A blizzardy good-bye
It snowed; it was windy; it was icy; it was 30 degrees; it was crusty; it was sunny; it was slushy; it snowed again.
“One thing I can say about the last day of the season in Vail – you can expect anything,” said Meredith Ringler-White, a skier from Edwards who has been skiing Vail’s last day of the season for 20 years.
Although it was far different from Beaver Creek’s last day of the season April 11 – there were about 10 inches of new snow, it was sunny and in the 50s at the Beav – Vail’s hard-core skiers didn’t let the mountain down when it closed for the season Sunday at 4 p.m.
“You have to come out with your friends for the last day and celebrate spring,” said Stacy Leeman, 34, of Edwards, who arrived at noon with 15 friends and was planning to have a picnic – weather permitting.
“Now I’m ready to get on my bike and ride as much as possible,” she said.
Despite the wind and the snow, Muppa Manskkala, 28, of Vail, came skiing with a kilt and a beacon.
“I’m warm enough – I’m from Finland,” said Manskkala, who was also skiing Sunday with a group of friends, all in costumes.
“You can’t be too safe,” joked Manskkala about the beacon tied around his waist.
Others were a little disappointed with the weather and snow conditions.
“It’s icy, and for April, it sucks,” said Rory Walter, 23, who came from Boulder to ride Vail on its last day.
“It’s a little icy, but it’s better than nothing,” said Kristi Carlton, 19, of Boulder, who also expected warmer temperatures and didn’t bring a jacket.
Despite high winds and challenging snow conditions, Vail offered skiers and snowboarders about 65 percent of its terrain on Sunday, said ski patroller Jason Kerkhove. Blue Sky Basin was closed until noon because of 45 mph winds, but then it opened both Pete’s Lift and the Skyline Express -though conditions there were variable as in the rest of the mountain with a thick crust of snow that in some parts turned into ice and then into 1 inch of powder.
Game Creek, Sun Down and Siberia bowls were closed because of the snow conditions there.
“It’s like skiing on the moon,” said Kerkhove, who recommended sticking to the groomed runs. “It was really warm yesterday and then it got cold and it hasn’t warmed up. It looks like the middle of the winter.”
Angie Sumrell came skiing with a cowboy straw hat and her ski hat on.
“I’m wearing the ski hat until I get to the deck,” said Sumrell, 35, of Edwards, who came with friends and was planning to have a picnic at Windows deck. “I’ll stay till the end of the day. I’m warm.”
Although some of the Back Bowls were open, not many ventured there Sunday. From the chairlift, the snow that melted Saturday had settled into tiny crunchy dunes and a dust of new snow covered the ridges between them.
“It’s time for summer sports,” Justin Barrett, a lift attendant at Blue Sky Basin, said as he and others shut down the area after 3 p.m..
To Meg Ellison, 26, of Vail, this season was better than her last one also as a lift attendant in Vail.
“I was already used to the job and knew better what to do,” she said.
Ellison said she and most of the lift attendants who worked with her are coming back next year.
“I got to ski seven days a week,” Barrett explained.
To ski patroller Dave Zrubek, who works in the mountain year-round, this was a good season.
“It didn’t snow as much as last season, but it was good,” said Zrubek, who soon will start preparing the mountain for the summer.
Despite the conditions, skiers and snowbaorders stick around until 4 p.m. when hundreds gathered at the top of chair 4 to say the official good-bye to the ski season with friends, champagne, beer and snowballs.
After all, most of them had been skiing the crusty snow carrying around backpacks with food and drinks -some even brought portable kegs in their backpacks in the style of a pregnant camelback bag.
“It’s much better than I anticipated,” Ringler-White said at the end of the ski day. “At least the sun came out -for a while. It’s neither a powder day nor a bikini day, but any day skiing is wonderful.”
And the sun came out for the last toast of the ski season.
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.