Friday, February 09, 2007

Angel Fire: Summary

So, all in all I'd give the Angel Fire vacation a B-. We had a blast, but there was plenty of room for improvement in some areas, while other areas were just fine. Some things would have been better had we been better informed about the resort (either via research or via the staff) beforehand. Here's a summary of various aspects of the long weekend:

Angel Fire Resort:

Room: B. For the price, a great value. Less than $100 a night, and we had a large clean well maintained room with an electric fireplace, large-ish fridge, and balcony with a nice mountain view. It would have been nice to have a real coffee maker (they had one that used disposable filter packs, and the coffee quality was awful) and a microwave to warm things up. One big downside: Rooms were VERY hot and VERY dry -- we had sore throats, nose bleeds, and chapped lips and skin the entire time we were there. Next time I'd definitely bring a portable humidifier to avoid feeling like I was breathing out of a hairdryer. But all in all a solid value.

Staff: C (with a solid A for one manager and one coffee shop proprietor). Overall the staff were adequate, and friendly. Very average. Nothing outstanding, really, but the desk staff were helpful and pleasant. Most of the folks working in the various rental and storage areas were typical "ski bums" -- cool dudes in no particular hurry. Not a problem at all, just keep this in mind if you're in a hurry. Our ski instructor was not great, but I think this was partly due to the large number of students he got stuck with. Still, it's not like we got cash back for having a sub-par class, so they lose some points, there. One exception to the overall "meh" quality of the staff was the manager who was on duty our last day there. Wish I'd gotten his name -- older guy (late-40's/early 50's I'd say), mustache and a generous head of dark brown/black hair with some silver. He was fantastic, and tremendously helpful in coming up with some suggestions for some alternative activities for our last day at the resort. One other exceptional staff member was the guy running The Buzz coffee shop -- usually manages the restaurant at the top of the mountain, but he'd fallen and torn his Achilles, so now he was on crutches awaiting surgery and staying behind a coffee counter. He was a gem as well -- chatty, friendly, and fun.

Pool/Hot Tub: D+. Tiny pool, tiny spa. Noisy, crowded, with dangerously slippery stairs by the spa on which I nearly killed myself. After nearly falling, I limped down the stairs and only then was able to see the "Careful! Slippery when wet!" sign they had put out to warn people. I guess they only wanted to warn people who were heading up the stairs...

On-Site Food/Drink Options: D. Aside from a good coffee place with terrific help ("The Buzz") and just-OK coffee in the gift shop, the food options on-site were both expensive and abysmal. We tried lunch at the restaurant by the main lifts (The Village Haus) and it was atrocious. Breakfast at the Roaring Fork wasn't substantially better -- food arrived lukewarm and poorly prepared. Gift shop items included a variety of microwaveable snacks and sandwiches and pastries of varying date and quality. Actually overheard the staff discussing how out-of-date the soy milk was and saying that since soy milk doesn't turn the way regular milk does it was OK to use as long as they gave it a sniff test. Astonishing. As for drinks, the Lazy Lizard Cantina is a perfectly run-of-the-mill bar with fairly expensive drinks. Didn't grab a drink elsewhere, but I'd expect more of the same overall.

Wireless Access: C-. No internet connectivity of any sort in the rooms, poor, slow, and unstable wireless connectivity available in the lobby. Inconvenient, occasionally frustrating, but at least it was available and free.

Skiing: Slopes B+, Layout C-. From a beginner's point of view, this was a great place to learn to ski. Plenty of snow, slopes were well groomed and wide, making it a lot easier to get a hang of things without killing ourselves. The kids ski school was quite nice, and the kids had a great time with their instructors. Our adult instructor, however, was pretty bad. Rude, snarky, and not very helpful. This may have been because they saddled him with 18 students for a 2 hour class, but that was hardly our fault. As a result, we learned little in the class. But still, we made due.

One HUGE downside to Angel Fire, though, is the number of stairs you have to climb to reach the lifts and slopes. Depending on where you walk from you must climb anywhere from 4 to 8 or 9 flights of stairs to reach the Chili Express ski lift. This can be pretty freakin' exhausting. Save some energy by taking advantage of the overnight gear storage racks located right by the rental shop -- for about $5 a day, you can avoid having to carry your crap all the way from the hotel and up 4 flights of stairs. You'll still be stuck climbing 4 or so more flights in your ski boots, but hey, it's an improvement.

Area Restaurants:

We only hit four area joints in Angel Fire. The Sunset Grill, located just across from the Chili Express lift, is pretty convenient for a quick bite during a ski break, and rates a pretty solid C. Decent food, reasonable prices. Nothing revelatory, could use better quality bread (everything tasted like it was served on hamburger rolls) but overall a fair choice and far superior to the fare available on-site. The Pizza Stop was atrocious -- D-. Expensive food, poorly prepared by rude staff in a fairly dirty and unkempt establishment. Avoid at all costs, unless you are truly desperate for mediocre pizza. The Our Place Cafe was adequate, but horribly overpriced, with fairly standard grub at high prices (Example: linguine with alfredo sauce and chicken for about $15, and I swear the alfredo sauce came out of a jar...). We heard their tilapia was quite good, though, but didn't try it. Finally, the local Chinese place (I've forgotten the name, but it's located right next to the Pizza Stop) was a pleasant surprise, generous portions of tasty food served in a pleasant room with friendly wait staff at reasonable prices. Definitely worth a visit, and easily the best value for your money in Angel Fire. Solid B+.

We also shot over to Red River for a bit of sightseeing and ate at the Sundance, a Mexican place. Top notch, and affordable. Definitely worth a stop if you're in the area. Best meal we had on our trip.

So, all in all a good trip. I think next time we'd definitely consider getting a condo so we could prepare our own meals, as there was little we found that I couldn't have made better myself, and for far less dough. And now that we know to store our equipment we could avoid lugging the gear around as much as we did. Still, Angel Frie was well worth the time and money, and we all had a great time.

Mood: Hungry, tired
Now Playing: Patty Griffin, "Children Running Through"

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