Braunholtz: Vail’s seasons of change |

Braunholtz: Vail’s seasons of change

Alan Braunholtz
Vail CO, Colorado

The past few years we’ve been lucky to experience ski season starting with a bang ” or a big storm that drops several feet of snow right when we open. One week it is fall and the next full on winter, a quick and painless transition.

This year winter seems to be teasing us a bit. Early snow that melts followed by cold clear skies. This only heightens the joy when Mother Nature finally lets us get what we want.

Transition periods are hard for the animals, too. If you’re small then the fluctuating temperatures from warm days to frigid nights are tough. A blanket of snow maintains a steady temperature and prevents the ground from freezing to large depths where many small animals live in burrows. The boundary layer between the ground and the snow is where the subnivean critters like to live. It’s not too cold, it’s moist and surprisingly easy to move around. A few twitches of the whiskers is enough to collapse the fragile hoar crystals that often form the base layer of unpacked snow.

In spring you can see these tunnels or at least the ones gophers backfilled with dirt from some burrow they were digging. These fractured tubes of earth give a small idea of the activity under the snow around us.

This year’s slower transition to winter sports is testing our patience, too. We bring it on ourselves, though. We’re a restless race always craving what we can’t have. The glossy magazines full of powder shots and cool gear we must buy start playing to this weakness in September. The result: we’re “over” our summer activities when we could still be doing them and jonesing for what isn’t here yet. This is all reversed in the spring when we turn our backs on mountains with great spring skiing to follow the siren song of marginal golf, mountain biking, etc. A little more patience and enjoying what we’ve got would make life a lot easier and cheaper.

This season another transition we’re all going to have to make is embracing public transport and carpooling. Vail Resorts is subsidizing bus passes for employees, the Town of Vail provides a free bus service and has opened up some on-street parking in West Vail. Other employers reward carpooling and provide shuttle buses. Still most of us regard the right to free parking as part of the U.S. Constitution.

A huge boost for the locals would be to allow them to park on the south frontage road before the structures fill up. I’ve never really understood why we make locals pay to fill up a parking structure so our guests ” who mostly wouldn’t mind paying for a convenient spot ” don’t pay but have to schlep all their gear a long distance. Who would you rather have crossing the road: Someone in street shoes who is on his regular schedule or a family in ski boots and a little confused about where to walk?

We adapt to what is on the ground, there’s no such a thing as a bad season. There are good seasons and epic ones and before April you really won’t know which one you’ve had.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a biweekly column for the Daily. Send comments or questions to

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