A regular President’s Day weekend in years past would find John & I happily ensconced at our West Dover, Vermont condo surrounded by numerous Italian and Chinese American family members. This large extended clan does not like to go hungry and, within five minutes of their arrival, they would have our refrigerator and countertops bursting with more food and grocery items than we would typically consume in a month.
Having grown up south of London with prototypically English parents who instilled in me important behavioral traits such as relishing severe hunger pangs before a meal (how else will you enjoy it fully? No snacking allowed!), using your ‘inside voice’ even when outside, and avoiding public displays of emotion, these family get togethers would require a certain degree of mental preparation on my behalf. However, I found myself looking forward to these long weekends while foregoing my usual daily dose of personal space and quiet time. I mean, when else would I find myself chowing down 24/7 (btw Joe Grieco’s full-menu breakfasts featuring eggs, pancakes, waffles, sausage and more, and dinners of chicken parmesan, meatballs, lasagna, garlic bread, salad, pasta et al are bar none) and yelling loudly across the room in order to be heard over the background din.
This is the first year in the past fourteen that we are not up in Mount Snow surrounded by multiple Griecos. And that is because John and I bid a final farewell to the townhouse back in early January. Although the rapid pace of the sale was a relief as we had braced ourselves for a long drawn out process, the ending of this chapter in our lives was bittersweet.
When I first met John in the spring of 2003, he had been a Timber Creek condo owner for over five years. He had recently downsized from a larger unit in the same development to Unit #34 which was a coveted end-duplex and still very spacious with four bedrooms and two full baths. Being positioned on the far end of a row of condos made the place special and unique, as both the broad and back sides looked right over the wooded cross-country ski trail system which encircles the entire development. Once inside, you forgot there were any neighbors around at all and were completely immersed in nature with a striking view of the mountain rising directly opposite.
Our first ever getaway together was to this condo a couple of months after we met. It was Memorial Day weekend and we hiked through the woods with the dog, grilled steak tips on the raised deck out back, slept in, and got a taste of what it might be like to cohabitate. We went back up a bunch of times that summer to hike and waterski and I wakeboarded for the first time on Lake Whitingham that July (see pic of very first wakeboarding attempt below — I was so happy just to have made it to the upright position!).
For the first several years after getting married, we spent the bulk of our winter weekends, and plenty of off-season ones too, up at the condo. I refined my snowboarding skills on the face of Mt. Snow and successfully navigated all of its trails at one point or another from lilting down green runs like Long John and Deer Run to descending the double black diamond, mogul-infested ice minefield of Ripcord without incurring significant bodily harm.
John and I often had family and friends up to stay as the sizeable layout meant everyone had their own space (except for the aforementioned annual President’s Day weekend tradition which featured several floor and couch sleepers). The downstairs condo level harbored both a hot tub and sauna which got plenty of good use after our aching bodies limped off the slopes. We regularly partook of the lively West Dover apres-ski scene. Our favorite act by far was the legendary Bruce Jacques who’s still going strong at Cuzzins (named the Number One Apres-Ski Bar 2016-2017 by USA Today: http://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-apres-ski-bar-2016-2017/ ) after a 26 year stint. Bruce never disappoints with his sing-alongs of Sweet Caroline and hilarious spoofs of Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Vanilla Ice, Guns N Roses and more. On one super fun New Year’s Eve, we ventured further afield and caught a middle-aged, slightly chunky, less edgy Tone Loc in concert at the Snow Barn (you can bet that we all got down to ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Funky Cold Medina’).
When John and I weren’t busy hosting family & friends or carving down the mountain, we would strap on our snowshoes and pad softly through the winter wonderland surrounding the condo. The Timber Creek trail system is a looping network of trails that intersect along the way and tunnel through fragrant pine stands and varying terrain. The trails are groomed for cross-country skiing with room to the sides for snowshoeing. There are red squirrels and other native wildlife to spot and I even had an encounter with a young black bear who trotted out of these very woods right in front of me while I was driving to town. A couple of years ago, John and I took our snowshoes off-piste and summited Mount Snow.
Around 2008, John and I both took up training and racing for triathlons. Slowly, our interest in the multi-sport lifestyle grew and our main focus shifted away from the snowy slopes and towards the indoor gym. We found ourselves choosing to skip the mountain in order to save our energy for our long trainer ride or treadmill run. We bypassed the typical early-bird purchase of our mountain season passes for the first time in 2009. This was a harbinger of things to come.
Once our triathlon lifestyle reached the full-blown Ironman training and racing stage in 2011, we weren’t heading up to the condo as often. The few times a year that we did make it up, we would spend our weekends sprawled out on the teal chenille sectional couch watching marathon reruns of ‘Mystery Diagnosis, ‘Life in the ER’ and ‘Breaking Bad’. We would get up only to walk the dog, forage for food and head to the gym. Then it would be right back to the couch. We would always go up for the full week between Christmas and New Year’s and would spend days on end in this hermit-like state, bathing sporadically while John’s facial hair sprouted to epic lengths. At the end of these forays, we would feel wonderfully rejuvenated and ready to head back to the real world.
During the summer weekends we were there, we definitely made the most of being in a different training venue and enjoyed many spectacular bike rides and long runs. Last Memorial Day weekend, John and I invited some athletes up to stay and the group of us headed out on our bikes and made it to Bennington and back to inaugurate the start of the Ironman outdoor training season. I got my first flat tire the summer before that on the side of Route 100 North, and will never forget how hard it is have to stop, change out a tube, and get momentum back on a 7% gradient under the beating noonday sun (hint: my husband had to intervene in a major way).
This past year, John and I realized that we were finally ready to sell Timber Creek. We had been using it less than in past years; we had both become slightly jaded by the mountain (there’s only so many times you can ski down the same trail); and the West Dover area was feeling a little old to us. It was a hard decision to make but we knew it was the right time. We have so many wonderful memories of times spent at Unit #34 over the past fourteen years that we will cherish forever. But now it is time to explore different trails and conquer new mountains. We are already planning a 2018 snowboarding trip out West with some friends and are looking forward to many future powdery adventures to come.