Sunny slopes, deck grilling during final week of spring skiing at Vail |

Sunny slopes, deck grilling during final week of spring skiing at Vail

Katie Coakley
Special to the Daily
From left, Charles, Eva and Lucas Croney-Ferraiuoli, of New York, grill on the decks at Belle's Camp in Blue Sky Basin in Vail. Natural gas grills are free to use, along with stunning views.
Chris Dillmann | |

If you go ...

What: Spring Back to Vail, featuring an Expo Village, Bud Light Bags Tournament finals and the 15th annual World Pond Skimming Championships.

When: Expo open from noon to 4 p.m.; pond skimming begins at 3 p.m.

Where: Golden Peak, Vail Mountain.

Cost: Admission is free, with $3 Bug Light from noon to 1 p.m. and $3 burgers all day.

More information: Visit

It’s hard to believe the ski season is almost over. Though Ullr may bless us with some additional inches, the slopes are showing off their spring facades. Sunshine, corn snow and promises of Closing Day entertainment are in full swing.

But as the end draws nigh, it’s crucial to plan appropriately in order to wring the last bit of joy and merriment from the mountain. From grilling tips for on-mountain feasts to staying safe in the slush, here is your guide to ending the season in style.

Grilling and chilling

When it comes to spring skiing, it’s more about the quality than the quantity. Though the conditions may be questionable, there is one thing that can turn a sketchy day on the mountain into a day for the ages: the on-mountain barbecue. There are three decks with complimentary gas grills of varying sizes and features located on Vail Mountain.

Hawk’s Nest is located by the Blue Sky Basin overlook, past the top of High Noon Express Lift (No. 5). It isn’t huge, but it has great views of Blue Sky Basin and Sun Up Bowl. Henry’s Hut, which is located across from Patrol Headquarters, is situated outside of the warm-up yurt. Again, not huge (you can fit approximately 25 people comfortably), but it also has great views.

The other deck with a grill is in Blue Sky Basin’s Belle’s Camp, located at the culmination of SkyLine Express Lift (No. 37). One of the biggest decks on the mountain, it has more cooking and sitting space, but it’s also exceptionally popular. As a result, arriving early or late is key if you want space on the grills. Remember: All decks close at 4 p.m., so plan your afternoon accordingly.

But what to make? Sure, you could pack some brats and burgers and call it good, but a perfect spring day seems to call for a more refined repast.

“Charcuterie, cheese or crudite type snacks are easy finger food and healthy,” Bridget Heitz wrote on Facebook. Edwards resident Stephanie Drew agreed: “A friend of ours brought foil wrapped Brie and heated it until squishy. Add jam and crackers — wowsers!”

Other suggestions include fajitas and shish kabobs. If you’re looking for something even more fancy, then try this:

“Tyler Hopkins puts shrimp and veggies in tin foil packets,” explained Avon resident Kaylee Porter. “Everything in the packet is raw and cooks on the grill. So good.”

Jeff Kennedy, from Moe’s Original Bar B Que, who created a barbecue for more than 100 people at Big Sky one year, also offered up his professional opinion.

“You gotta have something quick to start,” he explained in an email. “I like a pack of Conecuh sausage (Alabama sausage that grills up fast and good) and a little bowl of pimento cheese (make it loose so it says dippable in the cold).”

Kennedy also suggested doing a lot of the preparation the night before. Marinate pork tenderloin the night before and then double seal it in plastic freezer bags for transport. Bake sweet potatoes, halve them and individually wrap the halves in foil with a pat of butter in each one — then, simply place on the grill.

He even brings dessert: “Individually wrap chocolate chip cookies in wax paper, then foil,” he said. Place them on the grill to heat for a sweet, gooey treat.

For those who want to leave the preparations to the experts, stop by Moe’s Original Bar B Que and ask for the Deck Pack.

“Let us know a little in advance and we’ll have you a party packed up tight and ready to travel in a backpack,” Kennedy said.

Some things to remember: The community grills aren’t huge and there are a lot of people, so sometimes reheating something pre-cooked, such as ribs, makes the most sense. Don’t forget utensils for grilling, eating and drinking. Get to the grills either early or late to try to avoid crowds. Hopkins said the best time is around 2 p.m. because most people are done eating: “plus, they might share delicious leftovers.”

“Be a good participant,” Heitz said. “Sharing is caring with tables and grill space. And don’t be a punk: Be mindful of wind blowing things away. Pack-in, pack-out or find the trashcans. No one wants to pick up after you, especially not Mother Nature.”

Dress for success

Perhaps one of the most beloved traditions of Closing Day is donning unique duds. There are several different avenues to pursue when choosing your costume:

Character study: Super heroes, full-coverage animal suits (pink gorilla, anyone?) and call-outs to current events are always appreciated.

• Blast from the past: Find a brightly colored onesie, rock those rear-entry boots or layer up every neon item you’ve found over the years — it’s all appropriate on Closing Day.

• Less is more: Not that we’re advocating going starkers, but as the weather warms up, fewer layers are necessary. Skiing in T-shirts, tanks and/or shorts is an option, but it’s wise to take a few extra layers in case the weather turns.

Whatever you choose to wear, make sure your sight and movement are unimpaired and you wear plenty of sunscreen on exposed bits.

Stay injury-free

There’s nothing worse than spending the last days of the ski season in the emergency room. Spring snow conditions can cause a variety of injuries, especially knee and shoulder injuries, which are very common. Lauren Rust, a former ski racer and physical therapist at Howard Head Sports Medicine, has seen all sorts of end-of-season injuries, including concussions — she’s one of the few therapists in Howard Head who treats patients with this sort of injury.

She had some tips for avoiding injuries during these last days of on-mountain antics. The time of day that you go out and the position of the sun can make a difference.

“Don’t ski until 10 a.m.,” Rust said. “In the spring, the snow warms up during the day and will freeze at night. That means the snow will be rock hard and icy in the morning. Wait until later in the morning to ski when the snow has softened up.”

Additionally, shadows can change the temperature of the snow, which can be perilous. On catwalks, the colder, slicker snow in the shadows can cause you to speed up, Rust said. Then, as you hit the sunny, sticky snow, it can throw you forward. Landing with an outstretched hand is a classic cause of shoulder injuries, Rust said.

In order to end your season in one piece, don’t be afraid to download, Rust said.

“This is especially true in the afternoon at lower elevations when the snow is so soft it turns to ‘mashed potatoes,’” she said. “When the snow is slushy, it is easier to catch a ski edge and can cause a twisting force on your knees, setting you up for knee injury.”

Whether you’re making plans for a sunny deck on the mountain, preparing your costume or gearing up for some friendly competition, there’s nothing quite like spring skiing. Beaver Creek Resort’s closing day is today and Vail Mountain closes next Sunday so be sure to sneak in at least one more day before you stow the gear for the summer.

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