VAIL - With 13 inches of fresh snow, it was just about impossible to have a bad time on Vail Mountain for Closing Day.
Skiers and riders started out the day with powder turns, powder so nice that many even delayed their partying until later in the day. The day started off cold and the wind never seemed to die down - gusty winds caused the closure of Blue Sky Basin and Chairs 17 and 21 - but the sun eventually came out and the partying promptly began in the early afternoon.
"It's symbolic we got 13 inches of snow on closing day 2013," said Pavlos Katsorchis, of Vail. "We're all out here getting the best pow of the season on the last day."
Katsorchis was spending his last day of the season enjoying that snow before heading to the top of Chair 4 for the annual Closing Day party known as "Chair 4 at 4." He used to attend another annual party on Vail Mountain known as B, B and B, and when the resort put a stop to that party because it got too wild, the locals took all that fun up to Chair 4 at 4 on Closing Day, he said.
"It's a good place for all the locals to relax and unwind and socialize for the last day on the mountain," Katsorchis said. "It's pretty sweet - all the costumes and everything are great to look at. It's good people watching and it's super fun."
Todd German, of Vail, looks forward to the party every year because it's a day to let loose and celebrate a long season, he said.
Vail Mountain began scheduling the World Pond Skimming Championships around the same time as the Chair 4 at 4 party a couple of seasons ago, meaning most skiers and riders have to choose one or the other. Down at pond skimming Sunday, more neon ski suits and other wild costumes - including a gorilla, a cow, a shark and E.T., to name a few - could be seen as the Spring Back to Vail announcers made fun of every snowboarder who attempted to skim the pond.
"You are one pathetic loser," James Deighan, of Highline Sports and Entertainment, could be heard saying to just about every snowboarder, and a few skiers, who came down the run.
Pond skimming is hilarious to watch. A skier or rider, typically dressed in a funny costume, comes barreling down the mountain and over a small jump before attempting to skid across the water and come out dry on the other side. Most do not make it.
Wiley Kaupas, 19, was one of them. He dropped in and went really fast but hit the water and ended up crashing.
"The trick was just to lean back and hang on," he said.
Langely McNeal won the women's division and while she hadn't pond skimmed before, she quickly learned how to do it successfully.
"I think it was absorbing the jump. Go in hot - speed's your friend - and come in with yourknees bent and absorb it and just get on the water as quick as you can," she said. "I race skier cross. In skier cross, you don't want to catch a lot of air cause it's not fast, so we practice absorbing jumps."
McNeal loved the event, mostly because it marked the end of a season in which she has to train and remain so focused for racing.
"My season's over and we have to be so serious all year, so it's fun to have fun, wear a fur bikini top and drink beer and try not to get wet," she said.
Joel Huleatt won the men's division and made it all the way across the pond. Because others had also made it across, Huleatt went for the wow factor during his runs.
"I wanted to splash the crowd a little bit," he said. "(Pond skimming) is the best thing to do in spring. It's a great crowd, you drink some beers and go jump in the water."
His easy going mood was shared by just about everyone on Vail Mountain on Sunday. Not even gusting winds could get people down.
"What an awesome Closing Day," commented Mike Maher on the Vail Daily's Facebook page. "Two years in a row closed out with POW! WOW."
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.