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Best close of season ever

Kaye Ferry

If you decided to lay back, take the weekend off and stay home, you made a big mistake. Without a doubt, this was the best closing weekend of any season in all the years I have been here.

No one is going to say that the snow was the best of any closing day. It always seems “unfair” to close the mountain when there’s an abundance of snow all the way to the bottom. But somehow, this year, it seems less painful to have the lifts close when clearly, the skiing season is over.

Of course, it’s been over for the Front Rangers for about a month now. Once they get a few warm weekends, the golf clubs move to the front of the garage storage space, and the skis move to the back.

But both with and without skis, even they couldn’t resist the lure we presented for closing Saturday. The word spread quickly after last year that the annual World Pond Skimming Championship was not to be missed. And they were right.

Throngs of people crowded the slopes at Golden Peak as a cloudy but balmy afternoon lent itself to the second annual event. In outrageous costumes with a variety of equipment, 125 entrants hurled themselves down the face of Ruder’s Run in an attempt to win the crown and a check for $500. They came in all ages. I think the youngest was 9.

When the final run started, eliminating the top 10, one contestant who thought he had locked the lead only to be superceded by the next on the course started stomping around like a spoiled child. The announcer then gave the classic line of the day from the podium: “There’s no whining in pond skimming!”

The winner performed a crowd-pleasing descent, travelling backward down the hill and doing a 180 in the middle of the pond. Since part of the criteria for winning was crowd response, the volume level alone sent him to the winner’s lifeguard chair.

The grand finale was an attempt by a Vail Resorts’ employee to skim a snow mobile over the length of the pond. As he and the machine sank to the bottom about a third of the way across, the crowd erupted with a cheer for the final time.

So the second annual Toyota World Pond Skimming Championship came to a close as the crowd poured over to Gore Creek Drive – to yet another milestone in Vail’s history of presenting outrageously wonderful free street concerts.

Clarence Clemons of the E Street band was in town for the wrap-up of Spring Back to Vail. The lead-in group wasn’t great, and the big man was more than fashionably late, if there is such a thing. But the night was warm and the crowd didn’t seem to mind as they drank and ate and visited with friends who only seem to come to town when we have a major event. I swear I saw people I thought had left the valley and there they were, glad to have a reason to come in and revel in the energy created by friends and music and the completion of yet another season.

Probably the major faux pas of the day came when Clarence finally took the stage and in a booming voice said “Hellooooo Aspen!” The guy had just flown in from Ireland. With that and the change of altitude, well, anybody can make a mistake.

But there was no mistaking the enthusiasm of the crowd. After few minutes, no one cared if he knew where he was, because we did. The man is truly a genius on the saxophone. More than one person in the crowd was happy he brought along the lanky, black-haired, classically trained beauty on the violin. Once he got started, it seemed he would never stop. But after two hours and 15 minutes of uninterrupted play, the day almost came to an end.

Well, it did end for most of the audience. But I was lucky enough to be invited back stage to meet Clarence. He looks big from the audience. He’s huge in person. His hand devoured mine as he shook it and gently explained how the lack of oxygen made the performance a challenge. He commented on what a great place we live in and I momentarily wondered if he yet knew he was in Vail. We thanked him and made our way out to find a late-night dinner after the end of a glorious day.

Sunday found us at the end of another season, a little blustery and a little snowy but with the sun briefly coming out for a perfect ending. It was perfect for me, at least. I always call it good when the season ends and all of my body parts are still where they were when the lifts started running in November.

GOTTA STAY OPEN: I received a complaint from a Gore Creek Drive merchant that I didn’t query them last Monday as I walked around attempting to assess the effect of Blues Traveller on business. It didn’t seem necessary to ask how business had been to those stores that had closed. It’s hard to make a sale when the lights are off and the doors are locked. Those that stayed open gave responses ranging from good to great to blockbuster.

Do your part: call them and write them.

To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.


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