The most thrilling moment for me on our ski trip to Breckenridge last week was skidding down the ridge below the Peak 8 Imperial Express Superchair. At 12,840 ft., it's the highest chairlift in North America. I think it is the closest to going off a ski jump that I will ever come. The trail along the ridge turns sharply to the right, following the ridgeline, so in front of me was air and the town of Breckenridge spread out before me. The wind was blowing and my fingers were trembling and I decided it was more important to get down the mountain than to take a photo. (The photo above is from partway down the ridge, looking towards Peak 9.)
I'm not a big one for heights. Even sitting on the chairlift, I don't look down. But I couldn't go to Breckenridge and miss the highest ski lift in North America, so when the men in my family said it was time to brave the Imperial Express, I followed along. My sons are faster skiers than me, but so far I've been able to get down anything they can, even with a bit more form, thanks to my ski lessons as a teenager. Making it down this one filled me with adrenaline and counts as a personal triumph.
But on our last day of skiing, my older son and husband topped my moment. I was cross-country skiing with my dad, and my dad's wife and my younger son were home with a stomach bug that had churned through me and my older son earlier. The two intrepid ones took off their skis, hiked up from the Imperial Express into the "extreme terrain" area (double black diamond) at the summit of Peak 8, traversed the ridge toward Peak 9, and finally found what seemed to be the least gnarly chute down. In the photo above, it's the one right in front of that menacing black knob. They made it down. My son said--with a huge grin and glowing cheeks--he was the most scared he has ever been in his life. I think this time they crossed a line: they went somewhere that I won't follow.
On the summit (12,998 ft)