Spring might take a little longer to get going in the mountains than it does in other parts of the world, but that doesn't stop Vail from celebrating the season in the biggest way possible - with five days of free concerts, on-snow competitions and both apres and after-dark parties.
More than a decade ago Spring Back to Vail was just an idea; something to entice guests to visit Vail for one last hurrah during what was otherwise a slow time in town. Looking at the event now, it's hard to believe that closing weekend in Vail could have ever been considered "slow." Spring Back to Vail is a destination each year for many people who come into town just for the festivities.
This year's Spring Back festivities, part of Vail's 50th anniversary celebration, will include concerts from O.A.R., Sublime with Rome and Jimmy Cliff and the always entertaining World Pond Skimming Championships on Sunday. And, no doubt, it will be music to concertgoers' ears to hear that admission to all concerts and events is free.
"The free concert model has been very successful here at Vail since we introduced it in 2009," said Davy Ratchford, director of marketing and sales at Vail. "It's a great way to give back to our guests and close out a fantastic 50th anniversary season."
According to bassist Benj Gershman, the boundless energy of the audiences in Vail is what has alt-rockers O.A.R. coming back for the band's third performance at a major Vail festival. O.A.R. played at Spring Back to Vail in 2009 and Vail Snow Daze in 2010.
"It's an awesome environment - a perfect environment for O.A.R." Gershman said. "The people in Colorado have huge energy. The crowds are always lively and excited, which always makes it a great show for us."
Formed in 1996, O.A.R. built itself from the ground up into one of the biggest names in rock through word-of-mouth buzz and extensive summer touring. Fresh off the release of their live album and DVD, "Live on Red Rocks," which was recorded last summer at the iconic Colorado venue, the band members have spent time in the studio working on their next major release. The upcoming studio album will be the band's eighth in its nearly 20-year history.
"We have been working on it for a long time," Gershman said. "We hope to have it out before the end of the year."
Sublime with Rome
The band Sublime and its new frontman Rome Ramirez have something in common - both were born in 1988. Up until Ramirez's debut with the band in 2009, the iconic ska/punk band hadn't played a show since the untimely death of their original vocalist, Bradley Nowell, in 1996. Before meeting Ramirez, who grew up to listening to Sublime, surviving members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh had no intention of reforming the band. It wasn't until they came across Ramirez that the idea even seemed plausible.
"Before I met Rome, I'd just never met anybody that could fill Bradley shoes, so to speak," said bassist Eric Wilson in a recent interview. "But he's up there in talent and he's a great musician."
When someone mentions reggae music, Jimmy Cliff probably isn't the first name that comes to mind. Most people are unaware he opened the door for reggae to move outside of Jamaica and into the popular mainstream in the late '60s and early '70s. And, yes, that means that Cliff was on the scene before Bob Marley.
Though Cliff has been making music for more than 40 years and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he's nowhere close to slowing down. His most recent studio album, "Rebirth," won him the 2013 Grammy for Best Reggae Album and was a project that, according to Cliff, represented his own artistic rebirth as well as a rebirth for the world.
"I have been thinking about my career since they year 2000 kicked in. OK, this new time that we're in, what am I going to do with myself? What do I do with the goals I have set? Where do I start? How do I do it?" Cliff said in a recent interview. "And then, in 2009 I was told that I was selected to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2010 I was inducted. That was like, OK, this is a stepping-stone. This is where I start my career all over again."
World Pond Skimming Championships
To the common man, it would not seem reasonable to attempt to cross a large pond of freezing cold water on skis or a snowboard. However, for the brave few who attempt to do just that at the World Pond Skimming Championships each year in Vail, it's not only reasonable, it sounds fun.
"I was drawn to pond skimming after watching old ski videos - Warren Miller comes to mind - and some newer videos involving hotel pools," said Andrew Orr, a winner of the 2012 World Pond Skimming Championships. "I keep coming back every to try and win, but it's also a really fun event to be a part of."
For the competition, folks dress up in costumes - penguins, neon wigs, sequins lycra suits and more - and bomb down the run in an attempt to keep their heads above water on the frigid pond below.
"I have to keep my costume close to chest," Orr said. "It could be the difference maker this year if a lot of people make it across."
A fixture of the closing day tradition in Vail, the World Pond Skimming Championships draws competitors of all ages and abilities - even pro skiers like Jonny Moseley and Chris Anthony. The event is limited to a field of 25 competitors. This year, the grand prize of an Epic Pass for the 2013-2014 season will be awarded to the top male and female competitors.