dredge restaurant is at. It is quite pretty there. We made it into Mi Casa and discovered that there was a wait. The guy right in front of me was told 1.5 hours, but I went ahead and asked anyway. He apparently had a large group, because they told me 15-20 minutes. I got a pager and then we went to the nearby ski store to look around. Mariya tried on a couple of jackets and we went to the ski shop and I noticed that they had buffer wax for $5 (I had paid $8) and they had hand waxing for $15. They had other specials that also seemed like a better deal than what we had gotten at Lone Star. Next time I go, I will definitely consider going there instead of Lone Star. I think it was Blue River Sports. While I was talking to the guy about waxing skis, my pager went off and we traveled back down the hallway to Mi Casa. We got a nice booth off to one side (no view of the Dredge) that was nice and isolated. It felt very cozy. They brought out the chips and salsa. There were three types of salsa. One standard salsa (ranchero sauce, I think it was), a green one, and one that was supposedly spicy. I loved the ranchero sauce. I ate way too much chips and salsa. By the time my food arrived I wasn’t very hungry. I got the Manuel burrito ($12) and it was quite good. It was large, and I only ate about half of it. Mariya got the chicken tamales ($13) and Brian got the steak fajitas ($17). I had water. Mariya said that the tamales were decent, and she only had room for one of them. We took the rest of the stuff home in a bag with us. After Mi Casa we headed to Main Street so that we could go to the crepe place. This time, Mariya and myself shared a nutella/banana crepe with heavy and whipped creme. The workers gave my crepe to the people in front of me, but everything got worked out in the end. It was a very good crepe. It wasn’t overly sweet, and the bananas and nutella work together very well. Brian got a crepe that had angel food cake in it.. Not sure of the name.

From there we looked around at a few stores, made a pitstop at the welcome center to look up the location of Main Street Outlet (where we also had a coupon for “spend $5 and get a free hat”) but decided to not walk back to it. Then we made it back to the condo so that we could prepare for the next day of skiing.

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