Race Loop (Red)
Technique loop (Green)
Fun skate loop (Blue)
The Balsams had a decent deal this past weekend: $149/person/night got you race registration, a room, dinner, breakfast, and a 2nd day of skiing (alpine or nordic). Cacky, Neighbor John & Sarah, and friends Jed & Amy and I took the bait. My race report is here. Cacky, John, Sarah, Jed, and Amy all did the tour and their skis iced up badly as well. Races aren't meant to be fun so the icing on my skis was just another added challenge. But tours should be fun and I think the icing on their skis was very, very disappointing. But I heard the gourmet food along the course was delicious.
The Balsams is a classic old hotel with lots and lots of open space and big, inviting and comfortable rooms most of the length of the first floor. There were a few complaints about the service but none from me; I was either in an accommodating mood or maybe I'm just not a whiner : ). Before dinner, John and I played some pool in the Billiards room and then we all visited the voting room, where the first presidential votes in the country are cast. Dinner at The Balsams is a real treat. They have a loooooong buffet with many, many tasty looking gourmet dishes. I had a little of everything. I couldn't stop filling my plate. After dinner, we retreated to the pub in the hotel for more drinks. I did the tour de Scotland (3 different single malts) and tour de Kentucky (4 different bourbons). The band was fun in a silly way. Mostly rock and roll for the 60+ crowd - the kind of stuff you'd hear at a wedding. And the crowd was mostly 60+. Breakfast was just like dinner. I tried a bit of everything.
After breakfast, we all went out for a skate ski. The conditions were excellent, if a little soft. The Balsams was buried in snow. There was already a big base before the series of snows last week and these snows just piled it on. I think there was about 8" of fresh snow from Friday night and maybe another 6" Saturday night. John & Sarah took off so Jed, Amy, Cacky and I worked a little on skate technique and then started the long climb up from the hotel to mud pond. Jed, Amy, & Cacky turned around to check out so I set out on my own. I quickly found John and we took off on a really stunningly beautiful loop (the blue loop on the map above). Everything was groomed beautifully. The trails are very, very wide. And the woods and vistas are fabulous. Most importantly, the last set of downhill turns (trail #4?) coming into the hotel were wicked fun and very manageable in the slow new snow but would have been intimidating on fast, old snow and a nightmare on ice.