Big crowds come out for Vail Mountain’s Closing Day
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – The snowboarders at Vail’s World Pond Skimming Championships Sunday couldn’t catch a break – announcer James Deighan wasn’t cutting snowboarders any slack, and they just couldn’t seem to get as far on the pond as the skiers.
Vail Mountain’s Closing Day went out with a bang Sunday. The sun was shining, the weather was warm and it seemed like all of Colorado was in Vail for the festivities.
The World Pond Skimming Championships, which were scheduled on closing day this year rather than the typical day before closing day, attracted thousands of spectators. Deighan said that in the eight-year history of the event, the crowd was the largest ever.
Vail Resorts served up free barbecue brisket and turkey legs as winter sports enthusiasts packed into the Golden Peak ski area to watch skiers and riders in ridiculous costumes attempt to skid across a 100-foot, ice-cold pond.
The pond skimming approach was intense. Some first-time pond skimmers, such as Chris Conrad, who ended up winning the event, felt some nerves come on as they watched other skimmers attempt the feat.
Conrad watched a few people go and said the jump just seemed to launch people so high and so fast that it changed his thinking about his approach.
“I anticipated it,” Conrad said. “I kept my center of gravity.”
It was the first time for Conrad, 19, to try pond skimming. He said it was a spur-of-the-moment decision – something he decided to do in order to end the season a little differently this year.
Conrad, a skier, had an advantage over the snowboarders – not only because Deighan wouldn’t let up on riders for their inability to make it very far across the pond, but because he seemed to have a natural talent for pond skimming.
Skiers and riders were judged for crowd response, costumes, distance traveled and overall effect, but the naturals such as Conrad and Brandon McDonald didn’t need much to get to the top.
McDonald, who said he’s part of the “Interstate 70 cattle herd” – a nickname for those who migrate to the mountains from the Front Range – also tried pond skimming for the first time and made it straight across. He even threw in a switch-back trick as he approached the end of the 100-foot skim, just to rub it in.
McDonald’s motivation was simple – he wanted the two Epic passes awarded to the winner.
“I visualized (the jump),” McDonald, 27, said. “I put myself in the mind frame.”
Pond skimming may have been scheduled to potentially break up some of the party crowds atop Vail Mountain for closing day, but the thousands of people at the event seemed to merely add to the overall population at Vail Mountain’s Closing Day. Partiers who made it to the top of Chair 4 at 4 p.m. – the mountain’s famous closing day party – said it seemed like the crowds up top were as big as ever.
“I’ve been up here 13 years and today was just as busy,” said Darrell Ansted, of Winter Park. “It seemed like there were a lot more costumes this year.”
Ansted, like many skiers and riders, enjoys the last day of the season because it sums up several months of great times on the snow.
“It’s a day of gratitude,” Ansted said. “And being thankful that we got to spend the last day (of the season) in the mountains, skiing.”
For people like Brett Miller, 27, of Wildridge, the day is about the camaraderie, the friendship and, of course, the booze.
“And it’s about making fun of the tourists,” Miller said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org