VAIL — In the end, it all came down to the details.
Those are the words of Scott Annis of Loveland, who is now a lifetime ski pass holder at Vail.
On Friday, Annis and his son, Nick, learned they were the winners of Vail Resorts’ Epic Race, a challenge to ski or snowboard — and post photos to the Web — at all 26 resorts on the company’s Epic Pass.
Those resorts span America and Europe, across five states and four countries. The challenge began on Nov. 22 and ended Dec. 20; the top 10 finishers of the 132 in France that morning were awarded lifetime Epic Passes.
Scott and Nick Annis’ race began modestly, with Nick finishing up his fall semester at college and Scott strategizing from his office. On the first day of the challenge, they visited Eldora resort in the afternoon after Nick attended school and Scott worked that morning.
“We were in the middle of the pack for most of it,” said Scott Annis.
When Nick finished finals on Dec. 10, they got serious.
On Dec. 11, the Annises completed their U.S. leg at Afton Alps in Minnesota, and flew non-stop to Frankfurt, Germany. From there, they flew to Zurich, Switzerland, drove into Austria and managed to conquer both Lech and Zurs on Dec. 12.
THE FINAL PROBLEM
Most competitors knew all along the race would come down to the final opening day of the 26 mountains, Dec. 20 in Brides-les-Bains, France.
On that day, Epic Racers describe a frantic scene.
“I was at the base station in Brides-les-Bains, other people were in Meribel and Les Menuires, and at 9 a.m. (Vail Resorts) started updating their web page and sending out emails,” said Klaus Vogel, a participant from Germany. “Now we have to solve clues, which bring you to places, and use stickers to make your photos and videos.”
Racers scrambled to solve the clues and find the stickers described in the email. At this point, Josephine Hover had been waiting at the resort’s base station for five hours.
“With the rush of adrenaline, we went straight for the clues and then we came to realize, sadly, that us being first in line at the gondola was not going to help at all,” Hover said.
Meanwhile, down in town, the Annises had just finished having coffee.
“We got up at 6:20 a.m., and looking out our balcony we could see people lining up at the gondola,” Scott Annis said. “It didn’t make a lot of sense to us, so we had breakfast, walked into town, got a cappuccino and waited for the email to come out.”
RACE WON WITH CLUES, SHOES
In the days preceding Dec. 20, the Annises spent their time exploring the town.
“We knew the hot springs, the skate park, all the statues, we knew exactly where all five of the gondolas were in town,” Scott Annis said. “Once that email came ... a clue talked about gondolas, so immediately we were onto the gondolas in town ... and starting at the bottom was an advantage.”
The Annis’ had also read the email closely and knew to include specific stickers in their photos at the clues’ locations, a twist other competitors had overlooked.
“We didn’t read in the second paragraph, which talked about having to get these stickers in your pictures. That was something that was completely new,” Hover said. “Also, I didn’t think they were going to make us run into town ... we were running up and down hills in ski boots and full gear, it was pretty ridiculous.”
Scott Annis said Nick Annis insisted they carry all Scott Annis’ ski gear — spare shoes included — which may have won them the race.
“But at one point, as were were getting off the gondola from Brides and running through Meribel, I’m carrying my skis and poles, I have one boot and Nick has the other one, and I just ran out of steam,” Scott Annis said. “Nick ran ahead, dropped his snowboard at the base of the lift, ran back and grabbed my skis so I could pick up the pace and run again.”
Crediting his son with their victory, Scott Annis said the two of them, especially 19-year-old Nick Annis, will get a lifetime of value out of their lifetime passes.
“I’ve been skiing for 40 years,” Scott Annis said. “So skiing is the one sport I can somewhat keep up with Nick.”