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Outdoor Recreation ski trip …simply awesome

A full three-person Legends chair lift carries skiers and snowboarders alike to the top of the farthest peak from the base at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, Durango, Colo. The lift passes over Blackburn Bash, a single black diamond and most difficult trail, before dropping its passengers off at intermediate, most difficult and expert trails. (Photo by Brandice J. O’Brien)

A full three-person Legends chair lift carries skiers and snowboarders alike to the top of the farthest peak from the base at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, Durango, Colo. The lift passes over Blackburn Bash, a single black diamond and most difficult trail, before dropping its passengers off at intermediate, most difficult and expert trails. (Photo by Brandice J. O’Brien)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- I'm at a crossroads. On one hand, I want to tell you, a Tinker Take Off reader, the recent Tinker Outdoor Recreation ski trip to "Purgatory" - Durango Mountain Resort - was miserable and torturous. But, that's not true at all.

See, if I were to tell you a lie, maybe it would deter you from booking a trip and maybe I wouldn't have to worry about being stuck on a waiting list for the next time I want to go. But, if I told you that little white lie, I'd disappoint the folks at Outdoor Recreation, particularly my new friend, Melody.

So as hard as it is to say... the truth is, the trip rocked. It was absolutely phenomenal.

I signed up in November when a friend sent me an e-mail about upcoming outdoor recreation ski trips. Initially, we were going to go together, but she found out she had a temporary duty assignment that week. So, I signed up alone. The trip cost $380, which included lodging for three nights, all transportation and lift tickets. Half of the cost was due up front and secured my reservation. The other half was requested in the first week of January.

I went into the trip blind. I knew no one and had no idea of what to expect. All I knew was to be at the Tinker Services parking lot at 5:15 a.m. Jan. 14.

I was so nervous I'd be late or unprepared I started having anxiety nightmares on Monday, Jan. 10. By Jan. 12, I had made a mental packing list. The next day, after everything was packed, I set three alarms and my friend promised a wake-up call at 4:30 a.m.

There was no need. I woke up with the ringing of my first alarm at 3:57 a.m. After 15 minutes of texting my friend who promised a wake-up call, I realized I needed to get moving or I might actually be late and my nightmares would be reality.

I showed up at Tinker's parking lot at exactly 5:15 a.m. To my surprise I wasn't the only one there. I dropped off most my stuff -- ski gear, clothing for three days and toiletries -- beside a small trailer attached to a pickup truck. Taking the rest of my gear -- entertainment for a 12-hour van ride, snacks, a pillow and blanket -- I introduced myself to Jeff Gerlitz, trip organizer, and took my assigned seat in the van.

After the trailer was packed and there was an exchange of pleasantries, myself and 21 ski bunnies and snowboarders were on our way. We left Tinker at exactly 5:30 a.m.

Within my van was a family of two brothers, their mother and grandmother who were to attempt skiing and snowboarding for the first time; two majors that were ski buddies; my would-be roomies who were totally awesome and Jeff, the planner. Everyone was friendly and accommodating. After all, it was a van with 10 perfect strangers.

We arrived in Durango just after 6:15 p.m. mountain time. Durango was absolutely breathtaking. Snow-covered mountains that reached up to the sky dominated the scene. It was peaceful and serene. I could stare at the scenery until the daylight faded.

Downtown Durango is quaint and cosmopolitan. I dined with my seatmate/roommate, and a guy from the pickup truck. Just 12 hours ago, I didn't know either person existed.

Dinner was at Italian restaurant and it was simply outstanding; reasonably priced, relaxing atmosphere where one-on-one conversation is possible.

After dinner, we met up with the rest of the crew, who dined all over downtown Durango.

The lodge was gorgeous. Let me rephrase, gor-geous! Additionally, there was a gym, sauna, spa, two hot tubs and indoor/outdoor in-ground pool, which was the perfect ending to a long day in a van or after a full day of skiing.

I shared a room with two other women who proved to be fabulous. I don't know how roommates were determined, but I couldn't have asked, begged or pleaded for better a pair of women.

Like the lodge, the skiing was phenomenal. There were an abundance of trails at all levels and the people were kind and helpful.

I'd like to say the trip happened without incident, but that too would be a tiny fib. There was a minor accident in which I fell, bumped my head and landed upside down; but it was entirely self-inflicted

We began our return home early in the morning. The sun rose and the people in our van woke up, we chatted easily with one another. We played games and talked about our skiing experience. Alphabet game, anyone? Plus, we stopped in Albuquerque, NM, for a 30-minute brunch break.

"It was more fun than I expected," said Maj. James "Woody" Woodhead, who had taken three outdoor recreation trips with Peterson Air Force Base, prior to the Tinker trip. "I really did not expect to make friends or socialize with anyone except Sel, my ski buddy."

Marilyn Wetmore, one of my roommates, agreed.

"This trip -- my third -- was the best yet!" Ms. Wetmore said. "The people in both vans, as well as the trip leaders were very friendly and outgoing. I really lucked out and had a great seatmate and roommates. The weather was perfect, the accommodations were very nice and the ski slopes were not too crowded."

All in all, the driving was long and tiresome, but Durango, and the people I met made the trip worthwhile and I will definitely do it again, assuming I can get a spot on the trip list after you read this story.