12.05.2004

Opening our Doors

What a difference two weeks can make! Ski season is really starting to get into full swing here in the Vail Valley, Beaver Creek is over 50% open, Vail has over 1400 acres of skiing on the front side, and the World Cup circuit was in town all weekend for the Birds of Prey series. With all the great early season skiing and riding came the first winter visitors of the season, and we had a great time this weekend! My friend Gabe was visiting from Chicago, and Karlin and Wells came up for the weekend as well. We all used to work with each other in Chicago, so they all came up to enjoy the great skiing and riding. Friday night after they got in, we headed up to Vail Village and had a quick dinner with a couple of Karlin and Wells’ friends from Denver who also were up in the mountains this weekend. Then on Saturday we all met up at Vail with two more friends from Denver, and the eight of us hit the slopes for a nice early season treat: A 3 hour early season preview of Blue Sky Basin. It is still two weeks before the Back Bowls and Blue Sky officially open, but we got to get an early season taste this weekend. It was great, that area is one of my favorites in Vail, providing a backcountry feel tucked miles from civilization. Because this was the first time it has been open all season, it was untracked powder! Of course, the popularity tracked it out quickly, but we got a few good fresh runs in before that happened. It was very tiring though, its still early season, and none of us were quite in shape for the deeper snow. Being early season, it was also a little thin, and several times you could feel the earth below, and the rocks. I was glad to have on my rock skis as I got a couple of gouges and scratches. It was a great time though, and we were all happy to have been able to get some fresh runs, I guess Gabe timed his vacation pretty good!

Saturday night we all met up for dinner in Edwards, but were pretty well exhausted in general, so we all just headed home after that. Sunday we thought about heading up again, but instead we decided to be spectators. After some breakfast, we headed up to the crowded parking lots at Beaver Creek and took the bus up to the viewing area for the Birds of Prey races. It is an annual circuit of races here, typically with only a Downhill and a Super G, but this year Park City gave up the Slalom and Giant Slalom, so Beaver Creek picked them up. It was only the second time they hosted all four events. It was just the men’s World Cup in town as the women’s World Cup was in Lake Louise, Alberta this weekend. Today’s event was the Slalom, and we got a nice viewing spot right along the finish line fence near the monitors that showed the whole race, as it would be seen on TV. Its really impressive to see these skiers up close, their form coming down the mountain is amazing, you wonder how they can get their bodies so close to the snow, and their skis so on edge without just falling over! If you ever get the chance to see a World Cup up close, I would highly recommend it. There was a definite international flair, aside from overhearing all sorts of foreign languages, we saw skiers from the Slovenian team while we walked back to the bus, and rode the bus with members of the German team. This sport is such a great equalizer between professionals and recreational people like us. The runs they race on are regular trails on the mountain, and when the races are over, they are open the public for anyone to challenge; you can’t say that about any other sport. You will never play baseball at Wrigley Field or try and kick a 50 yard field goal at Soldier Field, but you can ski right down the same runs as the World Cup, and the ride the same shuttle with the ski team members. After the races we hung out walking and shopping in the base village before the gang took off for Denver again. It was a really fun weekend, and it was great to have everyone up to visit!