Fans come from all over globe to enjoy World Championships
EAGLE COUNTY — Travel does more than anything else to make you realize that Dr. Carl Sagan was correct: We’re riding a small blue speck suspended in a sunbeam, and we’re all riding it together.
Take the fans in town for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Some crossed oceans, some crossed socioeconomic barriers, but they have one thing in common — they’re all glad they’re here.
Take the 150 kids from Stratton Elementary School in Colorado Springs.
The Vail Valley Foundation reached out to teachers across Colorado to create lessons and resources for integrating the Championships into their classrooms.
Jessica Jenkin teaches second grade in Stratton Elementary School. She spotted it and took a shot, an important lesson for Stratton students.
Jenkin came up with, “The Trail to Vail: A Webquest Adventure Across Colorado.”
Jenkin wrote a lesson plan that included some Colorado history, some geography about land forms, regions of Colorado, weather and the history of the Vail Valley.
“The students had the choice of doing a presentation or writing an essay about the material,” Jenkin said.
And then there’s this lesson, perhaps the most important: Sometimes you try something and it doesn’t work out, but sometimes it does, Jenkin said.
Principal Paige Kelsey brought in a sub for a day to cover Jenkin’s class so Jenkin could work on it. The return on investment turned out to be enormous.
They submitted their work and the next thing you know, 150 Stratton Elementary students were in the stands at Vail’s Golden Peak for Tuesday’s Nations Team Event, all sporting red World Championships hats.
The Vail Valley Foundation came up with the idea, and they picked up the tab for the Stratton students to make the trip to Vail.
For many of the Stratton students, there was no other way to get to the mountains. Almost 95 percent of their kids are on free and reduced lunches, which means money is too tight in their families to take trips like this, Kelsey said.
“This is a real treat for these kids,” Kelsey said.
Locally, schools have been letting kids out of classes to attend races. June Creek Elementary School in Edwards and Berry Creek Middle School took entire classes. Eagle Valley High School is making a field trip of it.
Some Avon Elementary School first-graders went to the races on the day they were postponed because of the storm. The kids didn’t seem to mind or even notice much. They ate chocolate chip cookies and played in the snow. Sarah Maesch teaches at Berry Creek Middle School, and her students all brought posters they made.
This year’s policy is a quantum leap from 1989 and 1999, the last two times Vail and Beaver Creek hosted the World Championships.
In 1989, some local schools were closed for the two weeks of the Championships, and a dandy time was had by all.
However, in 1999 local schools weren’t closed at all, and some officials, whom we’ll call snow scrooges, went so far as to declare it an unexcused absence if kids missed class to attend the Championships.
Bah humbug, replied lots and lots of parents. They overruled the principals and sent their kids to the races anyway.
Riedo Rene and a bunch of his buddies are in town from Switzerland.
“The Swiss are the best racers in the world, so it makes sense that they have the best fans in the world,” said Rene during Tuesday’s Nations Team races.
They were hauling a giant cowbell that could only be carried either by Paul Bunyon’s blue ox, Babe, or by young guys whose central nervous system had been dulled slightly by a general anesthetic.
Rene and his posse said they attend as many World Cup races as they possibly can.
“We came a very, very long way,” Rene said. “We were at the last World Championships and had fun. We decided to come to Vail too, and it’s more fun.”
Steve Holdener is the unofficial head of his sister’s official fan club, the Wendy Holdener Fan Flub.
“We travel as often as possible,” Steve said.
This is their first ski trip to the U.S., and so far they’re blowing the top out of the fun meter.
“It’s amazing here,” Steve said.
Americans are warm and welcoming, but there is this one thing he and the Wendy Fan Club are having a tough time getting used to.
“Americans queue up at the ski lifts,” he said grinning from ear to ear. “That seems so wonderfully American. In Europe it’s much different, first-come first-served.”
The Wendy Holdener Fan Club brought 25 spirited souls to Vail and Beaver Creek. They arrived Saturday and made their presence known at Tuesday’s Nations Team Event.
They all come from the same small Swiss town, Unteriberg.
“We’re one big family by the time we leave,” Steve said.
Lauren Arnold, who grew up in Vail, was sporting American flag sunglasses and a Mexican flag.
“I’m a ski racing fan, and today I’m a Sarah Schleper fan,” she said. “We’re all Mexican Americans today.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.