Vail, Colorado " A broken heel and a set of crutches wasn't going to stop Jim Muguerza from going to the parties atop Vail Mountain on Closing Day.
The hundreds of people there typically arrived on skis or snowboards, but Muguerza had to get creative to get to the rowdy parties at Vail on Sunday.
"This is the best party on Earth right here," he said. "Gore Range, Vail Mountain, Closing Day " love it."
Vail's end-of-the-season party has become a tradition. If the mountain wasn't open and covered in snow, you might mistake the day for Halloween based on all of the ridiculous costumes people wear.
Muguerza didn't need a costume, but he was happy to be surrounded by those who were wearing one. He's been coming to the party at the top of Chair 4 for seven years. As he looked around, watched the chaos and listened to the noise of everyone having a good time, he just grinned. The best part was that he hitched a snowmobile ride to the party and had a ride set up for the way home " he could park his crutches in the snow and sit back to take it all in.
It's that skiing lifestyle and dedication to the sport that creates the celebratory final day of the season that people don't want to miss, said Chris Anthony, a local skier who's been featured in several Warren Miller ski movies. The party on the final day has become iconic, he said, which is why it was also the perfect day to pay homage to his buddy Shane McConkey, a well-known extreme skier who died in March while skiing in Italy.
Anthony gathered a crowd together at the top of Chair 4 to lead a toast in honor of his late friend. He said the tribute was appropriate because McConkey was an icon to the entire ski industry.
"A lot of people are here for the passion of this sport," he said. "Skiing is a lifestyle."
There were signs of McConkey everywhere at the top of Chair 4. Not only did McConkey take a carefree approach to skiing, he made it fun for anyone who had the pleasure to be around him doing it, Anthony said. The costumes were especially meaningful since McConkey often acted as different characters, particularly one he called "Saucer Boy" " a character many Vail partiers dressed as on Sunday.
Jay Lucas, the owner of the Ski Base ski shop in Lionshead, dressed his son Halsey, 9, as Saucer Boy. He said he did it because McConkey did so much for the industry and was such a great person.
"He really brought skiing back again to when it was really fun," Lucas said.
Fun was what closing day was all about. People donned their retro, neon one-pieces, wigs, costumes and just about any other crazy outfit imaginable to make the simple statement that skiing and riding is the lifestyle we're all here to live.
"You can't beat this," Muguerza said.