Annual "BB&B’ is history
That’s the verdict, say officials from the U.S. Forest Service, Vail Resorts and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, who met Monday to review the unsanctioned annual event that has made officials increasingly apprehensive over the past decade.”We’ve been talking about shutting it down for years,” says U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Cal Wettstein. “This year it isn’t going to happen.”And for that matter, neither will there be invitations for a day of drink, drugs and debauchery for 2004, 2005 nor 2006, he adds.Named for two body parts – the parts covered by a bikini – and an alcoholic brew that comes in kegs, BB&B evolved from Vail’s Great Race sometime in the mid-80s. Over time, the mid-April gathering at Minnie’s Deck, high above Lionshead, has become a cherished rite-of-spring costume party marking the end of the ski season.”Out of control’Hardcore participants have been known spend days building elaborate snow forts while others lug large kegs up the hillside or stock their carefully molded ice castles with enough liquor to render an entire army of dressed-up snowboarders and costumed skiers intoxicated.Following the obligatory huge snowball fight and illegal fireworks, the unsanctioned party usually ends mid-afternoon with a chaotic scene of BB&B participants ski-stumbling down the slopes to Lionshead.Though the event has been tolerated by local law-enforcement officers in years past, piles of trash and human waste, underage drinking, illegal drug use – even reports of sexual assaults – have rendered the event “out of control,” says Wettstein.”There is a lot of support from local law-enforcement entities to terminate the thing. There are a lot of citizens who don’t appreciate the misuses of public lands,” says Wettstein. “There are a number of state and federal laws that get broken up there and we want to end it before it ends in serious injuries or death.”A life of its own’The Forest Service has asked Vail Resorts to take the appropriate measures to terminate the tradition, Wettstein says.”As the holder of a special-use permit, they are governed by our rules and regulations,” Wettstein says. “We require them to ensure public safety on our lands.”Bill Jensen, Vail Mountain’s chief operating officer, says the ski company “acknowledges and supports the Forest Service and will honor their request to end the event.”From a personal point of view, Jensen says, the BB&B tradition “has taken on a life of its own” that endangers participants – as well as Vail Resorts staff assigned to keep the party from spilling onto the slopes.The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, the law-enforcement agency in charge of unincorporated areas in the county, has assumed the role of “making sure that everyone gets off the mountain and that there are no medical emergencies and no search and rescues,” says spokeswoman Kim Andree. Following the Forest Service’s decree, Andree says, sheriff’s deputies this year will be patrolling Minnie’s Deck and turn away any potential BB&B revelers.Jensen says Vail Resorts security, along with the Sheriff’s Office, will be on the lookout for a new BB&B to crop up elsewhere on the mountain.”We will take the approach that this event is no longer appropriate anywhere on Vail Mountain,” he says.Mixed reactionsReaction has been mixed in ski shops and restaurants in Vail Village and Lionshead.”I’m not surprised,” said one restaurant owner, who did not want to be identified. “I went up last year to see it – I usually have to work because none of my guys wants to work that day – it took me 35 minutes to find my guys’ fort. It was definitely an interesting scene.”Two Vail Resorts employees, who also asked not to be identified, said they were disappointed.”It sort of seals Vail’s reputation as the no-fun-allowed ski resort,” said one. “That sucks,” said the other.Greg, a local ski shop employee who has attended several BB&Bs, said killing the event will have consequences that are counterproductive to Vail’s aim to become more customer-friendly.”It’s always been our day, the locals’ day to let off steam after being nice to tourists all season long,” he said. “It’s the locals reward.”But Wettstein says he is prepared to “be this week’s bad guy.””I much rather be seen as the party pooper than have to answer to some parents for why their child was found dead in the snow from exposure or alcohol poisoning,” he says. “It is just a matter of time before something bad is going to happen.”Geraldine Haldner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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