Basic Stupidity from United Airlines

The Supervisor and the Checkin Agent at United

With all the traveling I’ve been doing these past eighteen months–mostly going back and forth between upstate New York and Colorado–I guess I was due for a bad airline experience. Sure, I’ve had upsets this past year and a half, at least two that forced me to stay over at a connecting city because of a flight cancelled due to supposed mechanical problems. (I’m told that’s what airlines say and do these days when a plane isn’t packed to the gills.) But yesterday, I felt the full brunt of lousy customer service.

I arrived with some trepidation at the airport to check in at United for my Albany to Chicago to Denver travel itinerary. I had already received a few updates stating that my flight was delayed due to thunderstorms in Chicago. OK, that’s acceptable, that’s an act of nature that has forced me to be grounded in Chicago several times before. That’s not the fault of the airlines. These storms goofed up the arrival of the inbound flight to Albany, so I just had to take a deep breath and hope for the best.

But the real trouble began when the checkin agent told me I had to check my rolling carryon at checkin. “Are you serious?” I exclaimed. “That’s not at all what I was told.”

United’s Basic Economy

“You have a Basic Economy ticket and that’s what you have to do,” the agent replied without a hint of an apology.

I proceeded to explain to him that I knew I had a Basic Economy ticket and that’s why I packed the way I did. I booked it two months ago and checked the restrictions four times over with the agent I spoke with on the phone. (I always do check, double check to practically ad nauseam. My father was in WWII and he said that was the rule of the land–no one could afford any mistakes. And I learned well from Dad.) Since this is a new reduced fare that United recently launched, I questioned the agent up and down and then planned my strategy accordingly.

It was my understanding that I was not allowed to check a bag although I could check a carryon at the gate at the cost of $50. each way ($25. for the bag; $25. for the handling fee). I thought it odd that I’d be paying for anything at the gate but the agent I spoke with was insistent upon that. (She did have a thick accent, so in retrospect, I can only think something was lost in our ability to understand each other.)

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Pampered, Privileged and Fun-Loving Vail

Solaris Residences in Vail

Private Terrace at Solaris

More Stylin’ at Solaris

Maybe you’re a part of the one percent and are looking for a great lodging recommendation in Colorado. Maybe you just want to peek behind closed doors to see how the ultra rich vacation. Or, maybe you just want some insider tips on where to find some family fun in Vail, Colorado. Either way, please read on and enjoy my pictures.

Sleeping in Style

Sweet Dreams

Like many other travelers, the ultra rich have discovered the joys of vacationing in our mountain towns winter and summer. What’s changed in recent years, however, is that in addition to staying in hotels and houses, they like to stay–or reside in–residences. I’m talking full-service spreads that can make them feel at home in sprawling style while delighting in the benefits of the amenities of a full-service hotel.

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The Dress

Me Flanked by My Brothers Frank and Bob at My Niece’s Wedding

I’m sure you have “a dress,” or “a top,” or “a suit,” or some other article of clothing or accessory you’ve had forever that you truly treasure.

Here are some photos of “my dress,” a Lolita Lempicka creation I acquired in Paris well over two decades ago. I’ve worn it about a half dozen times in my life and each time it makes me feel like a million bucks. I’ve donned it for weddings, very elegant dinners in Paris, and yes, even for a beaux arts costume ball. As fancy as it is, it’s fortunately timeless. And it still fits!

This chartreuse and lavender dream dress embraced my curves perfectly in the beginning. Then there was a time when I filled it out a bit much. (Thank goodness for spanks!) Now that I’m older and somewhat withered (yes, sadly I no longer have the robust décolleté I once boasted), it fits me less than perfectly. But it’s still a showstopper–at least in my eyes.

With My Niece, Rachel, a Maid of Honor

It’s superbly cut from a thick, rich silk, which means that the fabric always hangs beautifully. I’ve kept it in mint condition aside from some pulls. My kitten gained access to it once and climbed up it with ease. I was heartbroken, especially since I normally had it covered with a plastic dry cleaner bag but somehow she caught it when it has hanging outside of the closet after a big soirée. I almost retired it then but I decided it’s so spectacular that most people wouldn’t notice. (Plus, as my almost 84-year-old mother says, “No one can see very well anymore anyway.”)

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Travel, Grief and Reunions

Mom’s Ratatouille: the Best Kind of Comfort Food

As many Americans hit the road this holiday weekend, it’s good to remember that not everyone you encounter is traveling for pleasure. Despite the sea of shorts, flip flops and skimpy T-shirts, not everyone is headed for summertime fun. Travel encompasses a flood of circumstances and situations, complexities that compound the stress of hitting the road in a multitude of ways.

This is fresh in my mind because just a week ago I scrambled to move up an established departure date to the east coast (from Colorado) by four days. Within twenty-four hours, I had to make the changes to my travel arrangements, which included rescheduling the flight (for me and my cat), my ride to the airport–a one-and-a-half-hour drive–as well as my pick up, my hotel stay the night before and packing and organizing for a three-and-a-half-week stay, all of which needed to be accomplished while under a certain amount of duress. Phew! It was hectic. I even had to work in a veterinary visit in order for my kitty to obtain a current health certificate for his travels.

It was worth it though, since this change allowed me to be home in time for the funeral of my uncle.

Oops, did I catch you off guard?

I often say that if you want to create an awkward moment in a conversation, bring up death and dying.

Well, I hope you’ll read on because death and dying are a part of life. And as I become older, it seems as though I have to face this more and more. And no matter how old someone is, the loss of this person still brings up a heap of emotions. Since I have learned of the passing of a loved one from afar numerous times and then have had to pull it together for a long flight home, I’d like to share with you some tips that might help to console you or a loved one during such tender times. more »

Dealing with Altitude Issues at Our High Mountain Destinations

Almost Summer at Mountain Lodge Telluride

The Town of Telluride, Colorado: Fun at 8,750 Feet

Me Feeling Happy and High at the Delightful Rooftop Bar at the New Sheridan Hotel

I’m long overdue in talking about how to combat the effects of high elevation with you. I apologize. Please forgive me.

In some ways, I’m new to the game myself. Although I’ve lived at heights as great as almost 10,000 feet for fifteen and a half years, I’m somewhat new to a magical little pill that has made a world of difference for me: It’s a diuretic called Diamox.

It was just a year ago that I began taking Diamox, a prescription medicine long touted to me by my ski clients but somehow I was lax in asking my doctor for a script. I finally did last spring and have used it many times this past year as I’ve traveled in and out of Telluride many times. At the risk of sounding like a drug pusher, ask your doctor about it and see if it’s good for you.

In other ways, I’m not at all new to the effects of elevation on my body. I think I first felt them when I went to the Alps during the time I was living in France. I was slammed with a headache that carried all the force of an avalanche down Mont Blanc. Ever since then, I take precautionary aspirins when I first arrive at elevation, even before the head pounding sets in.

But the Alps are nothing–at least in terms of height–to the Rockies. And I found that out when I moved here. Sure, after a few days I adjust to our thin air (about 30% less oxygen when you’re at over 9,000 feet), but if I leave a high destination for over a week, I have to reacclimatize each time, sometimes with effects worse than other times.

It’s no wonder I was fascinated with a Travel Fun interview I did many years ago with Dr. Peter Hackett, a world renowned high altitude expert and director of the Institute for High Altitude Medicine here in Telluride. I am rebroadcasting that interview on KOTO at 6:30pm MST today. Dr. Hackett, a leading authority on altitude illness with years of experience on big expeditions in Colorado, the Himalayas, Denali and South America, talks about his experiences along with, Don Bowie, one of the world’s top climbers. Don also shares sketchy elevation issues he has succumbed to during some of his adventures. It’s important to note that elevation sickness is genetic; it has nothing to do with what kind of shape you’re in.

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Climate Change and Mountainfilm

A Shepard Fairey Mural in Telluride that Embodies the Spirit of Mountainfilm, Our Mountain Town and So Much Else

Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out.

Repeat this exercise slowly, focusing solely on the breath for twenty minutes. Either that or grab yourself a bottle of tequila.

I’ve been doing this a lot lately–the former, although I am known to enjoy a good margarita, sometimes two in times of stress. I had to quadruple my relaxation efforts this afternoon as I watched President Trump brazenly declare that he was leaving the Paris Climate Agreements. Wow, fortunately we had some heads up from “leaked news.” It really felt like he was the one leaving this international accord for reducing carbon emissions. It didn’t feel like it was my country, the United States of America. I’m not big on stats but I believe I saw yesterday that almost seventy percent of the American people believe in climate change and the importance of the Paris Agreements. Plus, there’s more to be gained economically in moving forward with the times than being plunged back into the Dark Ages, or at least the Industrial Age. (There’s no such thing as clean coal.)

Telluride, Colorado: Mother Earth at Its Finest

Jeez, I’m feeling pretty embarrassed, too. My deepest apologizes to my European friends, particularly my Paris friends. To say “I’m choosing Pittsburgh over Paris” is so small. I can’t believe a president of the United States actually said that. It’s not about pitting one city against another or poking one of the most revered world capitals with a demeaning remark. I promise you, this does not reflect the views of most Americans. (Even the mayor of Pittsburgh seemed appalled by this statement in a tweet he sent out shortly after Trump’s speech.)

Breathe. We are bigger than the views of Donald Trump. I apologize to anyone that’s one of his staunch supporters. I just encourage you to look at the science and the facts. He’s obviously a climate change denier (even if it’s just one of sorts), because our planet can’t afford to lose any more time. We can’t delay anymore. The clock is running out. Why renegotiate agreements that require a voluntary participation at best? We need to be the world’s leader in caring for the environment; we need a far greater show of diplomacy. It’s time to stop pushing people and countries around, both figuratively and literally.

A Scene of the Healthy Part of the Great Barrier Reef from the film Chasing Coral

Coral: Where the Little Fish Live

Coral Glory

Do you know that 22% of the Great Barrier Reef died off in 2016? Yes, it’s true. And science proves that this is due to the rise in the temperature of our oceans. From Australia to Hawaii and many waters in between and beyond, it’s happening all over the world. Our oceans are warming up faster than our air. You might wonder why is coral so important? Sure, it’s incredibly beautiful but more importantly, it creates the perfect habitat for small fish and other marine creatures to live. If the coral dies, so do the small fish, then the big fish that feed on them, then it’s the death of a whole ecosystem. Economically, the fishing industry would be kaput! And that will happen within the next thirty years if our oceans continue to warm at the same rate as they have these past few decades.

Next it will be our forests.

I’m not a scientist, but if you know me or have read some of my stories in my blog, you know I’m a passionate person. I’ve been passionate about the environment before recycling ever came into fashion. I think I first started tossing bottles and cans in proper receptacles in the mid eighties when I was living in France. Since then, I’m practically OCD about recycling and living green, which is what you have to do to reduce, reuse and recycle. I haven’t bought a box of Ziploc bags in over fifteen years. Instead, I rinse and reuse ones that appear in my life, treating each one practically like treasured heirlooms. (Yes, I am a little nutty.)

The Scene Last Weekend at Mountainfilm Telluride

A Mountainfilm Presentation at the Historic Sheridan Opera House

But this is what it takes, in addition to signing petitions, sharing information with others and advocating for the environment at every chance. Fortunately I’ve been able to glean a good amount of information and form my values from Mountainfilm, a wonderful festival of films, artwork, presentations, books and ideas that takes place every Memorial Day weekend here in Telluride, Colorado. I so encourage you to attend some day. You can also check out Mountainfilm on Tour to see when or if they might be coming to your town.

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Closing My Ski Season at Telluride, Snowbird and Alta

Closing Day Celebration in Telluride

Parking Lot Closing Party at Alta

Alpine Views at Snowbird

Let me see here. Hmmm. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to write.

Although I’ve had mountains of stories crafted in my head these past months, I have not been able to sit down and write them. I’ve either been too tired or just too busy skiing–both for work and pleasure. (The former being a product of the latter of course.) And as much as I miraculously remained fairly healthy throughout much of the season, I was slammed with a horrific cold at the end of March, which turned into a sinus problem that’s been hard to shake. Ugh.

Celebrating the End of Ski Season is for All

Mary Ann and Mary Dawn at the KOTO End of Season Street Dance

But here I am now, slowly but surely transitioning into my writer’s life. I hate to make promises, although now that I’ve put my skis away, you should be hearing much more from me in the coming months.

What a Setting for a Party

Cheers to a Great Season

It was a super season here in Telluride topped off with a fun-filled closing weekend made even more merry by the visit of a dear friend, Margie, from Scottsdale. The snow gods blessed Telluride with a spectacular snowfall the last week of the season, so we closed with a base of mid-winter proportions. Sigh. I suppose all good things have to come to an end. Thank goodness Telluride Ski Resort and KOTO Radio know how to throw great parties to mark the end of the ski season. No matter how you look at it, we went out with a bang!

Closing Day Scene in Telluride

Margie and Me

Partytime

Oh Yeah

Striking a Pose in Vintage Ski Gear

Margie, the Llama and the Guys

After having logged a lot of much needed couch time–yes, there’s always a big accumulation of fatigue by the end of the ski season–I was thrilled to go on one last hurrah in Utah with my boyfriend, Steve. We always enjoy skiing at other resorts once Telluride closes and this time we decided to travel far–beyond our usual Aspen and Vail visits–to meet up with my brother Frank and some of his old friends in Snowbird. It’s a six-hour drive from Telluride but boy, is it worth it.

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Starting the Year Off Right: Taking Care from Head to Toe

One of My New Year's Resolutions: Go More to the Pool at The Peaks Resort & Spa

One of My New Year’s Resolutions: Go More to the Pool at The Peaks Resort & Spa

Phew, these have been the busiest mid-winter weeks of any ski season I’ve experienced. As I wrote in my story, January 2017: One of the Snowiest on Record for Colorado, the snow totals from the past month have been ridiculous! The fluffy white stuff just kept coming down.

And Telluride Ski Resort has remained busy–at least by our standards. But don’t worry, lift lines are still a rarity. There were surely a few records broken during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, characteristically our busiest week of the season. I know that private ski lessons sold out during that period and I was grateful to have been blessed with some lovely clients. It was rewarding to see that I helped them to improve their turns and, of course, we had lots of fun and good chats, too. (Take that as a heads up in case you want to book a private lesson in Telluride during the upcoming busy vacation weeks.)

It looks like the days of a January lull are over. In addition to Americans, more and more international skiers have discovered Telluride. I had a Russian lady and a Brazilian in my class the other day and then offered some assistance to Chinese people looking for directions as I left the mountain. No sir, Telluride is no longer a best-kept secret.

As usual, after the holiday rush, resort workers were falling ill like clumps of snow off the pines on a sunny day, however, I have not been slammed with sickness this year. I have been weakened these past weeks but have fortunately been winning the battle. So instead of keeping up with my writer’s life, I’ve been focused on catching up on my rest and taking care of my body when not on the mountain.

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    This blog is a personal blog written and edited by Maribeth Clemente. This blog sometimes accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content. The owner of this blog is sometimes compensated to provide opinion on products, services, Web sites and various other topics. Even though the owner of this blog receives compensation for certain posts or advertisements, she always gives her honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blogger's own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.
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