VAIL — Skiers and snowboarders in town for the mountain’s closing weekend have plenty of open terrain to enjoy, and a large base to cover it.
Boasting a more-than-5-foot base at mid-mountain, Vail kicked off closing weekend on Friday with more than 4,800 acres still open and skiable, and guests from all over the world enjoying it.
Visiting from Estonia, Sirje Misgen and Kati Numa said they were surprised to find the mountain still open this late in April.
“We drove past Monarch, Telluride and Sunlight getting here, they were all closed,” Misgen said. “It’s very nice skiing here at Vail, I just need new knees.”
Charlie Edwards, of Denver, said he has skied Vail every single season since the resort opened in 1962, and he was happy to see he was still able to enjoy a run through Tea Cup Bowl this late in April.
“This is definitely better than average,” he said from the bottom of Red Zinger on Friday.
Visiting from Mexico City, Victoria Fernandez, 14, said her and her friends were loving the conditions on Chair 4.
“We’ve been doing laps on Cappuccino, Swingsville and Ramshorn,” she said.
Fernandez was joined by Lucia Gonzalez, 14, Laura Checa, 13, and Vivi Fernandez, 12.
“We also have other friends with us but they didn’t come out today,” Fernandez said. “That’s why we love Chair 4 so much this year, because we can all get on it and do fast laps.”
For many on the mountain Friday, fast laps just weren’t an option with how sticky the snow can get this time of year.
Sacha Gros, with Vista Bahn Ski Rentals, said he had an explosion of activity in the middle of the day, with guests coming in for a quick wax.
“That’s uncommon, to have 30 or 40 people coming in in the middle of the day like that,” he said. “We’re running a deal for $10. We’ll get you waxed quickly and back on the mountain. People were really taking advantage of it. But in these conditions, not having the right wax can ruin your day out there.”
Last year, Vail’s closing weekend also boasted a good base, thanks to late-season snowfall. The 2013 season ended on a powder day, with Vail reporting 13 inches of fresh snow on Closing Day.
This year, that will probably not be the case, says Travis Booth with the National Weather Service, but we may have a little bit of the fresh stuff on the ground for Sunday morning.
“We have a weak weather system that will slowly move across the area that will bring a mix of rain and snow showers throughout the weekend,” Booth said. “At this point we’re not really expecting anything heavy, just light accumulations of rain and snow.”
However, “I would definitely expect the sun to poke out at times, especially for Sunday,” Booth said.
Jeff Goldsmith, of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., came out for Vail’s closing weekend last season, and he said the good conditions then brought him back this year.
“On Monday I did laps in Game Creek, I was still getting fresh tracks in Ouzo Glade at 11:30 a.m.,” Goldsmith said. “Last year was the first year we stayed until the Monday after close, what a difference. You get to stay and party, be with everybody, listen to some music, it’s a good way to celebrate the season.”
Vail Resorts is happy to hear guests like Goldsmith are celebrating the season, but the mountain and the Forest Service are putting an extra emphasis on safety and intoxicated skiing this year.
On Friday, security was checking bags of guests loading the mountain from the base areas and not allowing guests up with large amounts of alcohol. The security officers said they would be there throughout the weekend.
Marijuana on the mountain is also an issue this season, in light of recent changes to state law. Despite the fact that the substance is now legal to use in the privacy of one’s home in Colorado, that doesn’t make it legal on the mountain.
“Consumption of marijuana is prohibited in public places and possession is illegal on federal lands, including Vail Mountain,” said Dave Neely, district ranger on the Eagle/Holy Cross District of the White River National Forest. “We will continue to work with Vail Resorts and local law enforcement to uphold this, and encourage people to enjoy their public lands and get down the mountain safely at the end of the day.”
Vail Mountain also wanted to remind guests using any ski lift or trail while impaired by alcohol or controlled substances such as marijuana is prohibited under the Colorado Ski Safety Act. Guests are also not permitted to ride lifts, ski or snowboard on Vail Mountain with open containers or exposed quantities of alcohol, coolers, suitcase-like carriers, barbecues or similar items. One daypack per person will be permitted on Closing Day, provided the bag fits in a five-gallon container. Bags that do not meet the requirement are subject to search and will only be allowed if they contain no alcohol or controlled substances.