Monday, February 21, 2011

Aspen Winter X-games and a wedding

Almost every year for the past 6 I have lived in Colorado, my brother has invited me to the winter X-games in Aspen, Colorado. For those unfamiliar with the X-games it's basically the winter Olympics of extreme skiers and snowboarders. The first Winter X Games took place at Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, California, in 1997 and the following two years, the Games were held at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort here in Colorado. The two years following that, the Games were held in Snow Mountain, Vermont and since 2002 the Winter X Games have been held at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen. It seems I always had something I had to do which prohibited me from making the drive up to Aspen with my brother, but this year I couldn't say no (finally!) because he was getting married.

The wedding was supposed to take place in June but my brother and Raychel decided that they might as well save some money and get married at the same time they were going to be in town for the X-games. They flew in to Denver on Thursday and her brother and mom, who drove up from New Mexico picked them up and drove them to Aspen. My dad, who was the only family member besides us who could attend the wedding, flew in Thursday also but we waited until Friday to drive to Aspen. My dad had never experienced the mountains of Colorado so I was excited for him to be there with us. It was a beautiful drive Friday with amazing weather and my dad couldn't get over Glenwood Springs Canyon or the mountains as we got closer to Snowmass. We arrived right around noon just in time to join the rest of the family for lunch at the Hickory House.

After lunch and getting to know you's (I had never met my brother's fiance Raychel before I had only talked to her on the phone and online and of course hadn't met her mother or brother either) we headed over to the Aspen Chapel for the rehearsal. Keep in mind there were only seven of us to be here for the wedding, with Chad and I serving as Matron of Honor and Best Man respectively, but none-the-less we had to meet with the minister and go over details of the big day. The irony about John and Raychel getting married at the Aspen Chapel is that this was the original location I had picked out for my wedding. The reason we didn't get married in Aspen was because it wasn't financially feasible for us and what I wanted, but I was happy to think at least someone in my family was having the pleasure of being married here.

(the beautiful Aspen Chapel)

Since John hadn't originally planned to get married when they were in Aspen, he had only booked one small place to stay....that is until I called and told him there was no way 7 of us would fit in a hotel room. So he made a few arrangements and ended up booking a condo for the rest of the family while Chad and I could take over the room at the Independence Square hotel. This worked out great for us as we were in the heart of downtown Aspen and right near the bus stop so we could shuttle back and forth to the games. Unfortunately, our window faced the main street and it was extremely loud Friday night until about 4am making it impossible to get any sleep in the otherwise comfy beds. The hotel did provide free breakfast however, and had a nice sundeck with a hot tub which would have been perfect to soak in after a long day of skiing.

Friday night was the only night we were able to go to the X-games. The wedding was at 3pm Saturday and between that, and the dinner afterward there just wasn't time for a second night. The best part about the games is that they are free as is the bus service that takes you from Aspen to the base of Buttermilk Mountain. The worst part is, it's crowded. Leaving the X-games were were funneled like cattle into lines that were reminiscent of being at an amusement park and loaded onto the buses with dozens of loud, obnoxious drunk 16 year olds. We were able to catch the snowmobilers and watch their crazy speed race and stunts and saw a little of the downhill ski jumping. There are lots of tents to check out products, etc. and you can get great views of the super half pipe standing right along side it. Of course the whole event is outside and at night so it's cold but we all had an awesome time watching the events and I would say it would definitely be worth visiting again next year.

(vendor booths)

(downhill jump)

(snowmobiler doing his thing)

(my brother, Raychel, me and Chad trying not to freeze to death)

Just an FYI there's no alcohol allowed inside nor is it sold in here, you can't drive to the event but you can take a shuttle from the park and ride near Buttermilk and they really don't sell food out here at all except overpriced hot dogs and pizza at the Inn at Aspen Hotel and there's no inside eating area.

Before the wedding the next morning Chad and I spent the day walking around town and enjoying chai tea and pastries at the awesome Peach's Corner Cafe. None of the stores were open yet, but Chad said when all the men got together later they explored the downtown a little more and he really enjoyed the art at the Peter Lik Gallery which if you've never seen his photography it's truly amazing. While the men walked around downtown, Raychel, her mom and I had our hair and makeup done and then headed over to the Aspen Chapel for the wedding. We were right on time and my brother was late of course, but the small intimate ceremony was beautiful and the light coming in from the stained glass was just perfect that time of day.

(Raychel's mom, brother, Raychel, John, my dad, Chad and I)

(The Allens and Magees)

(My new sister in-law and I)

I couldn't have planned a better wedding myself and for how quickly Raychel put this together (less than a month!) Everything was beautiful from the flowers to my bridesmaid dress which she picked out for me (THANK GOD she picked out black so I can wear it again YEAH!) There was snow on the ground outside so we were able to get a few pictures out there with the couple and then it was off to relax for a couple of hours before heading to dinner.

Raychel had no idea where the reception was being held so it was a complete surprise for her when she walked into N9ne steakhouse . My brother is a very meat and potatoes kind of guy so this restaurant suited him perfectly. The atmosphere is casual but the prices are not and the food is amazing. I treated myself to a filet Mignon and we had a round of side dishes that included lobster mac and cheese, spicy broccoli and brussel sprouts with bacon that made you forget you were even eating brussel sprouts. Their pickley cactus margaritas were amazing and I really enjoyed the service from the staff. I do find it a bit odd to be eating such nice food in such a mod casual environment but then again it's Aspen and I'm sure most of the people dining there have money and enjoy spending it in an unpretentious atmosphere (maybe it makes them feel common I don't know). The restaurant itself is a little hard to find, with the door to it hidden down a side street. Even if I could never afford the steak here again, I would definitely come for a drink and some appetizers.

Our overall experience in Aspen for the weekend was amazing. I was glad I could be there and support my brother and his new wife and was happy to be included in their special day. I know how much my brother loves Aspen and the X-games so I only saw it fitting that they be married here at the exact same time. I know that for years to come it will be a treat for us all to return and celebrate their anniversary here. Congratulations again to them both and may they have many happy years together!