Presidents Day weekend: plenty of sun and skiers in the valley
“We decided not to ski this morning,” said Dena Weber, Madelaine’s mother. “It makes it easier on her if we’re here. We’re going to try to make her first time on the snow the best experience.Dena, her husband, Bruce and Madelaine, of Lakeland, Fla., were among the thousands of skiers to visit the Vail Valley this President’s Week for a ski vacation. The family, which is staying at the Inn at Beaver Creek, chose the valley because they are attending a conference at Beaver Creek on Wednesday.”We really like it here. It’s a good area for the family,” Dena Weber said.Although passes were restricted for most locals this weekend, the slopes at Beaver Creek were crowded with skiers from across the country and abroad. The busiest spot was the children’s ski school.”President’s Week together with Christmas and spring break are the busiest times at the children ski school in Beaver Creek,” said Jim Hungerford, a foreman for the young children learning area.On Saturday, about 700 children took lessons at the ski school. On Sunday, that number climbed to about 1,000, Hungerford said. The usual weekend crowd is about 500.”We have about 175 kids in the 3 to 6 year old learning area,” Hungerford said. “There have been times when we have exceeded 200. Today, we’re still at our comfort zone.”Additional ski instructors helped the day go by smoothly. Instead of the usual 20 instructors he usually oversees in weekends, Hungerford said he had 36 on Sunday.”The next big vacation will start on March 12 with spring break. Then it will be full for seven days a week for three weeks,” he added.For Hungerford, it’s clear when Holiday weeks arrive because he can see more parentson the learning area fence line watching their children’s first steps on skis. -“You can see them filming them and taking pictures,” he said. “Locals, just come and drop their children.”Susan Baca, the director of the children ski school said the ski school was sold out for private lessons this weekend.In the meantime, about 360 instructors taught Sunday at the adult ski school, about 300 were on the slopes giving private lessons, said Brian Dunfey, product manager of private lessons.”For us, this is very comparable to Christmas week,” Dunfey said. “We have been sold out of private lessons since Thursday. And (today) is our peak day during President’s Week. Most guests have booked for five to six days.”The sunny and 45-degree weather at the base of Beaver Creek made it also easier for the children to learn, said Mary Beth Bahan, a children ski school supervisor.”The weather helps because we have many kids from South America, who aren’t used to the cold,” Bahan said. “We’ve also got lots of kids from New York and New jersey, Georgia and Texas.”This is the first time that Pam Haynes, of Asheville, N.C., and her husband, Andy, and two children came to Beaver Creek.”We love it!” she said after getting her picture taken. “The cold is so different as it is in the east coast where it is bone chilling. This is a very comfortable cold.”As during Christmas week, merchant passes were restricted leaving more space on the hill for the holiday guests. Still, some season pass holders made it to the slopes.”My pass is restricted, but I have friends and family in town so I bought the ticket for $73,” said Russell Baker, 20, of Denver.Kelly Schrimsher, of Huntsville, Ala., said she, her husband and three children chose Beaver Creek for the third year.”The weather is usually good and it isn’t crowded,” she said. “We ski, we eat a lot. The children would like to go to the clubs, but they won’t let them in. So they end up watching movies at the hotel. This is good family time.”When they booked their daughter’s ski lesson, Dena and Bruce Weber decided half day was enough for Madelaine on her first day skiing.”We’ll probably go sledding in the afternoon,” Dena Weber said as her daughter managed to make a last stop with her skis. “There she comes…with the orange helmet. And she can stop!”Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.