23. November 2018 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 51: Breckenridge Ski Area, The Walt Disney World of Skiing · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Breckenridge selfie, with her impatient family. I didn’t get any better mountain photos than this.

Yep – first non-Instagram post in a very long time. I’m sad to announce that I had to remove about 80% of my Instagram posts today due to a server upgrade that destroyed the links to the IG posts. That’s okay. You can see the original Instagram posts here. Everything since about August is still in place.

We Vollmers have been living in Colorado Springs for FIVE years and had never skied at Breckenridge…until yesterday.

“Whaaaaat? Really? Why not?”

Yes, we’ve spent time in Breckenridge before. Heck, we came this close to buying a timeshare in a condo up there, mainly as an investment. Jacob had been bitter for almost 3 years about not getting to ski the mountain in January 2016.

A large part of the never-skiing-there issue was cost. I’ve pontificated that Breckenridge is the Walt Disney World of skiing: most of the guests have flown in from around the world, staying in lodging nearby, and shopping and dining on the economy. Pricing for just about everything there is tailored to someone who is there for a week or more, skiing for several days at a time.

Even for our military family, a day of skiing at Breckenridge is $99 per person (same with Vail and Beavercreek), and there were no military season pass promotions available. Meanwhile, we could ski at just about every other Colorado resort with very agreeable season pass prices, complete with reciprocity with other resorts all over the Rockies.

Between the kids being younger, not wanting to fight the “I-70 Resorts” traffic, and being hesitant to mix our skiing with the vacationers, we had opted for the Monarch Mountain season passes each season since the 2014-2015 season. Monarch has been awesome to us

Until 2018. The Epic family of resorts announced a $99 per personĀ season pass deal for active and retired military members…and their families! What an amazing deal! You’d better believe we’re on board with that! We didn’t waste any time ordering the passes, uploading the photos, and receiving passes in the mail ready to go. Not only do these passes include Breckenridge, but they include the entire family of Epic mountain resorts: Vail, Beavercreek, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Killington, and (as of this month) Crested Butte — the latter being one of our family’s favorite mountains!

First Outing of the Season

Luckily for us, the snow at the resorts this year started nice and early, so we were able to take a day trip on Thanksgiving day. Save the Turkey for Black Friday. I’m a little sad to miss the parades on TV, but heck, I’d rather be outside. We really truly didn’t know whether the ski resorts would be completely empty…or absolute madhouses.

Taking a day trip to these resorts involves a very early start. So the boys were awakened almost an hour earlier than they usually awaken for school, and we piled into the car at 6:30am for the 2-hour drive west. The boys were pretty tired from having slept late each day for the previous 5 days of their Thanksgiving break. They were in and out of sleep the whole time.

We arrived at about 8:40am and found some prime parking. Wow! This is great!

Then we found the kiosk where you pay for the up-close parking. $12 to park right next to the gondola that takes you up to the base area…

We didn’t know what to expect up at the base area, so we decided to take our backpacks with boots and helmets and find storage or locker space at the base lodge area.

Arriving as early as we did, we were pleased with how short the gondola line was: we hopped right on. Unlike other resorts with gondola service (“gondolas” are the completely-enclosed lifts) which have racks for your skis on the exterior, these particular cabins accommodate your skis on the interior.

An “inside the gondola” selfie. Jacob’s sporting his never-been-used skis, ready to go!

We make it to the top of the gondola route, which is the “Peak 8” base area.

We started our day at Breckenridge at the Peak 8 base area, which is near the center of this image. You can see that there are Peaks 6-10 shown on this map…there’s no way you can ski everything in a day. Or 5 days.

We didn’t know what to expect, and we were grateful for the non-crowded conditions so we could explore a bit. We didn’t see a picnic room to stash our gear (which we took advantage of at Monarch and Cooper mountains). So we checked out the rental lockers. We can stuff our gear into a large locker for $19. However, the locker payment system was broken so instead we opted for a basket rental.

Whoa — I hadn’t seen the basket system in many years. Because of the better security with a basket, they cost well over $20 for the day. The kind woman charged us $19 for a large basket and piled all of our shoes and ski backpacks into it.

Mountain Conditions

The mountain is magnificent! There was a 30″ base to work with, but due to the early conditions, many of the trails were still closed. About 1/2 of the lifts were open, with about 1/3 of the trails available — most of which were at Peaks 8 and 9. I can see why Breckenridge is a top choice for vacationing tourists. The lower parts have plenty of beginner’s terrain, the ski school is top-notch, and their lift line management is very well-done. The employees I interacted with were all incredibly polite and knowledgeable.

Since Jacob had brand-new skis, and Timmy’s season rental had to accommodate his having grown about 5″ this past year, we started out slowly. We met up with some friends for a few runs and had lunch with them (I’ll address lunch in a moment). We enjoyed most of the intermediate trails, and the occasional black diamonds.

After lunch we wandered over to Peak 9 and explored that part of the mountain. Since this was our first ski day of the season, all four of us were pretty wiped out by 3pm. We were on the road home by 3:30pm, and could eat dinner at home (since it was Thanksgiving, we weren’t sure we could just stop at any restaurant for dinner).

Meals and Gear

I didn’t pack a lunch for the family for our day trip. Usually I do, but not knowing what kind of locker/storage space was available, we opted to just eat at the lodge cafeteria instead.

The good news? The food choices are very good and seemed to be very high quality.

The bad news? You’re going to pay Walt Disney World prices for your lunches. $16 for a burger and chips, $8-9 for a beer. I got a “chicken shwarma” lunch that was very very good: $16. You could get snacks too — but those were going to be way marked up. Our family spent nearly $80 on lunch.

Monarch Mountain, and many other places, have storage areas where you can stash your lunch coolers from home. Monarch calls theirs a “picnic room”. You could also store your shoes and gear on racks in the picnic space. Heck, Monarch will even let you plug in a slow cooker so you can have hot homemade chili for lunch! It’s an open location, meaning, sure, you risk theft of your lunch cooker or slow cooker, but that never, ever happened to our family. For one thing, we never brought anything remarkable: ham, cheese, bread, mayo. Tossed into a cooler. Simple, cheap, and quick. The boys usually want to get back onto the slopes pretty quickly so it’s nice to not have to wait in lines.

So far we haven’t found a setup like this at Breckenridge. I tried to Google around to see if some discussion forums mention a picnic area, but so far, no.

Just the same, Dave and I told the boys that on our next day trip (probably in the next couple weekends), we plan to bring our own lunches.


Breckenridge is a gorgeous mountain, the skiing is awesome! Thanksgiving Day wasn’t crowded at all — we didn’t wait more than 5 minutes for a lift line.

But things there are designed for vacationer…less for the locals. Bring your credit cards.

Our Epic pass is good for Vail, Beavercreek, Crested Butte, and Keystone also. I hope we have the time to explore those mountains later this season…and keep a sensible budget while doing so.



13. April 2018 · Comments Off on Spring Break 2018: Hawaii Day 5 Report · Categories: Uncategorized

You don’t see much of me in these photos, but here’s one!

Note: I wasn’t sure if I’d have anything to write. We had a 7pm redeye flight home (in other words, we flew overnight from Honolulu to Denver; with the time change we arrived at sunrise). We ended up having quite an adventure up the eastern coast of Oahu, discovering the Polynesian Cultural Center:

We hit the pool one last time before we had to check out of the hotel room by 11am. We enjoyed lunch at L&L Hawaiian, then on a whim we decided to drive up to Laie, the town in the northeast with the Polynesian Cultural Center. The drive there from Honolulu is very pretty, with several stretches that literally hug the ocean. More »

13. April 2018 · Comments Off on Spring Break 2018: Hawaii Day 4 Report · Categories: Uncategorized

Driving towards Haleiwa, Hawaii, on the North Shore.

On Thursday we picked up a rental car at about 7:30am and headed straight over to the USS Arizona memorial to see about getting tickets for the same day. We got ourselves tickets for the last boat ride at 3pm, and took a drive around the island in the intervening time.

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13. April 2018 · Comments Off on Spring Break 2018: Hawaii Day 3 Report · Categories: Uncategorized

A panoramic shot of Kaneohe Bay, on the east coast of Oahu. Can you see the P-3?

Today’s adventure was a trip over to Kaneohe Bay on the east side of the island, a location well-known for snorkeling. We were not disappointed. More »

13. April 2018 · Comments Off on Spring Break 2018: Hawaii Day 2 Report · Categories: Uncategorized

For a Colorado family, hiking up Diamond Head was cake! I just wish it wasn’t so crowded.

Today was an active day. We awakened nice and early to take an Uber over to the Diamond Head State Park trailhead, arriving at around 8am. We easily took the trail up and back and enjoyed the views immensely, but didn’t enjoy the crowds or the incredible humidity: we were pretty soaked in sweat by the time we got back to the base area about an hour later.

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13. April 2018 · Comments Off on Spring Break 2018: Hawaii Day 0 and Day 1 Report · Categories: Uncategorized

I am logging our Hawaii vacation based on the Facebook posts I wrote. I am also adding a few of the photos I shared to Facebook.

Day 0:

Pearl Harbor and Honolulu Airport/Hickam AFB as seen from our Boeing 777 in the final pattern.

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20. May 2017 · Comments Off on Where Have You Been, Woman???? · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Yeah, I know. I’ve been scarce. I am liking the Instagram connections with the blog, but I get that it isn’t saying much.

My last “normal” post was on January 5th, about my Instant Pot that I got for Christmas. But let’s now play a little catch up. This post will be full of photos and YouTube videos, so bear with us. More »

03. January 2017 · Comments Off on A Condo Vacation’s Best Friend: The Instant Pot! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,
Merry Christmas to me!

Merry Christmas to me!

I got an Instant Pot for Christmas from Dave and my boys!** Whoo!

**No, I don’t mind getting kitchen appliances as gifts. I find a lot of joy in the kitchen and the geeky side of me loves checking out the latest in “kitchen tech.”

Believe it or not, through all my cooking adventures, I never delved too much into pressure cooking. I remember my parents’ pressure cooker, it was the kind with the little weight that sat on top: when the pressure was just right, the little weight would rock back and forth singing an undulating whistle of steam. I don’t remember the specific recipes they’d cook, I think it was vegetable soup and maybe chili.

It was years before I’d really delve into how a pressure cooker works and why it could be one of the most useful things in a busy family’s kitchen. More »

02. January 2017 · Comments Off on Happy New Year! A Family Holiday Update · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Our family had a fun, although rather subdued, holiday season. Dave had a pretty major surgery Thanksgiving week — a procedure called a “microvascular decompression” — and he’s been home recovering with the family for the month of December. Because of that, we kept our social calendar pretty empty: we didn’t have our traditional holiday open house for the first time since 2008 (when I was TDY for much of December), and we didn’t go to any of the holiday parties to which we were invited…except for the Boy Scout party for the kids. That one was definitely our speed.

Dave’s parents visited for a week right after Dave came home from the hospital. By this point Dave wasn’t able to do much, so his parents enjoyed a relaxing week.

For this new year, I’ve taken the advice of a fellow GeekMom writer and tried to come up with a single word to direct my efforts. My word for 2017 will be “Return”. “Return” to work (hopefully), “Return” to writing (for this blog and for GeekMom), and “Return” to my exercise habits that I’ve allowed to falter in 2016. More »

17. November 2016 · Comments Off on Half-Bath Mostly DIY Transformation: Finished! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Before… (and pardon the blurriness of the photos…it was tricky getting photos in the small space.)


After. To get these views, I’m taking selfies with the camera in the corner of the bathroom.

We are finished with our half-bath upgrades (and hopefully home improvements in general for a while)! Over the 3-and-some-change years we’ve lived here, we’ve done an assortment of little things to make our main floor half-bath look a little nicer.
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