Finally! Time to ski at Vail, Beaver Creek
EAGLE COUNTY — Opening Day 2016 was spread across two local mountains for double the fun.
Both Vail and Beaver Creek started uploading skiers and snowboarders at 9 a.m. on Friday for the first turns of the season; Vail actually started at about 8:40 a.m. to get a jump on things.
“It was worth the wait,” said first-chair rider Cesar Hermosillo, who claimed his sixth consecutive first chair of the season at Vail on Friday.
Hermosillo was referring to both the chair and the season itself, which started one week later than expected due to the warm temperatures our area saw during the first half of November. To get on that first chair, Hermosillo showed up late Thursday evening and camped out with some friends.
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“It was just a great vibe, everyone from Vail was really nice and supportive, as usual,” Hermosillo said. “The management at Vail is always stoked to see us going all out for first chair.”
Hermosillo was also on the first chair of the season at Keystone this year.
For the Thanksgiving camp-out session, Red Maple Catering out of Eagle donated a selection of food to the first-chair campers. Hermosillo was joined by locals Jenn Natbony, Taylor Parris and Tyler Moore.
“We were there eating mashed potatoes and butternut squash on Thanksgiving, just happy to be there and enjoying each other’s company,” Hermosillo said. “The Thanksgiving night scene will make this year’s first chair a memorable one, for sure.”
Hermosillo, 32, grew up in Eagle County and has been skiing Vail for as long as he can remember. He said he can’t recall a season opener as unique as this one, where the resort opened the day after Thanksgiving and on the same day as Beaver Creek.
At Beaver Creek, Fred “First Chair” Hammond earned his title again this year on the Centennial lift. The Eagle County local has been chasing first chair at Beaver Creek for 22 years.
“There’s nothing like it,” he said.
Lots of sun and hardpack snow would best sum up the conditions at the local mountains; for Beaver Creek skier Kevin Blackham, it was just what the doctor ordered.
“They had the snow well made on Gold Dust,” he said. “I made a lot of turns and kept it easy; with the sunshine and new snow it was fun.”
Beaver Creek reported 8 inches of new snow Thursday as the resort readied for Friday skiers. With no World Cup ski race taking place there this year, the scene might be a little different — during the next week — than many locals and visitors are used to. But some seemed more disappointed than others.
“I’ll have more of the mountain to myself this year,” Hammond said.
Beaver Creek will still go full steam ahead with the EverBank America’s Winter Opening Dec. 1 through 3 with concerts, kettle curling, sponsor expos, on-site giveaways, restaurant deals, fireworks and the all-new Beers of Prey beer tasting event at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
“We’ll be having a good time, celebrating the season, and giving away some great prizes, including GoPro cameras and more,” said Dave Dressman, Vice President of Sponsorship for the Vail Valley Foundation. “It’s going to be a fun and very entertaining weekend in Beaver Creek.”
During the Winter Opening, the Winter Wondergrass All-Stars play Friday afternoon in the village, and Town Cavalry, followed by the Williams Brothers Band, play Saturday afternoon. The popular kettle curling tournament will also take place Saturday, and the Raptor Education Foundation brings real birds of prey to Beaver Creek each year. This year the Raptor Education Foundation is expecting to bring its golden eagle, screech owl, and other birds of prey to Beaver Creek Village on Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon.
In addition to the unusual timing of this year’s opener, the season also began on a blackout day for those who have season passes subject to those restrictions. Saturday is also blackout day. That’s one more reason why Luis Blandon, visiting from Dallas, was relieved he went with the Epic Pass over the Epic Local.
“I was here for the last week of the season in April, and now I’m back for the first week this year,” he said from Vail Friday. “I rode Breck yesterday and we’re probably going to do Beaver Creek tomorrow or Sunday.”
Blandon rented equipment from Vail Sports, one of several shops bustling with activity Friday. With much of the action in Vail centered around the Lionshead Village area, the deck at Garfinkle’s was full by noon as crowds stopped by on both their way to and from the lifts. Shops were full of people as visitors crowded Lionshead Village from the parking garage to the lift.
Local snowboarder Rob Bak, who owns the company Colorado Skateboards, said following an apres stop at Garf’s, he was going to jump back on his board. Only the board he planned on riding was slightly different than the one he began the day on.
“I might go skate in a bit,” he said.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.