Hey everyone out there in cyberland! I just realized that it’s been awhile since I wrote an entry, so here one is. Enjoy!
Usually by the time the ski resorts in Colorado close in early to mid April, snow in town may be all melted away, the “snow” on the mountain might be more like slushy dirt, it’s sunny, and minds have begun to drift towards summer plans.
This was not the case this year however. The end of the season brought with it multiple days of snow accumulation. Many local resorts, including Vail, Copper, Breckenridge, and Monarch had plans to close on Sunday, April 14th. Mother Nature had other plans however with heavy snow accumulation Saturday night through Monday evening, stranding motorists along the I-70 corridor as the interstate was shut down in places for several hours.
I had Sunday and Monday off, with plans to go to Monarch on Sunday for their closing day and Vail on Monday for employee ski day, but I ended up going to neither as I am one of few who hate powder and felt that all that powder gave me a good reason to stay home and clean my apartment.
“Pond Skimming” is a crazy end of the year tradition where skiers and snowboarders try to launch themselves across a body of water and make it to the other side without finding themselves submerged. I did it once in South Dakota several years ago and that was enough times for me because my boots and all of my clothes were completely soaked which I wasn’t a huge fan of. Anyway, Vail had their pond skimming competition on Sunday, which I wasn’t around to witness, but on Saturday afternoon it looked like they may have set up a hot-tub at the bottom of the pond skim area. I’m not sure a hot tub would have made the experience that much more enjoyable, as the key is really to stay upright and make it to the other side while remaining relatively dry, especially considering that it was snowing heavily on Sunday (aka not the warmest conditions for being soaking wet).
Then on Tuesday we had our last day of work, taking apart the set-up for the race course including disassembling the start corrals; climbing towers to cut down finish banners; taking down tower pads, speakers, fencing, and scoreboards; moving gate holders inside; moving gates into our timing building; and other random manual labor. Luckily, it was sunny on Tuesday, so that helped- we could have dug things out from under two feet of snow WHILE it was still snowing heavily.
Then came the *BIG ANNOUNCEMENT*… Vail, Copper, and Breckenridge were re-opening for this past weekend (April 19th – 21st). This presented a few challenges as various hotels, restaurants, and rental/retail stores at the base of these mountains and throughout Eagle and Summit counties, along with the ski resorts themselves, had prepared for “mud season” by terminating the seasonal employment of many of their employees, leaving them short-staffed for this re-opening. From what I’ve heard, they all made it work and welcomed one extra weekend of business, even if it was on short notice (announcement came out Tuesday late morning/early afternoon that the resorts would open Friday morning).
I wasn’t at Vail this past weekend, so I’ll leave the rest of the story-telling to excerpts from 2 articles on the Vail Daily website…
Apparently this weekend was not the first time the resort re-opened thanks to abundant snow
“Vail Associates, the precursor to Vail Resorts, reopened Vail Mountain in early June of 1983 or ‘84. Harry Frampton had just finished his first ski season as president of the company, and recalled that the late spring weather turned snowy, just like it has the past couple of weeks.”
“While Vail doesn’t reopen very often, bonus skiing returned just a couple of years later, after George Gillett had bought Vail Associates.”
“Before the 1980s, memories start to get hazy. Vail Resorts doesn’t have any official records of the mountain reopening before that decade. But some long-time residents remember days of spring skiing after the lifts had officially closed.”
One piece of the article I found especially interesting is “‘It’s not done with a profit motive in mind,’ Gillett said. ‘In fact, it’s expensive as all get-out.’ Gillett said reopening a ski area requires everything from permission from insurance companies to making sure there are qualified people to run the equipment.”
While many rejoiced at the mountain opening for an extra weekend, it likely held up some key construction projects scheduled for this summer.
“Vail and Beaver Creek are entering the first of many summers of construction as the resorts prepare both for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, as well as the building of Vail Resorts’ Epic Discovery projects. While Epic Discovery isn’t set to begin until the summer of 2014, enhancements at Vail Mountain’s Adventure Ridge summer activity area are scheduled this summer.”
“Improvements at Beaver Creek’s Red Tail Camp are already under way. Construction there began last week [written April 10th] to take down the existing building and replace it with a new, larger building.”
“The U.S. Forest Service public comment period for other proposed projects, including the Chair 4 replacement at Vail [a result of the increased capacity afforded by Gondola One, which accesses Chair 4], ended March 29. The Forest Service has not yet issued an approval, but Vail Resorts is ready to begin construction to replace the Chair 4 detachable quad to a six-person lift as soon as an approval is issued and the subsequent 45-day appeal period passes, said Vail Mountain spokeswoman Liz Biebl.”
While many students likely took advantage of the extra ski days offered by the resorts, others headed to Colorado Springs to compete in the Big Mountain Trail Run held in North Cheyenne Canon. I was the sole 5K competitor while the others competed in the half marathon.
I had run a 5K as part of a triathlon in Leadville last summer and another 5K in November in Fort Collins, but turns out this 5K was a bit more difficult than those two as it featured 565 feet of elevation gain over 1.5 miles, and then we turned around and ran back down the rocky, narrow trail to the finish (which was the same as the start).
The half marathon wasn’t any easier, as it featured 2,618 feet of total elevation gain.
Two of the half participants from CMC placed 2nd overall- one in the male side of the race and the other on the female side, and both placed 1st in their age division.
As part of the race they had a competition as part of Earth Day for who could come through the finish with trash they picked up during the race. One of our racers won by being the only one to remember to pick up trash and they still came through with a 2nd place overall finish.
We also recently ordered tech shirts (thinner material, designed to dry faster, etc. compared to cotton t-shirts) and got them just in time to wear for the race, which was neat because we looked like a more formal group and many of us got questions about where we were from and if it was a school organization and such, so got to spread some CMC awareness also.
Other students this past weekend had OUT trips (part of the Outdoor Recreation Leadership aka ORL program). I know at least one of the OUT trips was going river rafting. I am by no means an expert on the program, but if you are interested in it, I would be happy to point you in right direction as to whom to talk to. OUT trips take a variety of forms- river rafting, sea kayaking in Washington, Canyon Orientation, Desert Orientation, Mountaineering in Wyoming, Ice Block, Rock Block- and last 2 or 3 weeks and the students play a large part in organizing various aspects of the trip.
Another group of students was taking Rock Climbing, although it was just a weekend course and not an OUT trip.
As far as big news in my life… Next Friday (May 3rd) I’ll graduate with both my Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Ski Area Operations (SAO) and a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) from Colorado Mountain College. I’ve been told that two other BSBA students are graduating from Leadville along with one of the students in the Bachelors of Art in Sustainability Studies (BASS) program. What makes the news even sweeter is that as soon as I finish up my homework for my two classes, I am done for the semester, which means I could have been done last Thursday if I’d had my act together (last Thursday was the last night of class for me).
As far as what I’m doing after that, it’s still pretty up in the air. After graduation my parents have me talked into going to the Black Hills with them and then back home to the Sioux Falls area for about a week. Then my mom and I are taking a little road-trip to California.
After that it really gets foggy- right now I’m waiting to hear back about CMC’s Professional Photography program (offered at the Spring Valley campus outside of Glenwood Springs) that I applied to, but may have waited long enough that I got wait-listed, since they’re only able to accept 40 students a year, and they were at 38 last time I spoke with one of the professors and it was another couple of weeks before I got my application in. I’m also looking into a certificate program that’s offered at the CMC in Steamboat Springs for Ski & Snowboard Marketing Media Manager. As far as what kind of career I’m looking to get into, I’m not totally sure- I’ve really enjoyed working at ski areas, this blogging job, helping out with Leadville Today, and I absolutely love taking photos so I’m strongly leaning in the direction of some sort of advertising/photographer/journalism job that allows me to be out on the ski hill at least part of the time and/or starting my own photography company.
The Vail Daily distributes a couple of free weekly mini-magazine type things. Earlier this winter they had a write-up about one of the positions at the Vail Daily that I wish I’d saved, but I’m afraid I probably recycled weeks ago. Anyway, one of the Vail Daily’s employees has the job of “On Hill Video Ski Reporter” which means that every morning he gets out and records a run down Vail Mountain and gives a report on it including what Vail was reporting, what they found on their run, liftline status, run of the day, breakdown, and snowcast. If I remember correctly from the article earlier this season, they usually try to be one of the first people up the mountain in the morning and then they head to Lionshead Village to upload their report by 10AM (don’t quote me as I’m going off memory). Click here to read one of their reports.
In another one of the Vail Daily’s mini-magazine distributions, a reporter (I believe the same one that does the snow report each day), wrote about how all he did one day was make laps on Gondola One, with the intention of interviewing various mountain guests.
As far as neat jobs go, his ranks pretty high up there in my opinion. Hopefully I’ll get lucky and come across the article floating around my apartment within the next couple of days, in which case I’ll write up some excerpts from it to better explain the job.
I’ll try to get another post or two out before graduation, but until then, have fun and stay safe- there have been several avalanche deaths in the past week or two in the area (on Loveland Pass and near Vail).