Tag Archives: downhill skiing art

Plein Air Painting at Ski Resorts, Part II: Arapahoe Basin in Colorado

This is the second installment of a blog post series about plein air painting during our ski trip with the Mountain Collective pass.  The next resort I painted at after Taos Ski Valley was Arapahoe Basin.

The drive from Taos to Silverthorne, Colorado was about 4.5 hours. Not long after driving north, we hit the Colorado border.  We stopped for a selfie with the “Welcome to Colorado” sign, and Maria made some coffee by plugging in the Balbali water bottle to the outlet in the back of the 4Runner.  We love National Parks, so we decided to stop at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, which was only about a 30-minute detour. We asked the park ranger what we should do during our relatively short visit, and he suggested hiking on the sand dune.  So, naturally we hiked to the top of the tallest sand dune in North America, which was pretty fun, although our shoes got filled with sand multiple times.  Our only regret is not renting sand surf boards. Overall, a great NP adventure!

Descent from the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Our destination was farther than we expected, and we ended up driving over a classic Colorado mountain pass in the dark, but we arrived safely in Silverthorne, and checked into the Luxury Inn and Suites.

In the morning we drove higher into the mountains, got our lift tickets, and hit the lifts. Driving to Arapahoe Basin, and parking was super simple. The parking lot is right at the base of the mountain, no need to take a shuttle. Lift lines were very manageable. A-Basin is a non-profit ski area, which reminded us of our beloved Arctic Valley Ski Area in Anchorage.  Unfortunately, conditions were not very good — windy and icy. We went all the way to the top, which is close to 13,000 ft, and definitely started to feel the lack of oxygen at that altitude. The sun was out and the views were tremendous!  We skied all over the mountain before stopping for lunch at Black Mountain Lodge. We shared a killer burger with waffle fries!

Then I decided to paint on the deck of the lodge right after lunch, while Maria made another run. I wrapped up the painting, and Maria showed me some fun runs she found, and we skied until closing, mostly around the double chair.  Michael Kirkpatrick, our favorite folk singer, was also skiing in the area, and drove from Winter Park to meet us for après ski at the bar, which had a band playing! We had a couple drinks, and went out to our rigs to check out each other’s skiing equipment.  Michael wants to buy some new gear, but his classic stuff seems to be in proper condition, and he said he had some good turns on the mountain after major knee surgery. I showed off my AT gear, which I should probably have left in Alaska, but I love my Black Diamond skis so much, I couldn’t go back to my old stuff.  Maria drove back to Silverthorne in a snowstorm, and we got back with no delays. The storm was intense, but luckily, we didn’t have to drive anywhere for dinner, because Baker’s Brewery was right next to our hotel. Poor Michael had to drive back to Fort Collins, and got caught in traffic on I-70, and didn’t get home until almost midnight! It snowed about two inches, but the winds were high, so the next morning we decided to head straight to Basalt, nearby Aspen/Snowmass.  I will talk about that next week!

Here is the little painting I painted on the mountain. You can purchase it at my Etsy shop for the price of a lift ticket at Arapahoe Basin.

Arapahoe Basin, painted en plein air (outside, on location). 7″x5″, oil on panel.
Selfie with Michael Kirkpatrick
Michael took this picture of me with my travel palette in the parking lot.

Plein Air Painting on Ski Resort Mountains in the USA

When I was 11 years old, I went on my first ski trip outside of Alaska.  My aunt and uncle loved going to Sun Valley in Ketchum, Idaho.  They went there for a veterinarian conference to pursue further education, and had sessions in the mornings, so they signed me up for ski school.  I had already been skiing in Alaska plenty of times, but the Sun Valley Ski School really developed my skills to a new level.  My aunt passed almost two years ago and I wanted to keep the ski trip tradition alive, so when a group of friends from high school were planning a trip to Jackson Hole, I immediately bought the Mountain Collective pass.  The pass provides lift tickets for 2 days at 23 mountains worldwide, and half price tickets for additional days at those mountains. Since Jackson Hole lift tickets are $200+ per day, I figured the pass would pay for itself if I went to one other ski area.  You have to buy this pass before the ski season starts, and there’s a limited number of passes available. I intended to ski at Jackson Hole and also at Taos Ski Valley, as I have always wanted to check out Taos.  A McCarthy neighbor spends winters in Taos, so I figured I could crash on his couch and ski a few free days either before, or after the guys’ trip.  Maria also wanted to go on the trip, but my friends were being weirdly sexist and said, no women allowed.  I called them out on it, but they were being pretty close-minded.  I don’t get it, but I also don’t have kids, and I think Maria is a pretty cool lady on top of that.  So, I figured I would just ski with her instead.  My schedule actually made it hard to meet them when they planned to go, so I decided to do my own thing  and started planning a ski trip with Maria.  It’s funny, but the guys never made it to Jackson Hole.  They all bailed. 

Our new ski trip plan was amazing!  Maria and I flew into Albuquerque, rented a car, drove to Taos, skied two days with friends who met us there, then drove to Colorado. Skied a day at Arapahoe Basin, then drove to Basalt, and skied one day at Snowmass and then another day at Aspen.  Drove for about eight hours to Jackson, WY and skied two days at Jackson Hole with another friend. Finally drive to Bozeman, Montana and skied two days at Big Sky Resort, before dropping off our rental car and flying back to Anchorage, Alaska. 

I brought my plein air painting kit with me on the plane.  I always label the paint as “Clown Cosmetics” just to mess with TSA. The first ski day in Taos we met up with our friends: Ian, Lucas, and Denise.  We skied tough and went all over the mountain, including up to Kachina Peak at 12,500 ft altitude.  We had beers and bratwurst at the Bavarian Restaurant on-mountain dining lodge. It was a great day with friends on the mountain!  We had a nice dinner at ACEQ, right next door to the SnowMansion Taos Adventure Lodge where we were staying in Arroyo Secco — a small community about 15 minutes from the ski village.  

A beer break at the Bavarian Restaurant
Prayer flags and a memorial at the summit of Kachina Peak (12,481ft)

The next morning I mixed up some paint and transferred it to my small on-mountain palette. The yellow tube had a hole in it from rough baggage handling and I was battling to keep our room paint-free.  I carried a small backpack on the mountain and skied hard until about 1:30pm.  I broke off from the group and went to a place I found that was great for painting. About 45 minutes of frenzied, outdoor, cold-fingered painting later, I packed it up and met Maria and Denise back at the Bavarian. On route to meeting them, I toured the whole mountain, since I made a wrong turn after painting.  We all went back to Lucas’s amazing cabin about a mile from the village for Aprés Ski. He had some excellent Bosque Brewing IPA and an interesting home-brewed stout. I enjoyed them both, then we went up to the ski village for pizza and beers. The village is really new and pretty cool, but the pizza was a grease bomb, so we told Lucas he could have all the  leftovers. 

Here is the little painting I made right on the mountain at Taos Ski Valley, of Kachina Peak. The size is 7″x5″, oil on birch panel. You can purchase it at my Etsy shop. I’m selling it for the price of a lift ticket at the ski area, which is $90.

Plein Air painting of Kachina Peak at Taos Ski Valley, painted on the mountain. 7″x5″, oil on panel.

Stay tuned next week for the following segment in the exciting adventures of plein air painting on ski resort mountains in the USA, when I talk about painting at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado!