a valley called vail

-grassroots reading-

about this winding Colorado valley that has long been my home
about slicing through pow on the slopes of Vail and Beaver Creek, pedaling through its backcountry, and embarking on other adventures
about appreciation of the diverse and remarkable people in our tribe

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This Halloween, as I see decorative skeletons, bats, black cats with arched backs, and headstones, I can’t help but reflect on what a truly harrowing year 2017 has been for my friends. Three longtime pals that I’ve skied, biked, or played ultimate Frisbee with, people who are top-tier in fitness with smart diets and healthy lifestyles, have had potentially lethal health scares. Bill MacFarlane, Stephen White, and Bob Kippola all survived a pulmonary embolism (PE), two of them caused by deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Julie Bergsten, whom I did not know but was well-loved in our valley, was tragically not so lucky.

A DVT is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep within your body. It occurs mostly in large veins in the calf or lower thigh, however, DVT can occur in other areas as well. These blood clots can break loose, flow through the bloodstream into the heart, and eventually block the filtering lungs, causing a PE. According to the Mayo Clinic, “up to 900,000 people in the United States are affected by DVT and/or PE each year, and about 100,000 die.” Here, Bill, Stephen and Bob share their truly scary PE tales.


On January 7, I went […]


I worried Mike Kloser had moved to Aspen. He’d had a lot of posts in social media from over there, and when I’d phoned him a couple years back, he’d been there. I’d pedal by his house on my way to the North Trail, and I’d never see action outside. At the beginning of September, I’d received a forwarded email from him, via the Vail Recreation District, inviting folks to partake in Lance Armstrong’s Aspen Fifty. I have to admit, I felt a little put out: I mean, time in Aspen is well and good, but Kloser is our icon, not theirs.

And I mean ICON because look at his history in mountain bike, triathlon and adventure racing:

4 time Adventure Racing World Champion
World Mountain Bike Champion
World Long Distance Orienteering Champion
3 time Eco Challenge Champion
5 time Primal Quest Champion
2 time Iditabike Champion
10 time Steamboat Pentathlon Champion
3 time Teva Games Champion
2 time America’s Uphill Champion
2 Time Winter Triathlon National Champion
5 Time Elk Mountains Grand Traverse Champion
7 time Breckenridge Imperial Challenge Champion
3 Time Aspen Highlands Inferno Champion
And a bunch of other impressive stuff.

All that elite accomplishment, yet the blustery day I stopped by his house for this conversation, he was wrestling a rototiller through a flower […]


Year after year, despite my begging summer to stay, fall rolls right in. Aspens torch bittersweet against sapphire skies. The brush becomes a mottled hide of reds and oranges. The purple of an incongruous aster beckons to your eye. A cool tinge rides the air, and there’s that distinct old-bones rattle of the leaves when breezes braid through them. One moment you inhale the scent of decaying leaves, the next, baked dirt. Elk bugle—an oxymoron of a term, “bugle”—because their sounds are high thin threads, like whale sounds through air. Along the trails, bears gorge on berries, leaving destroyed bushes and piles of yellow-seed droppings.

A few weeks ago, I volunteered at the Vail Recreation District’s final kids’ mountain bike race of the 2017 season. It was held on the Minturn Mini-Mile, a new trail that I’d helped build one evening, and I was excited to see those little suckers use it. As I rode out to my assigned spot as marshall (a stone bridge perhaps three feet wide with a five-foot drop on either side), I came upon a fresh pile of bear scat literally as wide as the trail and as high as my shin. For the youngest competitors, […]


By popular demand, here are scenes that inspired the settings for LIFE AT THE SPEED OF US. Most of them are from Vail Mountain, and I love when people tell me that they picture moments from the novel as they are skiing or boarding around. Knowing this, I’m so happy the novel was a 2017 Colorado Book Award Finalist! Enjoy! Scenes from LIFE AT THE SPEED OF US


I wrote this when my daughter stood tall as my waist. Now, she’s taller than me, yet it still rings true.

Each Friday noon, I stand among the clumps of parents, chatting, waiting for the hired busses to squeak to a halt and for our little angels to pour out. When they arrive, they stumble off, bundled in ski clothes, rocking in the clip-clop steps of ski boots, wearing neck gaiters, helmets, goggles, and carrying their skis horizontally as if they’re balancing trays. The little ones don’t have poles. A few have snowboards. Every child wears a bib which says, “Vail Mountain School,” and they scan the tall crowd with heads craned back, searching for Mom or Dad, or the classmate’s parent they will join. They are colorful, stiff dolls, insulated tightly, and it’s hard to believe they’re ready for action.

Syd’s easy to spot because she has a cover on her helmet which is white with a bouncy rainbow mane and unicorn horn. I gather her and Kellyn, whose parents couldn’t come. Syd says, “Can you carry my skis?” and I say, “No, I have to carry my own,” in the same tone I use each Friday, and she says, “Awww,” and […]