Ski and See via the Gateway of Denver!
A fantastic opportunity awaits all of YOU ski enthusiasts jetting through Denver to ski the picturesque Colorado Rockies. I spent last week there with my family, hiking and skiing in Breckenridge. Consistent with flight inconveniences that happen evermore expectedly, our morning departure to home got canceled and re-ticketed for a same-day early evening flight. That left just enough time to explore the amazing temporary Mexican Modernism exhibit at The Denver Art Museum, featuring Frida Kahlo and husband, Diego Rivera. A minor inconvenience turned out to be a blessing-in-disguise. It was a real treat! This exhibit can be viewed in Denver through January 24, 2021, after which time it will travel to the Albuquerque Museum of Art.
So in this blog, I want to touch upon BOTH art and travel! Who are Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera? Why is their art so revolutionary? What was skiing like in Breckenridge in our current pandemic-afflicted world? What limitations and precautions does the après-ski scene contend with during the Covid-19 crisis? All this can be found in gorgeous Colorado!
The Art of Mexican Modernism
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), is a name who was previously familiar to me, yet her artistic ambitions remained foreign. Much to MY ignorance and embarrassment I admittedly didn't know much about her other than identifying her as 'the female Mexican artist with the unibrow.' It was through this exhibit that I learned of her life, her revolutionary art, her determination as an artist, and her significance as a pioneer of Latin American culture. She was an artist afflicted with much hardship and many of her paintings are expressions of her lifelong struggles. She was afflicted with polio at an early age leaving her with some permanent physical deformities, she survived a near fatal bus-tram accident as a teenager, she grappled with a difficult marriage, and she suffered a miscarriage with subsequent lasting childlessness.
Frida's original aspirations were to become a doctor. Her accident, however, left her with multiple life-changing injuries and chronic back pain. Suffering a fractured spine and pelvis, she was confined to bed rest and a torso cast for MANY months. During this time, in 1925, she began to paint to escape the boredom of her confinement. From her bed, with a mirror as her canopy, she began painting NUMEROUS self-portraits, many of which reflected her loneliness. Subsequent to much self-analysis during this period, she essentially underwent a renaissance, or re-birth, depicting her renewed love of nature, animals, colors, fruits, and anything beautiful. She continued her self-portrait theme throughout her life.
In 1928 she joined the Mexican Communist party and through that connection, she met her future husband and fellow artist, Diego Rivera, 21 years her senior. At that time Diego was already commissioned by the State to paint murals throughout Mexico city as a means of educating the country's large illiterate population in the history of their nation. "Mexicanism" found its expression first and foremost in these mural paintings. Together, with her party comrades, Frida supported the armed class struggle of the Mexican people.
Through their intense support of the Mexican cause, they undertook a cultural reform movement in which they turned away from European colonial artistic ideals and aesthetics and resurrected the folk art of the indigenous Mexican people. This "Nationalistic ideology" was noted in their paintings, her choice of dress, and the 'Salon-style' artistic social engagements that they regularly hosted at their cobalt-blue house, La Casa Azul, in the outskirts of Mexico City. The beautiful courtyard of their house served as a cultural hub for Mexico's artistic circles, where thinkers, politicians, patrons, and artists gathered for intellectual conversation and artistic exchange. Their home also served as a menagerie to monkeys, dogs, cats, a deer, and a rabbit.
All in all, Denver's 'Mexican Modernism' exhibit is very thought-provoking and beautifully delineates the life and struggles, predominantly of Frida Kahlo. Her collection of paintings and the display of photographs taken of her give a unique glimpse into the life of this prominent, but infrequently covered artist.
Now that we exercised the MIND, time to exercise the BODY! What better way than to combine the trip to Colorado with an outdoor hiking and skiing adventure.
Breckenridge, here we come!
Without question, the Colorado Rockies are breathtakingly beautiful. What added to its magical pre-Christmas ambiance was the daily fresh snowfall, which turned the mountain and the ski town into a picturesque winter wonderland. We were specifically in Breckenridge, located about a 1½ hour drive west of Denver, where there are many winter activities to engage in including hiking, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and sleighing. We focussed our time on hiking and downhill skiing.
We stayed at Crystal Peak Lodge located at the base of Peak 7 of Breckenridge mountain and I have to say that our lodge, as well as the entire ski resort for that matter, took great precautions to address the safety of the skiers during this Covid season. Fortunately, skiing is by nature an outdoor and socially-distanced activity. That being said, during ski trips there are occasions that can lend themselves to crowding and clustering. This is where the resort pre-cautions fundamentally came into play.
Covid-19 Precautions and Restrictions for Ski Resort
Sold only a limited number of lift tickets per day
Lift lines maintained 6-ft social distancing
Face masks required in all lift lines and ALL indoor settings
No indoor dining or drinking offered throughout Breckenridge
Only To-Go dining or home-cooking food options
Outdoor hot tubs by reservation only; one family at a time
Gondolas; one family per gondola
Elevators; one family at a time
Shuttles by reservation; one family at a time
Contactless condo check-in via key box
Contactless ski and equipment drop-off into outdoor bins
The only place I saw them make exceptions to the above rules was on the chairlifts. They occasionally allowed single riders onto the 4-6 seat chairlifts, with non-family members.
Given the pre-cautions implemented, skiing was a relatively safe activity. For that matter, I felt safer, in regards to Covid, within the ski environment than I do every day at work. We also double-masked, with N-95s underneath, throughout the airports and on the airplanes.
Without question, the après ski scene and AMBIANCE did suffer and fall victim to Covid-19. No bars. No indoor dining. Early store closures. No hot tub socialization outside of the family. But, the activities of winter hiking and skiing were just as carefree, beautiful, picturesque, and enjoyable. (And if you are kind of a recluse, then even better. You weren't forced to interact with or crowd around people that you don't know.)
I enjoyed both hiking and skiing in Breckenridge. The narrow hiking trails wind through pine-studded forests, cross frozen bridges, and occasionally open up to reveal the majesty of the surrounding snow-capped peaks. You may encounter cross-country skiers or snow-shoers on the scenic trails. The hiking trail I particularly liked was 'Peaks Trail', whose trailhead was very close to our accommodations.
Downhill-skiing was also enjoyable. I particularly loved the numerous long and wide BLUE (intermediate) runs. The fresh powder and non-icy conditions at Breckenridge were not only a welcomed treat but actually a common feature of the Colorado terrain. Breckenridge mountain consists of several peaks and it is very easy to navigate from one peak to another via chairlifts and ski trails. Of course, sometimes the connector trails between the peaks required me to either brave a "too-steep-for-me" black diamond (difficult) run or an "I-hate-to-pole" flat green (easy) run. The views from the tops of the peaks are simply MAGNIFICENT. My favorite runs were 'Cashier' on Peak 9 and 'Claimjumper' on Peak 7, both fun, long, varied, and blue. Certainly, soaking in the outdoor hot tub once we finished our runs for the day was a relaxing and deserved daily highlight!
So if you are still considering a relatively safe and quick winter getaway in early 2021, then the Colorado Rockies are a great option. Combine the beautifully crisp outdoor activity of skiing or hiking with the intellectual stimulation of an amazing art exhibition. Ski and see Frida Kahlo in Denver!