VAIL, Colorado - Even before Vail's official opening Friday, Golden Peak was so busy with ski traffic last week it looked like Christmas weekend.Only there was one major difference: The skiers on Golden Peak were considerably more skilled than the ones you'll find on the normal busy day. National ski teams from the U.S., Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland all shared the slopes last week at the Golden Peak Competition Center for slalom, giant slalom and super-G training, with as many as 150 athletes training on the same slopes at the same time.It may sound hectic, but for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail operations manager C.B. Bechtel, it was just another November day on the job. "Golden Peak has the best November technical training facility in the world, so everyone wants to be here," Bechtel said. "We start taking reservations in March. ... The majority of the booking is done by mid-July."Bechtel works relentlessly during November to coordinate all of the action, starting his day at 5:45 a.m. and finishing at 6:30 or 7 p.m."We have a certain number of time slots per day. People tell me, 'I want slalom, I want super-G, or I want slalom,' and then there's four 2.5-hour sessions per day and we map out who goes where," Bechtel said. "At 5 p.m., we have a meeting where a captain from every team comes in and we'll show them the plan for tomorrow and give them their lift tickets. Every time a new session starts, I go to the top of the hill and make sure everyone's setting in their lanes, and when I feel confident they're in their lanes, I go down the hill to another section of the course and make sure everyone there is set properly in their lanes. The first session starts at 6:30 a.m., the last one ends at 4:30 p.m., and then we do it all over again."Teams often share lanes, setting their competitiveness aside for some neighborly pairing. "The team on the right sets first, and the second team has to exactly parallel them," Bechtel said. "But tomorrow, the other guys will set first. So they play nice because if they mess with somebody today, they could get it worse tomorrow. ... These guys travel place to place around the world together, so they're pretty good about that stuff."While Golden Peak is bustling with activity, the nearby hotels are abuzz, as well.Manor Vail and the Tivoli Lodge are completely transformed by the athlete presence, with Manor Vail turning its board rooms into performance centers and the Tivoli fencing off parcels in its parking garage for tuning.In addition to giving the athletes a good rate on room blocks, Manor Vail plays a bit of a game of Tetris in order to accommodate everybody. "We start working with the teams in May and June to coordinate the room blocks, which will change and shift a lot," said Nichole Whitaker, director of sales and marketing at Manor Vail Lodge. "In October, we completely transform our meeting rooms for ski-tuning space."Among the high-profile tuners on hand at Manor Vail is Lindsey Vonn's tech, whom Whitaker says has a nice area to himself that was formerly a closet. "We basically take every single inch of free space in the property and turn it to ski and tuning areas," Whitaker said. "There's thousands and thousands of skis here right now."When Manor Vail becomes booked, it starts referring teams to the nearby Tivoli Lodge. "It really helps in the offseason," Tivoli general manager Jim Promo said. "Normally, we wouldn't open until Opening Day."
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