My Traveling Tales by Michelle
Every year, towards the end of February, students in the greater Tucson area receive a two day holiday falling on the Thursday and Friday that coincides with the celebration of the Tucson Rodeo. The rodeo is the first major outdoor rodeo of the year and fans travel from far and wide to Tucson to enjoy the event and to soak up the desert sun that is mild and comforting in the winter. A highlight of the festivities is the Tucson Rodeo Parade, the World's Largest Non-Motorized Parade. I'm sure the rodeo has its merits, but I can never seem to get too excited over it. For many families in Tucson, the rodeo holiday is the perfect time to head out of town for a ski vacation.
|A birdseye view of Durango Mountain Village from my seat on Lift One. |
|The gang riding Lift One.|
Folks that are unfamiliar with the diverse Arizona terrain are surprised to learn there are two ski resorts in the northern territories: Snowbowl outside Flagstaff and Sunrise Park Resort near the New Mexico border. They cannot fathom snow in Arizona, but flip through the pages of Arizona Highways magazine, and prepare to be amazed by the 48th state. My co-workers in Canada expected to hear that to go skiing my family and I will board a plane and fly to a far flung destination such as Park City, Tahoe, Boise or Denver. While it is true that my family and I did not ski in Arizona this year in favor of Durango Mountain in Colorado, I want to give a shout out and some love to the place where I learned to ski: Sunrise Park Resort located in the pine studded White Mountains on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.
With no prior experience and limited information to make an informed decision, a friend of mine turned up her nose to the proposition of skiing at Sunrise - literally, I swear her nose made a Pinocchio and instead of growing out, grew directly up, up, up until the tip of her nose could no longer be seen. Little Miss Can't Be Wrong (LMCBW), adopting a demeanor of superiority, and inflecting the appropriate annoying vocal tone to accompany such superiority, deigned to inform me that she only skis at Colorado resorts, and moreover she only stays in condos that have "ski in/ski out" access to the lifts. Nice, if you can afford it, or in her case, when Dad pays for it once a year.
|Maddie looked picture perfect when her red scarf floated on the wind. |
The funny thing is, back in 2008, we had the opportunity to go on one of these Colorado only ski trips with my friend, her husband and kids, and her parents - Nana and Doc. The rental at Durango Mountain was old and beat up. The 1970s dump with shag carpet rented at a premium due to its advertised "ski in/ski out" access. It was a lie; the truth is that one must first jauntily walk across the icy parking lot and then awkwardly navigate a meandering set of man made stairs carved into the packed snow. Try this while carrying skis and dragging poles all the while helping a child navigate the obstacle course too. The "up-then-down" staircase constantly changed in size and shape and stability over the course of the day. The heat of the mid-morning sun melted the snow and the long cold shadows of the afternoon caused the snow to solidify into an icy mess.
"Ski in/Ski out" was quickly renamed "climb in/climb out." While it wasn't funny at the time as I huffed and puffed over the slippery pavement and then grunted up (and down) the shape-shifting stairs (at least twice a day), the experience has - over the calming effects of time - become humorous and the source of an ongoing joke between my husband, daughter and I, something along the lines of, "Wanna go skiing this year? Hey, I have an idea, let's rent one of those great climb in/climb out condos. Yes! And, let's make sure it has avocado colored appliances and pee yellow counter tops. Hell, yeah! Let's do it!!!"
|My view from the car window heading back to town. |
In 2009 my family skied Sunrise and had a fantastic experience: no crowds and fresh snow. Afterwards, I broached the subject with Princess (a.k.a LMCBW) explaining the benefits of Sunrise but she wasn't in the mood for listening while galloping on her high horse. For her, Colorado ski resorts are "in" and everything else is "out". If you can't tell, then you are reading too fast, that my conversation with She Who Cannot Be Named still resoundingly irks me after all these years. Why? Maybe it was the palpable elitism, the exasperating ignorance, or the utter snobishness - or a combination of all three. While she was in no position to compare, I was, having skied both parks. For those of you, like my Dad, who want facts, and some more facts, here is a comparison of the two resorts (yes, I made the chart; apparently the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree):
So, what are the big takaways? Sure, I'd rather spend time in Durango than Pinetop/Lakeside any day, who wouldn't? I love the pervasiveness of brick buildings in Colorado and the mining town vibe of Durango. While Sunrise doesn't have great accomodations, the skiing is terrific for families. Sunrise is less than a four hour drive from Tucson and Phoenix, and Durango is about ten hours. In recent history, there has been a couple years (and yes, this factoid surprises everyone) where Sunrise has received more snow than Purgatory. As not to confuse you, similar to the artist formerly known as Prince, Durango Mountain is more well known as Purgatory. The ski area was renamed Durango Mountain a few years back, but just about everyone - including me - still calls it Purgatory (much more catchy with the hint of rebel).
When sking at Sunrise, we rent a cabin in Pinetop-Lakeside or Greer and we drive in/drive out of the ski area on a daily basis during our stay. Whatever, no big deal. I can assure you that drive in/drive out is more agreeable than climb in/climb out. When considering easy access for Arizonans, reduced prices on lift tickets and more options for beginner and intermediate skiers, Sunrise is sure to please just about everyone, except for "you know who" (that's right, say it with me, LMCBW).
The saving grace of that trip to Durango in 2008 turned out to be LMCBW's mother who is an excellent cook. Nana prepared for us all three beautiful meals a day. Bless her. Exhausted at the end of a full day of skiing, we climbed/stomped/trudged back to the condo and were kindly greeted by the smells of a delicious dinner simmering on the stove. Our only responsibilities were to change into comfortable clothes, sip an appertif, and then dig in to a satisfying and scrumptious meal. Nana delivered heavenly meals during our stay in Purgatory and for that I will always be grateful.
|A shot of Main Street in Durango, Colorado. |
This year we stayed in the gorgeous second home of our friends Sara and Bill, which is more accurately described as a beautiful log cabin with windows that frame stunning views of rolling hills, pine trees and notably the La Plata mountains. There was no Nana to cook our meals so Sara and I planned carefully to accomodate the meat eaters, the non meaters and teenage palates. We agreed that a hearty breakfast daily was in order, but we didn't want to be saddled with cooking responsibilities every morning, or the grease splatter mess to clean up. So, the day before we departed for Colorado, I cooked up trays and trays of bacon, two packages of breakfast sausages and two packages of chicken sausages, and thirty Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.
Breakfast was a snap in the mornings, quickly reheating the pancakes and the bacon or sausages in the convection oven. We brewed fresh coffee and whipped up scrambled eggs. We placed softened butter and maple syrup on the table and enjoyed the view of the snow capped La Plata mountains as we ate together to break our morning fast. Those souls, skiing or not, whom toil in Purgatory, should embark upon their day with appetites satiated.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with (or without) Sourdough Starter
Preparing pancakes is my secret for using the last of my sourdough starter before refreshing it. Leftover pancakes are wrapped individually and stored in the freezer. Pancakes defrost quickly and reheat nicely in a toaster oven.
If you do not have sourdough starter in your refrigerator, but like the idea of this recipe, you can use the preparation method detailed in our Grandma Elsie's pancake recipe: separate the eggs and whip the egg whites until stiff. Thoroughly whisk the egg yolks and liquid ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients together, increasing the all-purpose flour to 1-1/2 cups. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold in the egg whites. Thin batter with additional milk, if necessary. Cook as directed below, beginning with step four.
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 15-oz. container ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sourdough starter
1 lemon, zested and juice of two lemons
ghee or coconut oil (or oil of your choice), for cooking
|Whisking in the sourdough.|
fresh berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and
a dollop of raspberry sauce if you are feeling so inclined
maple syrup, or syrup of your choice
1. Combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, sea salt and sugar in a bowl.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until well combined and frothy. Add the sourdough starter and the milk and whisk well. Add the ricotta cheese, the lemon zest and the lemon juice and whisk well.
3. Whisk the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined.
4. Preheat a griddle or non-stick pans over medium to medium-high heat.
|Only fresh zest and juice will do for these pancakes.|
5. Grease each pan with ghee (or high heat oil, such as coconut) for cooking. For each pancake, pour approximatelly 1/4 cup of the batter into the griddle or pan and cook on both sides until light golden brown. Alternatively, immediately after the pancake is poured, sprinkle 6 or 7 fresh or frozen blueberriers. When you see bubbles forming across the pancake, flip carefully and cook until golden. Serve with more butter, fresh berries and maple syrup.
6. The pancakes keep rather well when transferred from the griddle to a cookie sheet set in the oven at a low temperature, say around 300°F. That way, when you are finished cooking all the pancakes, everyone can sit down together for a wonderful breakfast or brunch. Remember the bacon (it can be cooked in advance and can be reheated in the oven), and the lattes, too!