Bill is an endorphin junkie who chronicles his training and racing experiences on his blog, while peppering his posts with adventures in parenting. Currently training for the Cozumel Ironman, Bill is a member of Carmichael Training Systems’ Team Trainright.
I probably have some kind of diagnosable problem, but I can’t go on vacation, consume huge calories at big family meals, and sit around a fire making s’mores and drinking beer if I haven’t earned that down time with a workout each day. Integrating family vacations with training is tough — some might argue futile and unnecessary — but somehow I’m always compelled to do both.
I’ve just returned from a family vacation in Big Sky, Montana, where I was able to train and enjoy our family. First off, I must say, Big Sky is an impressive ski mountain. It is extreme and huge. As a Coloradoan I tend to think we have the best skiing, so to see a ski area potentially better than any I’ve skied irks me! Isn’t that weird, like I own a ski area or something?
Hiking Lone Peak
”Lone Peak” dominates Big Sky, reaching up over 11,000 feet. As its name would suggest, it is a stand-alone cone towering above the other hills and valley. About 1,500 feet of Lone Peak is above tree line and the mountain is completely covered in scree, making a hike very challenging.
Lone Peak is steep, and while that doesn’t seem to stop skiers, I think it stops a lot of hikers. A tram takes skiers to the top and they are left to pick harrowing lines through the chutes and gullies. It’s hard for me to imagine these steep slopes holding enough snow to ski on, but I guess they do.
I hiked nearly 3 miles from our condo up towards the top, gaining 2,500 feet of elevation. I didn’t make it, frankly, as I reached a point on the ridge where a misstep or a mad-dash down due to weather could be fatal. I was essentially “bouldering” at this point and being by myself, crawling up a mountain just didn’t seem to be a good idea.
My mind sent me nasty flash card visions of everything going wrong so rather than let a full-on panic attack stop me in my tracks, I turned back. I can’t think of a Colorado Ski area that would scare me to hike up, can you?
Nevertheless, it was a good hike and a good workout. I then jumped on my bike for a quick 9 mile ride climbing through the “neighborhoods” around Big Sky. humongous “cabins” are nestled in woods clustered strategically near access to the ski lifts. Nearly all the houses and condos here can claim to be ski-in and ski-out. The ride took me on a narrow ribbon of blacktop up and down hills with 20% grades.
Cycling the Gallatin River Valley
The day before, I rode 48 miles from West Yellowstone following the majestic Gallatin River. This stretch of water provided some of the backdrop for the movie “A River Runs Through It.” For good reason, as it is spectacular and a fly fisherman’s dream come true. The Gallatin is a fairly gentle and wide river, perfect for casting and fabulous to ride beside.
Highway 191 has a good shoulder and not too much traffic although the occasional semi passing me and casting its shadow was a bit harrowing. It’s a great road to get in the aero bars and simply pedal, as it is relatively flat.
Big Sky doesn’t really have a town. There is Big Sky Meadows, which is a cluster of homes, retail centers and a golf course near the intersection of Highway 191 and the 9 mile road leading west to the ski resort. This road climbs about 2,000 feet and provided a good challenge after the flat section I just finished.
Cycling in Yellowstone National Park
Two days earlier, I rode that same 48 mile stretch alongside the river, but started 10 miles west of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. I ended up riding 90 miles and seeing part of Yellowstone from my bike. A great way to travel! The traffic wasn’t too bad and the shoulder was excellent in the park.
In each case, my wife dropped me off and then she continued to the condo. She rode from Big Sky to West Yellowstone twice and then I picked her up. It’s a great strategy. She started early while our daughter slept and then I caught up to her three hours later.
With a little planning and sacrificing of just some family, it is possible to train and vacation!
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