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Registration filling faster than ever as Kids Adventure Games plans return to Vail in 2022

Shaeffer Dodd and Hans Witenburg cross the finish line at the Kids Adventure Games in Vail in 2019. The event will return to Vail in August after three years away.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

VAIL – One of Vail Village’s most lively events, the Kids Adventure Games, will return in 2022 after three years away.

The Kids Adventure Games, during its signature weekend in August every year, was known to transform all corners of Vail Village into an adventure course. The event was founded in Vail in 2010 and went nationwide a few years later.

In 2020, however, the Kids Adventure Games was canceled due to the pandemic and in 2021, when the event returned to Eagle County, it was held at Maloit Park in Minturn rather than its former home in Vail.

Kids take on the Vail Mountain portion of the Kids Adventure Games course in 2019. The event will return to Vail in 2022.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Organizer Helene Mattison said she’s excited to welcome kids to Vail Village who have never participated in the event there before. The Kids Adventure Games makes use of both Vail Village and Vail Mountain testing kids skills in running, biking, climbing, paddling and more.

“Vail is our iconic venue,” Mattison said. “People see it happening all around the village, they see kids in the creek and running around town, and so the conversation flowing around town is all about Kids Adventure Games.”

As a result, Mattison said registration for the Kids Adventure Games is filling faster than usual.

“This year it looks like it will sell out earlier than ever,” Mattison said.

The event has space to allow for hundreds of kids to form teams of two and join, and while it always fills to capacity, this year the event seems to be reaching its capacity much quicker than it normally does, Mattison said.

Kids navigate in a mud run course in Vail in 2017. The mud run was a side challenge associated with the annual Kids Adventure Games.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

By mid-May, organizers said the event was already 80 percent full.

“That usually doesn’t happen,” Mattison said. “We’re seeing huge demand.”

The event will take place August 12-14, with three different adventure courses set up for the kids. The longest course will be set up on Friday and the shortest course will be set up on Sunday.

As of Tuesday, there was only space for eight more teams in the Saturday group of 8-9 and 10-11 year olds. The 10-11 and 12-14 age groups for the long course on Friday had 26 team spots remaining, and the 6-7 and 8-9 age groups for the shortest course on Sunday had 36 team slots remaining as of Tuesday.

Once the event fills, there will likely be skills clinics and other satellite events announced. In 2017, after more than 900 kids participated in the main event, a mud run was announced with attracted another 250 entrants.

Mattison said so far this year, the only side event that has been announced is a skills clinic taking place on Thursday, August 11, from 1-5 p.m.

A group of kids climb a rope wall to reach a slip-and-slide feature at Maloit Park in August. Kids climbed, ran and biked their way to the finish line for the Kids Adventure Games’ return to Eagle County.
John LaConte/jlaconte@vaildaily.com

“We’ve only opened up 100 spots for the skills clinic at this point,” Mattison said. “And we still have about 40 spots left.”

While all involved are excited to return to Vail, Mattison said the Minturn venue also had its advantages and might have a place in the future of the Kids Adventure Games circuit.

“The course at Maloit Park went back to the basics of adventure racing,” Mattison said. “I have plenty of ideas to do a qualifying event, or training race there, to use the area in the future as an expansion event on the Kids Adventure Games.”

20 Reasons to register for the 20th GoPro Mountain Games

The TINCUP Steep Creek Championships at Homestake Creek has long been known as the elite-level kayaking opener to the GoPro Mountain Games.
Vail Valley Foundation/Courtesy photo

The GoPro Mountain Games is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer, June 7-12, with a list of competitions that reads like a “dream-come-true” for outdoor-sports enthusiasts. When the snow melts and summer comes around, there’s a lot of bottled-up energy in the outdoor and mountain sports world. The Mountain Games celebrate the mountain lifestyle we all love and is open to anyone and everyone (and their dogs).

Here’s 20 reasons to register to compete at the 20th anniversary GoPro Mountain Games – with competitions including fly fishing, kayaking, rafting, SUP, climbing, mountain biking, road biking, running, yoga, disc golf, DockDogs and more for athletes of all ages and abilities.

1. Over $130,000 in prize purse money – that’s a lot of cash!

2. Shake off that winter rust – Ski and snowboard legs won’t help you here, get your body summer-ready!

3. Get your Athlete Bag – we see you, signing up just to get the highly-desired Athlete Bag, but we can’t blame you, there’s some awesome gear and swag in there!

4. Take a Hike to support local education nonprofit YouthPower365 – new this year, this is a hike that you can feel extra good about while enjoying a laid-back 5K with stops along the way, an easy way to get in on the action

5. Gain access to the Athlete Lounge at The Hangout in Golden Peak – new this year, The Hangout in Golden Peak is a spot for spectators and athletes alike to … hang out. The Athlete Lounge in The Hangout will provide a space for athletes to rest, recover and prepare for the next competition, and mingle with other athletes

6. New competitions – Consider being a part of the first-ever GoPro Dual Slalom head-to-head bike event at the Minturn Bike Park or the adidas Terrex 20K Anniversary Run; the Minturn Bike Park is an exciting new amenity in the valley worth checking out

7. New divisions for youth – Are you a teenager tired of competing against adults (or an adult tired of being smoked by your youth counterparts)? The Mountain Games is putting a focus on more divisions this year for more age-appropriate competition

8. Claim your bragging rights – your friends and your friends’ friends are competing, sign up to claim bragging rights amongst your crew

9. Just have fun – the Mountain Games sees some of the top mountain athletes compete, but it’s also open to all Joes and Janes of all abilities who are looking to just get outside and have fun

10. Climbing is back – The CELSIUS Citizen Climbing returns to the Mountain Games this year, as well as Youth Climbing and the North American Cup Series for those looking to test out their grip strength and navigation skills

11. Get muddy – the Nature Valley Mud Run makes its return as well and is a family-friendly “competition” where everyone covered head-to-toe in mud is a winner in our book

12. Get your dog in on the action – With Dueling Dogs, Orijen DockDogs Extreme Vertical, Orijen DockDogs Outdoor Big Air and the Orijen DockDogs Speed Retrieve, the Mountain Games offers competition you and your pooch can both enjoy

13. Come for the games, stay for the music – Recharge and celebrate after a long day of competition at the nightly concerts at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater (Twiddle, Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes, Grace Potter, The Wailers and Julian Marley makes for quite the Mountains of Music lineup)

14. Find love – This year, a Colorado couple is celebrating their 10th anniversary after spending their first date at the Mountain Games in 2012. We can’t think of a better way to start a relationship!

15. Keep traditions going, or start new ones – Celebrating 20 years, the Mountain Games are a place where memories are made, and traditions

16. Register to compete, but spectate for free – When you’re not competing in your own event, check out all of the other action happening

17. Have something to look forward to – Summer schedules start with the Mountain Games, and we can’t wait to kick off summer in the Rockies

18. Join the camaraderie – Teamwork makes the dream work at the Mountain Games!

19. Avoid FOMO – Everyone else is doing it, don’t miss out!

20. Spend a weekend (or six days) in Vail – Whether it’s a stay-cation or a vacation, enjoy Vail in all its summer beauty

 

Salomone: Repairing minor damage to your cork handle

Anglers who fish enough inevitably suffer from minor cork damage. Major cork damage like complete breakage, large gaps or crushed sections benefit from professional repair from the rod manufacturer. Vail Valley Anglers or your local fly shop can help get this type of damage fixed correctly. Minor damage from repeated grip, hooks stuck into the cork or the “rod in your teeth” victory photo can all be repaired at home.

Brett Elkman, with permit rod in mouth.
Courtesy photo

With a few common items most households have and a minimal amount of time involved, anglers can handle the job effectively do it yourself (DIY) style. A little prep on day one and the rod will be ready to fish the next day. It’s a quick project that takes minimal time but reaps long-term rewards in the life of your rod. And it always seems like it’s a favorite rod that develops the wear.

The longest amount of time involved with this repair is the drying time. The steps needed to complete the project can be dealt with rather quickly. I’ve found no need to hurry the drying time. The next day has always been acceptable. And the final steps to complete the project on the second day take only a couple of minutes to finish.

Anglers who fish enough inevitably suffer from minor cork damage.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

The supplies needed are minimal. Common wood glue is needed as the binder. A small, flat tool like a popsicle stick or an old kitchen silverware knife are good choices. Sandpaper (320grit), an old emery board or fingernail file are good finishing tools. A large flat file is the best tool for gathering enough cork material quickly to start.

Cork can come from a variety of sources. Be creative. It could be an old fly rod handle you found in the river. A discarded cork bulletin board works well. Even a used cork drink coaster can be used in a pinch.

A large flat file is the best tool for gathering enough cork material quickly to start.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

With the fine side of the flat file wear away some of the cork material onto a paper plate or other disposable flat surface. The cork material should be a fine dust to be the best filler. The coarse side of the file makes large, chunky pieces of cork that don’t fill gaps and holes efficiently. The coarse cork material requires more work in the final steps to clean up and finish. If you are using a piece of cork-like from a bulletin board or drink coaster, lay the file flat and rub the cork material on the file.

Mix an adequate amount of cork dust slowly into some of the wood glue. It’s easy to add more glue if you need to but very hard to take away. Or you end up having to make more cork dust filler. The consistency should be a thin paste. It should be malleable enough to be pushed into crevices in the cork handle.

I sat down to repair a rod for an upcoming trip to the saltwater. I decided to look over some of my other rods and found three that needed some damage control. I repaired all three rods at once with a minimal amount of cork/glue material.

Slowly fill gaps, holes or places where lost filler has fallen out with the cork/wood glue paste. Work it down to fill as much as possible with your flat tool. Overflow repair material can be wiped off the handle with a damp rag or paper towel before the glue sets. Clean the excess glue up while it’s damp and not dry. Dried glue and cork takes a little more time and effort to clean up once it has set.

After filling the damaged areas, I allowed the rods to cure and dry overnight. The next morning I was able to finish the handles with just a few minutes of work on each one. I used 320 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the repaired areas. Excess glue and cork material is easy to remove but so is the cork, so go lightly. A foam sanding block, old emery board or plain sandpaper are all good materials to complete this final step. A helpful hint is to give the rod handle a little spin when sanding.

Following these easy steps extends the life of your rod. Repairing minor damages is easy and rewarding. Take the time to look over your favorite rod. It might just need a little love before the summer comes to prepare for those anglers that need to chew on the cork for a photo.

Michael Salomone moved to the Eagle River valley in 1992. He began guiding fly-fishing professionally in 2002. His freelance writing has been published in magazines and websites including, Southwest Fly Fishing, Fly Rod & Reel, Eastern Fly Fishing, On the Fly, FlyLords, the Pointing Dog Journal, Upland Almanac, the Echo website, Vail Valley Anglers and more. He lives on the bank of the Eagle River with his wife, Lori; two daughters, Emily and Ella; and a brace of yellow Labrador retrievers.

Vail adaptive ski instructor to compete in Ironman World Championships

Shanon and Scott Giffin in Utah for a training camp in preparation for the St. George Ironman on May 7.
Paul Clawson/Courtesy photo

Usually, “Stanford grad turned Navy pilot and current adaptive ski instructor to compete in Ironman World Championships,” is a sufficient lede.

If not, adding “former Leadville 100 race director who’s a published nature writer,” ought to do it.

While describing Leadville’s Scott Giffin, 60, makes for an intriguing narrative in and of itself, it’s not the real story. Shanon, his cancer-surviving wife, is the true heartbeat behind the couple’s participation in the May 7 St. George Ironman Triathlon, host of the first non-Kona Ironman World Championships in history.

“She totally pulled me into this,” he said. “She is the story.”

To explain Scott’s path to his current position as a Vail Resorts adaptive ski instructor and his present challenge — an Ironman — reveals just how true that statement is. Shanon’s journey through four surgeries and the ensuing recovery to reclaim her life has been the impetus behind a story of struggle, survival and true love.

The endurance gene

Even though Scott’s father, a Russian and Soviet history professor at Arizona State in Tempe — where Scott grew up — was a “physical fitness enthusiast” who would exercise up to four hours a day, he didn’t discover his endurance gene until Navy friends showed him triathlon and mountain biking. He did follow in his father’s academic footsteps, however, earning a history degree at Stanford.

“I thought I was going to be an aerospace engineer, and it wasn’t my thing,” he recalled. Fitted with passions for both learning and flying, he decided to go through Aviation Officer Candidate School. After earning his commission, he went to flight school and became a Navy helicopter pilot, which he did for eight years.

At Naval Air Station North Island, Scott tagged along with his comrades — whom he calls “good triathletes” (he humbly considers himself just a mid-pack, age-group guy) — for runs around the San Diego beach. One friend lured him into his first triathlon, the 25th annual SuperFrog in Coronado, and later got him into mountain biking.

“We heard about this crazy race called the Leadville 100,” Scott said.

“I was young and stupid and I was just like ‘OK, let’s do it.’”

10,000 vertical feet and 100 miles later, Scott looked at his friend and exclaimed, “I’m never doing that again!” to which he replied, “I’m never doing that again, either!”

“I was like, ‘OK, great. Well, we figured that out,”’ Scott remembered.

“Of course, all of us who do endurance sports — couple weeks later we were like, ‘Gosh that was kind of fun, I think we should do that again.’”

Scott started searching for the hardest challenges.

“As soon as I got into it, it was always like ‘well what’s the biggest thing I can do. How far can I go?’”

After Operation Desert Storm, Scott moved to Southern California, where he worked for his brother. During that time, he met his wife, who worked for an insurance brokerage. Scott’s brother’s company was a client, and the two offices occasionally did road races together.

“For two years, I kept waiting for him to ask me out because I liked him so much,” Shanon laughed.

After a work dinner, she wrote her number on his to-go box.

“And he finally called me after that.”

Shanon, an Orange County native, was ready for a change, and after multiple Leadville 100 trips, the couple knew where to start looking. Shanon fell in love with the first home they looked at in 2005 and they’ve been on Elm Street in America’s highest city ever since.

“And we love it,” he said.

Ironically, Scott became the race director for the world-famous event he said he’d “never do again.” When he first arrived in Leadville, though, he was volunteering for the race as well as search and rescue when another volunteer, Pat Kaynaroglu, a Lake County school district special education teacher, posed a question to Scott.

“Hey, would you like to do adaptive skiing?” Kaynaroglu asked.

“That sounds interesting, but I don’t know anything about that,” Scott replied.

“Don’t worry about it. You come down here — we’ll train you.”

After participating in Vail Resorts’ in-house training, Scott was hooked. He signed on part-time, working 60 days per season before transitioning to full-time, a post he’s held for 16 years and counting.

“I do it because I love the people I work with, and I love trying to make a difference,” he said.

“And just being able to get out there and show somebody this experience that is more than just skiing — because it’s always more than about skiing.”

His work with injured veterans has been particularly rewarding.

“You have an injured veteran who thought they may never have a chance to be active again and actually go out and do something with their family and you say, ‘No, this is possible, you can do this, and here’s how.’ And you get them out there and then suddenly they’re actually skiing with their family,” he described.

“The difference that makes to them and how emotional they get about that — that’s worth more than anything in the world.”

He’s watched many young children mentees mature into adulthood, too.

“I watch them go from 6 years old to 21 years old,” he said.

“To see them develop not just as skiers — because some of them are non-verbal autistic — but to see them really start to blossom as individuals and human beings and seeing how the skiing is more than skiing and how it impacts them in other ways in their life? That’s priceless.” He pauses.

“I think I’m the lucky one.”

‘She is the story’

As inspiring as Scott’s work is, it won’t be the theme of his self-talk at any point in the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run on May 7. His main mantra will be honoring those closest to him and their battles with cancer.

Last year, Shanon, 49, was battling colon cancer at the same time Scott’s dad was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Scott traveled back and forth between Arizona and UCHealth at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, trying to be with both as much as possible. Shanon told him to stay with his dad, but he persisted.

“You only have so much time with your parents and he had already lost his mom,” Shanon said, referring to Scott’s mom, who also died from cancer. On the day after her first surgery, with her husband at her side, Scott’s dad died.

“It was an impossible choice,” an emotional Shanon conveyed.

“It was kind of a year of cancer and trying to take care of family,” Scott said. Shanon’s father also died from brain cancer about six years ago. Even though she caught her own cancer early, the positive prognosis turned into an arduous battle when she returned to Leadville after that initial March operation.

Having refused narcotics, Shanon was having trouble managing her pain. Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger, a Leadville-based physician, made a rare home visit, immediately sending Shanon to the emergency room. A staple had failed.

“That meant that all that waste was going into my abdominal cavity, so, huge risk of infection,” Shanon described. “I was really lucky; I was in bad shape.”

An ostomy allowed bodily waste to pass through a surgically created stoma on the abdomen into a prosthetic pouch, ensuring the connection could heal and the staples would work. Doctors then did an ileostomy. A fourth and final surgery was the takedown of that, resulting in 1.5 feet of colon removal altogether.

“I felt like every time I started feeling better, they wanted to do another surgery,” the normally active Shanon described of her rollercoaster recovery. During each surgery, which typically meant 10 days in the hospital, Scott never left her side.

“He was always there,” Shanon said of her soft-spoken partner whom she described as always choosing to express his affection through actions more than words.

“He steps up without being asked and goes above and beyond.”

The ordeal brought Shanon to a physical ground zero.

“When I had to go for my pre-op before my first surgery, I looked around me and there were all of these sick people. Older, overweight, on oxygen — everybody looked terribly ill,” she recounted.

“It was so shocking to me. I thought, ‘I don’t belong here. I’m not sick.’ I’d never been through anything like this before. I imagine everyone who gets cancer feels this way. It’s like, ‘I’m not a sick person.’”

After her final hospital stay, her body’s status left her in shock.

“I looked just like all of them, pushing around the I.V. pole and looking wasted away and barely being able to walk,” she remembered. “I think that was the hardest, especially when you’re so used to being physically active. You just keep looking backwards to where you were and asking, ‘how did this happen?’”

She lost significant weight and could barely manage a two-block walk.

“Walking down Elm Street, I felt like my body wasn’t my body anymore,” she said. “I had to start over.”

“She’s really big into big challenges, so she decided that the way she was going to get back to health was to do the biggest thing she could think of,” Scott said.

In the endurance world, few items trump an Ironman, and both Giffins registered for Ironman St. George, which was rewarded the delayed 2021 World Championships after this February’s Kona event was canceled for the second consecutive year because of COVID. The 2022 World Championship will return to Kona in October.

“I was like, ‘What can I do to get my body back and my life back?” Shanon said. The seed was planted after she woke up with an ostomy after that emergency second surgery. She panicked as doctors discussed its potential permanency. “I was adamant,” she said.

“Like, I am not a good candidate for not being put back together. Don’t you guys know I want to be out riding my mountain bike?”

Her surgeon, sensing a mounting frustration, recommended Paul Smith’s book “Dead Man to Iron Man: A Ten Month Journey from Dead Meat to Athlete,” chronicling the 43-year-old’s return from a sudden cancer diagnoses to eventual Ironman performance.

“It made me think, I feel this way right now, I know I can only walk a block or two and I know I have a lot of work to do to get back to where I was, but here is an example of someone who did it,” Shanon said. “So I know I can do it.”

She continued, “Everyone can do an Ironman, you just have to start where you’re at.”

Shanon completed Ironman Texas in 2011, a “life-changing” experience.

“It was transformative — I did something I didn’t know I could do and after it, when big things would come up in my life I’d be like, ‘Oh, I did that Ironman, I can do this,’” she stated.

“My purpose was to get my life back, to feel like my body was my own again, and to have that transformative experience of ‘I really can do this … still.’”

Ten minute walks with their two St. Bernards gradually grew in length. In October, Scott set up her bike trainer and she started with a humble 20-minute spin.

“Before, I’d be like, ‘if I can’t do an hour, it’s not worth it!’” she joked. Eventually, she got up to the 60-minute threshold, but her body’s intestinal healing process periodically forced her to take days off, crushing her spirit slightly in the process.

“Because I had a big goal, I stayed really motivated,” she said of navigating those setbacks. “I have a really big reason for it — to feel like I have my body back and my life back.”

Shanon and Scott at the Cloud City Wheelers Fatty Patty race in Leadville.
Courtesy photo

Strengthening their bond

All of the St. George entrants were given the opportunity to bypass the usual Kona lottery, making them 2021 World Championship participants. While the thought of participating in a world title — Scott unsuccessfully went for the Kona lottery during a span in which he contested Ironmans in California, Austria and Arizona — would have at one point been Scott’s “dream-come-true” moment, this event carries a different sentiment entirely.

“This time it’s mostly about enjoying being alive and being together and then honoring people who aren’t here anymore,” he said.“That’s really the main thing.”

The story, it seems, really is about his bride.

The couple swims together in Salida when schedules allow, and Scott gets on the trainer at 4 a.m. on days when he works in Vail. Both took a week off to train together at a triathlon camp in St. George recently.

“Honestly, it’s not really about finishing the Ironman right now,” Scott admitted.

“It’s more about this journey together and spending the time together. Whatever the outcome — that’s fine.”

Shanon feels the hard hospital visits, and her husband’s loyal presence, have strengthened their bond.

“I think for us, it’s definitely brought us closer. I know there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me,” she said.

“When you actually get to experience someone making the choice of being there for you, it’s not just words. It’s action.”

Sprouting from severe sickness, she’s savored the exponential growth in their love for one another.

“I’m lucky that I realize it now because I think sometimes people don’t figure it out. And I hope we have a lot of years together to live our relationship knowing that we’re this close,” she said.

Scott, who also earned his master’s in Science and Nature Writing from Johns Hopkins and recently published a piece for Humana Obscura — an independent literary magazine focused on nature-related poetry, prose and art by writers from around the globe — would probably appreciate ending a story drawing attention to what he sees as its heartbeat.

“It’s about this time spent together and how important that is,” he conveyed in his gentle, thoughtful tone.

“What I’d hope to get when I said I was going to this Ironman to get my body and my life back…” Shanon said, pausing.

“I feel like I’ve already got that now.”

Scott and Shanon on the Mineral Belt during their first training run after Shanon’s battle with colon cancer.
Shanon Giffin/Courtesy photo

Small Champions close season with fun race and picnic

Small Champions and their Vail Adaptive Ski/Ride School instructors held the end of season fun race and family picnic at Golden Peak on Sunday, April 10.
Courtesy photo

Small Champions held the end of season fun race and family picnic at Golden Peak on Sunday, April 10.

Having not been able to hold this gathering the past two years due to the pandemic, it was meaningful to have all of the Small Champions, their families, friends and instructors together to celebrate an amazing ski season and the accomplishments of these special kids.

Small Champions is a nonprofit sports and recreation program for children in Eagle County with cognitive and physical disabilities. The organization was created to give kids the opportunity to pursue all of their own dreams and goals and instill in them the growth, confidence, belonging, and determination that will set the direction for their entire lives.

Small Champions is a nonprofit sports and recreation program for children in Eagle County with cognitive and physical disabilities.
Courtesy photo

Founded in 1996 with five kids learning to ski, the program has since grown to a year-round operation for over 70 kids, offering a variety of sports in this active community, including horseback riding, swimming, rock-climbing, paddle-boarding, gymnastics and yoga. A child with disabilities participating in a sport they once thought was impossible allows a family to dream big for their child’s potential.

Participants were awarded medals and ribbons to congratulate them for their seasonal triumphs.
Courtesy photo

For the ski/ride program, each kid is paired with a trained instructor from the Vail Adaptive Ski/Ride School throughout the season, creating a trustworthy rapport. Friendships are formed and self-esteem is built among the kids. “It really isn’t just about learning to ski/ride as it is about the socialization, the feeling of committing to something and the achievement,” Executive Director John Weiss explained.

The race day is significant because the social aspect can have momentous results. “My students come back to school and talk about their fun weekend skiing with their coaches and friends. As a special education teacher, I am grateful for the dedication that Small Champions has for our community, families, and our students with special needs,” one Eagle County teacher commented.

For the ski/ride program, each kid is paired with a trained instructor from the Vail Adaptive Ski/Ride School throughout the season.
Courtesy photo

Each day on the hill is impactful, but on the last day, it’s especially profound. Family and friends gather to cheer on their Small Champions alongside instructors as they make their way through the racecourse next to the Elvis Bahn in Golden Peak. They were awarded medals and ribbons to congratulate them for their seasonal triumphs.

Afterward, a potluck featuring BBQ from Moe’s was held in the Children’s Center as an opportunity for the kids, their families and friends to party and convene with this unique network of support. Over the years, it has become a vital tradition.

To learn more, visit website SmallChampions.org or contact John Weiss or Kenzie Grant @smallchampions@gmail.com 970-376-5680.

Salomone: Lees Ferry here we come

Kelly Bobye with a rainbow trout at Lees Ferry.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

The anticipation has been building for months. Finally the date has arrived. Planning a fly-fishing trip outside of your regular fishing destinations challenges you to learn about a new watershed, different fish and specific locations.

Lees Ferry, Arizona here we come.

The scenery at Lees Ferry is truly world class. If you have never experienced the desert, it holds a beauty not found anywhere else. Combine breathtaking views with spectacular fly-fishing all squeezed in between the towering desert varnish-covered walls, and it’s easy to let yourself go for a while.

Terry and Wendy Gunn pioneered the fly-fishing experience found at Lees Ferry. Owners of Cliff Dwellers Lodge and Lees Ferry Anglers, the Gunns are known around the world for the top-shelf adventures anglers have encountered here for years. And it leaves you wanting to come back.

A rainbow trout at Lees Ferry.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Gear for the trip includes 5wt and 6wt rods with floating lines for the 5wt and sinking lines for fishing streamers on the 6wt. Most freshwater reels can handle the workload found in the Lees Ferry rainbows. However, there are some larger class brown trout lurking in the depths where electroshocking efforts couldn’t reach.

There has been quite a bit of debate around Lees Ferry and the culling of brown trout from the river. Electroshocking efforts were employed to remove the fish feared to feed on endangered species that shared the water. Anglers are now the tool for managing brown trout numbers.

The nymph fishing requires leaders that taper down to 6X just to be able to thread the end through the eye of the zebra midges. The water is very clear making fluorocarbon an excellent choice for subsurface fly-fishing. Most of the midge nymphs will be size 18 or smaller. And the flies that imitate them come in a variety of colors from inconspicuous black and dark olive to gaudy silver and flashy wire.

Scuds in olive, orange and rust color work well when the call for electricity increases. Glen Canyon Dam will open gates to generate power daily. The resulting rise in the water washes dead scuds abandoned on gravel bars when the water level was lowered the day before after the need for power diminished. It’s a predictable cycle with the release rates and times well published for anglers to use.

Spring is the spawning season for trout water. Keep your eyes open for spawning activity in deeper water. The daily rise and fall of the water level has the rainbow trout spawning in water deeper than the shallow riffles where they are normally found. Anglers who target the downstream water from spawning fish with egg flies will pick up other pre or post-spawn fish and eager brown trout.

The avocado pie at Cliff Dwellers.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

April is an unpredictable weather month. Anything from gale gusting winds to scorching sun-drenched days and frigid nights can be felt. Packing your gear accordingly can be difficult when saving weight. Fleece, down and wind blocking layers are key for comfort. Sunscreen, sunglasses and SPF shirts cover the heat.

Waders are a necessity at all times. The water temperature hovers around 46 degrees year-round. There will be no wet wading in Lees Ferry in April. Wading boots should be comfortable to withstand a full day on your feet.

We will be camping for two nights, which requires us to pack intelligently. Tents, pads and sleeping bags look heavy but really just take up space. Angling gear and minimal cookware round out some necessities. The plan is to cook fish riverside under the stars with a bright moon illuminating the canyon walls in the magical dance man has always admired. Petroglyph wall art adorns the canyon in multiple locations, evidence of the attraction this area has always possessed.

There are designated camping areas along the river with composting toilets. It’s a first come first served kind of camping. Fire rings are in the campgrounds but there is no firewood gathering in Glen Canyon. Wood has to be packed in with your camping and fishing gear.

Lees Ferry offers good food, great angling and magnificent views.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Three days on the river floating and fishing. Two nights camping riverside. Between the views, the food and the angling, it’s more than just a fishing trip.

It’s Lees Ferry.

The picturesque views at Lees Ferry can grant perspective to any angler.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Janssen hits snow on Appalachian Trail

Charlie Janssen shows the snow he encountered on day 71 of his Triple Crown assault.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

An Eagle Valley teacher and coach attempting to become the 13th person to complete the calendar year Triple Crown — hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in one year — won’t be able to add the distinction of being just the third person ever to do all as through-hikes.

On April 17, Charlie Janssen announced to his followers on social media that 71 days into his first leg on the AT, waist-deep snow on trail has forced him to press pause and head for the PCT.

Janssen at the top of Mt. Moosilauke on what would be his last day of hiking, for now, on the Appalachian Trail.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

“Man, this is a hard video to make,” he said in a video on his post. Janssen logged 1,803.6 of the 2,194.2 miles making up the AT, an average of 25.4 miles per day.

“But I’ve gotten to the point where the snow is quite literally impassable,” he continued.

He left Kinsman Notch in New Hampshire on his 72nd day, traveling back to Kansas City to switch gear and rest on day 73. He left for the Mexican border the next day and started the PCT near Campo, California that evening.

“I really wanted to seige trail all the way through and I think that the two trails that I haven’t done yet, I can do that,” Janssen said in the video.

While Janssen predicted he would face some snow to start the PCT as well, the progress he was making on the AT was untenable. He claimed that before shooting his video, he had managed just a single mile in two hours of hiking.

“I knew that this might happen,” he said of the agenda shift.

“It really sucks — making it so far and going through so much to get to this point. But, it’s alright.”

The cross-country and track coach has been solo — for the most part— in crossing 10 of the AT’s 12 states. His rare meetups have been meaningful. John Papadopoulos and Ryan Boeke, two former Eagle Valley athletes currently studying at the University of Delaware and Castleton College, respectively, brought pizza and drinks and allowed Janssen to “live the illustrious college dorm life again, if even for a night.”

“Trail magic is huge and being able to see a familiar face and socially interact when you may not see another person for days on end is even bigger,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Of course, the social studies teacher also gave a shout-out to his wife, Allee, whose “incredible logistics in smooth trail transition (rental car, flights, help with local permits, etc.),” proved invaluable in keeping the mission on course. Janssen is 82.2% complete with the AT and 23.76% complete with the cumulative Triple Crown mileage. His original goal was to pass through Colorado on his final leg sometime around Halloween, ending at the Mexico border some six weeks later.

“It was a good 71-day run. Let’s get ready for sunshiny California,” Janssen said in signing off on his update.

“I guess I have to do some legwork on the local permits, though, because that’s going to be a pain in the ass as well.”

To join Charlie Janssen on his triple crown assault, visit LinktTree/kansasexpress.

Charlie Janssen is an Eagle Valley social studies teacher and distance running coach who embarked on a calendar year quest to hike the Triple Crown — the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail — starting in February.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

The future is looking bright for young Silverthorne shredder Everest Kubick

Everest Kubick, left, and Team Summit coach Richard Bennett, right, pose for a photo after Everest was awarded a bronze medal for his performance in the halfpipe at the USA Snowboard and Freeski Association National Championships at Copper Mountain Resort on April 3. Everest is a rising star in the sport and has big aspirations for himself as he continues to grow.
Andrea Kubick/Courtesy photo

FRISCO — Aspiring Olympians start their journey young. Take Shaun White for example. His well-documented Olympic journey began with grainy videos showing him winning local competitions long before anyone knew his name.

One day, his practices became more serious. Somewhere along the way, his dreams began to morph from wanting to become a professional snowboarder to wanting to make it to the Olympics. Eventually, he set his eyes on an Olympic medal, then multiple gold ones.

Silverthorne resident Everest Kubick, 7, has some of those same dreams despite his young age. Even though he’s only been snowboarding for five years, Everest’s dreams are backed by strong supporting evidence.

The young rider recently placed third in the 7- to 8-year-old boys age division of the snowboard halfpipe competition at the USA Snowboard and Freeski Association National Championships at Copper Mountain Resort on April 3. He recorded a top run score of 67.50. Everest also placed 11th in the slopestyle competition while representing his three sponsors: Never Summer Industries, Phunkshun Wear and Airblaster.

Everest couldn’t have been more pleased with his performance at nationals, as shown by his ear-to-ear grin while he recalled the experience with the Summit Daily News.

“Honestly, Everest exceeded all of our coaches’ expectations,” said Everest’s Team Summit coach Richard Bennett. “He was going higher than I have ever seen him go in practice, and he did a couple of alley oops right at the lip. That kid was just on fire, and it showed in his riding. He added the style in freestyle.”

Everest has been competing since last year and has won Rocky Mountain Series regional competitions, but placing third in the halfpipe at nationals was his biggest feat yet.

Silverthorne resident Everest Kubick gets some major air off of a slopestyle jump while training for an upcoming competition. Everest recently placed third in the boys 7- to 8-year-olds snowboard halfpipe competition at the USA Snowboard and Freeski Association National Championships at Copper Mountain Resort on April 3.
Andrea Kubick/Courtesy photo

What makes the accomplishment even more impressive is the fact that he only trains with Bennett and his Team Summit teammates once a week instead of three times a week, like his other teammates do, since he is so young.

Everest stands out on the slopes not because of his age but because of his genuine love and passion for the sport.

“At lunch, Everest is that kid that after 10 minutes asks if we can go snowboard,” Bennett said. “He’s the one kid that is always itching to go ride even if he is not riding at his top shape. He just wants to go snowboard.”

Bennett also expressed that Everest has an amazing ability to take feedback and immediately work to implement it. When he receives criticism about a run, he immediately tweaks his approach by the next time he cruises down the mountain, Bennett said.

Decked out in camouflage long johns and snow pants after a school-sponsored ski day, Everest articulated his love for the sport while he explained his ultimate dream for his boarding career.

“I like having fun and learning new things,” Everest said. “I learned how to do a 360 this season, which was hard at first, but then it was easy once I got it. Someday I want to be a pro snowboarder.”

Silverthorne resident Everest Kubick poses with the bronze medal he won in the boy's 7-8-year-old snowboard halfpipe competition at the USA Snowboard and Freeski Association National Championships at Copper Mountain Resort on April 3. Everest trains with Richard Bennett at Team Summit and is a rising star on the slopes.
Andrea Kubick/Courtesy photo

Everest’s biggest inspirations in the sport include a strong group of Olympians including White, Canada’s Mark McMorris, Silverthorne’s Red Gerard and Colorado’s Chris Corning, all of whom were once in the same shoes as him and longing to make their mark on the snowboarding world.

With plenty of time to continue to grow as a snowboarder, Everest’s future could not be brighter. He will continue to train with Bennett for at least the next three to four years before he has the opportunity to break onto the teenage snowboard circuit.

Bennett hopes Summit County gets to hear more of Everest’s name as he continues to fly high while waiting for his breakout moment.

Vail Mountain closes west side lifts as season approaches final weeks

While the Cascade Lift is no longer downloading guests to the Grand Hyatt in Vail, skiers are welcome to negotiate the mostly melted path for as long as on-snow egress will allow. To reach the hotel, however, walking is required.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Vail Mountain is no longer accessible from Cascade Village this season, one of several operation changes that went into effect on Monday.

With two weeks remaining in the season as of Sunday, conditions are holding up well on most parts of the mountain. There’s a few brown patches starting to show in the usual places in Lionshead, but on-snow egress remains a viable option.

Vail Mountain was reporting a 63-inch mid mountain base as of Monday.

A view from Vail Mountain on Monday shows Pride Express. The lift closed for the 2021-22 season following the completion of the ski day on Sunday.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Much of the closures occurred on the west side of the mountain, which is lower in elevation than the east side of Vail Mountain.

Closures include the Cascade Lift (No. 20), Pride Express (No. 26) the Game Creek Express (No. 7) and the Gopher Hill lift (No. 12) in Golden Peak.

Last week, lift access to Blue Sky Basin, Inner and Outer Mongolia Bowls, Siberia Bowl and China Bowl was shut down for the season. Beaver Creek closed on Sunday.

Vail Mountain is scheduled to remain open through the close of the ski day on Sunday, May 1.

Salomone: One of each

Me with a springtime rainbow trout.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

April is an odd month in the Colorado high country. The recent snowstorm that locked up the valley, shut schools and wreaked havoc on Interstate 70 is evidence of that fact. Anglers dealing with weather-influenced fishing conditions would be in a good position if they carried one fly from each major category during the month of April. One of each is a good way to stock your fly box for a productive spring day.

The major fly groups that anglers need to be aware of consist of nymphs, emergers, dry flies, streamers, performance flies and wild cards. Wild cards are those fringe flies some anglers detest and others praise. Flies like San Juan worms, squirmy wormies and otter eggs. Performance flies are the tungsten beaded, jig hooked Euro-nymph flies that have a thin silhouette, no hackle and get down deep quickly.

Starting from the beginning of the bug life cycle, anglers will want to imitate the larva stage. Flies are small, size 18 is average, and thin-bodied. As bugs progress through the life cycle and develop into pupae their bodies become distended with a larger than normal head and body compared to the thin silhouette of the larva stage.

Flies for the larva and pupa stages are nondescript flies in small sizes. Both beadhead and unweighted nymphs are good to carry. The zebra midge is the best nymph to carry for success. In different sizes, the zebra midge represents the larva stage and pupae stage depending on size. A wider, heavier-bodied zebra midge is a great pupae imitation for when nymphs are getting active and starting to migrate toward the surface.

Emergers provide subsurface action for visible rises. Trout keying in on emergers will feed near the surface but will use their swimming strength to pick off vulnerable insects. A small RS-2 nymph is a great emerger pattern during the month of April. Water is warming, bugs are active and fish are feeding, which makes the RS-2 such a key fly for success.

Pick a fly and approach that exploits the type of water you encounter.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

When the trout do convert to surface eats, the dry fly to reach for is an Adams. The Adams can imitate adult BWOs as well as adult midges. Try fishing one size larger than the hatch is producing. This leaves a larger silhouette on the surface, which is easier to track and commit to for feeding trout. The larger size also gives anglers an advantageous look at their fly. This helps with tracking your fly visibly.

Streamers work well in the dirty water. Drab, natural tones present a broad shape in the murky currents. Target pour-overs, stair steps and frothy water where aggressive browns capitalize on bait fish caught up in the tumultuous water. Sculpins and small trout are the targets opportunistic trout devour. A black, Mini-Dungeon fly swims with lifelike attraction, sinks quickly and projects a well-defined silhouette that trout will hammer.

The Wild Card foods like worms and eggs tumble along the bottom of the river. As food sources with no locomotion trout have time to eat. And these are big protein food sources that rejuvenate winter-thinned trout. A San Juan worm in pink or tan is the choice for Wild Card flies. Worms bleach out in the water and turn pale in color. A red worm that has been in the water changes to pale pink. And a worm in the water longer will turn very pale making a tan San Juan Worm a successful choice.

Performance flies are the new rage. Euro-nymphing with heavy, jig hook flies that ride along the river bottom sit in the face of stationary fish and force trout to eat. These flies are barbless so maintaining tension is critical during the fight. But the positive attributes outweigh the negative. And the result is an increase in angling success. The overwhelming choice in April would be with the Perdigon fly in olive.

Nymph, emerger, dry fly or wild card choosing one fly from each category that you have confidence in can make or break your April angling adventures. The weather and water are going to present a wide variety of fishing conditions. Pick a fly and approach that exploits the type of water you encounter. Whether it is streamers in the froth, worms tumbling along the bottom or emergers on top, one of each for the month of April will get you through.