Local powderhounds predicting "epic’ season | VailDaily.com

Local powderhounds predicting "epic’ season

Matt Zalaznick

The much-needed shot of snow blanketing the slopes today, refreshing the dwindling surplus of November’s record blizzards, has turned some of the valley’s skiers and snowboarders into a giddy batch of fortunetellers.

And the committed little storm that swept into the mountains Thursday, dropping more than a few inches of powder on slopes that were quickly turning into crust, drove these clairvoyant minds to turn an optimistic eye on Ski Season 2003.

“It’s going to be epic; it’s going to be great,” said Chantal Angot, a snowboarder from Avon, as she headed up the slopes of Beaver Creek. “Because the snow is great, it rocks.”

The word “epic,” which literary snobs use to describe long, ridiculously old and boring poems such as “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” – or even the ancient and witty Finnish masterpiece “The Kavevala” – is also the name of a record company that, in keeping with the lofty and arcane connotation, has released albums by Michael Jackson, the visionary Donny Osmond, Rage Against the Machine, Hooverphonic and the legendary REO Speedwagon.

Snowstorms in October and November this year dumped nearly 10 feet of snow on Vail and Beaver Creek mountains, allowing the former to open one week ahead of schedule. The deluge, which created the most epic early-season conditions in years, also made many local skiers and snowboarders greedy.

Despite the mountains already having opened nearly every single fluffy acre, some skiers and snowboarders this week were already complaining about bare-spots in the Back Bowls and icy, cruddy conditions on steeper runs.

Get a grip, gals and guys. Hannukah only just ended. It’s not even Boxing Day yet!

“Conditions are better than they were in September. The season’s off to a great start and it’s going to be epic – as long as we don’t nuke anyone,” says snowrider Samantha Means of West Vail.

Means’ remarks brought a gruesome dose of realty into the sublimely and oblivious world of ski resorts. While scientists continue unsuccessfully but assiduously to seek links between carpet-bombing and snowfall, Means’ opinion on the connection – which bravely ignored the impact of war on local tourism – turned to the absurd.

“If we bomb Iraq, we could get some good snowstorms,” she says. “We’ll probably get dumped on.”

But Means’ foray into the geo-political, brought up a more domestic concern that has been tickling the brains of skiers and snowboarders since the Republican Party’s sweeping and historic victory in the November elections.

While one local and politically disillusioned ski-protester said she now only skis on the left sides of the slopes, most powderhounds in the valley said a conservative-tinged political atmosphere was unlikely make much of a difference in the mountains.

“Nah, there won’t be any impact,” says Virginia snowboarder Michael Thacker, contacted in Beaver Creek Village Wednesday while fighting unsuccessfully to get his and his girlfriend’s walkie-talkies to work.

Thacker’s snowboarding girlfriend, Jeannie Kleppinger, was eager to keep in radio contact with Thacker. She describes herself as an “advanced beginner.”

“I got lost on Tuesday and had to do a blue run,” she said. “I got really tired.”

Kleppinger said her ski season includes this visit to Beaver Creek and several day trips to the world-famous ski slopes of Virginia, which both she and Thacker admitted have un-epic snow, despite being world-famous. But does Kleppinger predict becoming a better snowboarder? Will the walkie-talkies ever work?

“I just want to be able to have fun,” she said. “Fun is what it’s all about.”

Snowboarder Jeff Parker, a native of Hermosa Beach, Calif., who now lives in the valley.

Edwards snowboarder and self-proclaimed Finnish epic-poetry expert Mika Gurkannen predicted Thursday that if visitors to the valley this season spend tons of money, local businesses will “make” tons lot of money.

“There is a clear, indisputable and non-indirect connection between businesses making more money and those businesses having more money,” he said.

That sounds like good news for Vail’s sales-tax dilemma.

(Note: all Finnish epic-poetry experts, despite their claims of living in Edwards, are entirely made-up, fabricated and fictitious, as are any comments made by them in this report.)

Which brings us to our two final predictions. First, the University of Miami Hurricanes will slaughter Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl next month; and second, people will not get any better at getting on chairlifts.

“Kids are really good at it,” said Parker, who operates chairlifts. “But I still have to wear leather glove liners because sometimes people getting on lifts pull my gloves off.”

Matt Zalaznick, who frequently gets paid to ski and has been a fan of the Miami Hurricanes since Buffalo Bills hero Jim Kelly was their quarterback, has not read “The Kavevala.” He can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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