Reflecting on the 2020 Burton US Open, one year later
It was the last hurrah for many as threats of the coronavirus grew more ominous throughout the United States. The last big event before we plunged deep into uncertainty and a Netflix queue.
The Burton US Open always takes place the last weekend of February, from Feb. 24-29 last year. I still hadn’t been living in the Vail Valley for more than a year, so this was my first one. And I’m glad it was the last festival before the pandemic.
This pandemic hasn’t been easy for any of us, but it really hasn’t been easy for people like me, whose work and play revolves around events. The absence or modification of many of the valley’s favorites has meant a lot of pivoting and getting creative for those of us who do those things. But the last normal concert I went to was Big Wild? I mean, come on. That show was big and it was wild and it was really fun.
It doesn’t feel like that was just a year ago. It feels like five years ago. I’ve only lived in the valley now for a year and 8 months but Burton feels like it happened when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Since then, I found love, learned how to actually snowboard, and embraced the unknown. I’ve changed dramatically from the girl that I was: drinking beers in the VIP tent at 3 p.m. while I’m also working. Rejecting connections that I knew, even in their infant stages, would upset that just-out-of-college lifestyle. I had nothing to worry about, no one depending on me, nobody else to consider except for myself and my job. I was finally free from school and authority figures telling me what was a good decision and what was a bad one. So, I continued focusing on myself. For the first time in a long time, I genuinely enjoyed my life as a single girl. I had recently turned 23.
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Then the pandemic happened. I wanted my lifestyle to continue. I wanted it to be physically possible to be that carefree single girl I was just two weeks ago. On the inside, I’ve always been a grandma — crafting, force-feeding my loved ones and getting excited about sales are personality traits — but now I started to feel like one again, like I did when I was in high school, and when I was going through a hard breakup in college.
My soul was getting older. I was reflecting on myself, and my life. That was an unfamiliar feeling for me, and it was terrifying.
Before the pandemic, my life was awesome. Aside from events in the Vail Valley, I frequently went to Denver for concerts, went to bars with my friends and my only focus was having fun. But at the same time, my life was honestly quite devoid of deeper social connections. I loved my friends and still do, but it’s not that kind of bond. You know the kind I’m talking about.
So when the pandemic took away even those bonds, I was quite isolated. On top of that, my family dog, who was my emotional rock throughout my difficult teen years, passed away just two weeks after the mountains closed.
I like to think that my dog’s dying act was to bring me and my now boyfriend together. I reached out to him, just a friend at the time, for support. We haven’t stopped talking since. It required a huge amount of courage for me to let him into my heart, and he’s shown me love I never thought was possible.
When I was at the Big Wild concert, when I was living it up in the VIP tent, when I was watching riders land unfathomable tricks, I never thought that the peak of fun for me, a year later, would be laying in bed, watching TV and eating Cheetos with my love and his dog.
The last time that my old self thrived was during the Burton US Open. And I’m thankful for that time as I look back on it this weekend, though I don’t miss it much. When Burton returns in 2022, I’ll be a different person once again. And I’m okay with that.