Race training begins on Vail Mountain’s Golden Peak venue, late opening seen as ‘disappointing’ | VailDaily.com

Race training begins on Vail Mountain’s Golden Peak venue, late opening seen as ‘disappointing’

The Golden Peak competition venue is seen from Vail Mountain on Sunday. The area is now open to race training, indicated by the fencing lining the run.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Golden Peak became one of many venues in Colorado making race training available to teams from across the country this weekend.

It has been a good season for early season race training; Copper Mountain has been open since Oct. 22, Loveland has been hosting teams for weeks, Steamboat Sports Club has had race training available at its Howleson Hill venue for nearly two weeks, and Aspen’s Stapleton Training Center has been available to World Cup athletes for more than a week.

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes have been heading to Copper and Loveland to train, but parents were informed on Wednesday that one run on the upper portion of Golden Peak should be open “this week.”

“Our opening product on Golden Peak will be the Fall Line trail, with a mandatory upload and download on Chair 6, the Riva Bahn Express,” Ski & Snowboard Club Vail COO Bryan Rooney told parents in a letter issued Wednesday.

Golden Peak opened to race training on Sunday, said John Plack with Vail Resorts.

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“There are a number of factors in play when making snow for the terrain at Golden Peak,” Plack said. “Temperatures below 9,000′ were still challenging this early season and we focused on opening two village portals on Nov. 11. That process started in October and ramped up when temperatures became more favorable in November.”

While Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes waited for gate training to open on Golden Peak this week, they were able to enjoy freeskiing opportunities on Vail Mountain, Plack said.

“Once our early season offering is set, we do provide water for this terrain to supplement Ski & Snowboard Club Vail water availability and agreements,” Plack said.

Gunning for October

In the meantime, Golden Peak can pull water from another source through an agreement with Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which has helped facilitate early openings there in years past.

During the month of October, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District makes potable water available to the Golden Peak venue if flows in Gore Creek are more than 19 cubic feet per second (CFS) as measured by the “Gore Creek above Red Sandstone Creek” USGS gage, based on the daily mean discharge.

In some years it has proven quite useful.

In 2015, Golden Peak opened on Nov. 12, more than a week before Vail Mountain’s opening, and also before the speed center at Copper Mountain opened to national teams.

That year, the U.S. Ski Team started training on Golden Peak on Nov. 14, and was quickly joined by national ski teams from Austria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, Great Brittan, Hungry, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland. Those teams stayed at Manor Vail, the Tivoli Lodge, the Christiana, the Racquet Club and in properties from Destination Resorts, booking from mid-November through early December.

In 2018, Golden Peak opened on Nov. 13, just one day earlier than Vail Mountain, but early enough relative to other training areas that it brought much economic vitality to the town. National teams from Austria, Italy, France and Sweden stayed at Manor Vail lodge, as well as club teams from within the U.S. Team Gilboa out of Minnesota brought 75 skiers and 15 coaches and staff to train in Vail, spending an estimated $120,000.

In 2019, a new surface lift (T-Bar) opened on Golden Peak, offering access to higher terrain, an improvement Vail Mountain COO Doug Lovell said will help the race arena “further establish itself as a premier, global competition venue, especially for early- and late-season events.”

The opening of the upper terrain on Golden Peak was supposed to make it an even earlier training option, with a 2019 press release on the opening stating that Ski & Snowboard Club Vail “expects to get the venue up and running several critical weeks earlier.”

In 2020 that earlier opening target appeared to be moving in the right direction, with the new expanded terrain opening on Nov. 3. It was later than the October opening hoped for by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, which had been touting October openings as possible with the higher-elevation expansion in play, as Nov. 1 was always a target for the lower slopes of Golden Peak.

It looks like the club was optimistic about the prospect of an October opening this season, as well, announcing early season training could start “beginning in October 2022.”

But there wasn’t a lot of opportunities to access water in late October, as the necessary water flows of more than 19 CFS only occurred on three days in the second half of October: Oct. 23, Oct. 26 and Oct. 27.

And Vail Mountain, with its own higher-elevation snowmaking improvements, is prioritizing its public opening, which has been occurring earlier and earlier in recent years – opening on Nov. 12 in 2021 and Nov. 11 this year.

In November, snowmaking was able to ramp up on Golden Peak, as flows only have to be 9 CFS for Golden Peak to access water from the district, and every day has averaged more than 9 CFS. Vail Mountain has given Golden Peak water from its supply in November, as well.

A view from Golden Peak on its 2021 Opening Day, Saturday, Nov. 20.
Courtesy photo

After that promising Nov. 3 opening in 2020, North America Cup races were scheduled for mid-November at Golden Peak in 2021 but were forced to move to Copper Mountain as the venue didn’t open until Nov. 20.

This year, the international teams are visiting Copper, which has hosted athletes from Norway, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany, and Canada.

Copper Mountain hosted downhill training on Wednesday morning, where athletes from Norway, Austria, Italy and the U.S. trained on the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center course.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Missed economic benefits

In addition to the cosmopolitan atmosphere, early season training creates an economic impact enjoyed by many, which is one of the benefits considered by the water district in making the water available to Golden Peak in the early season.

Former Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Director Aldo Radamus, in touting the benefits of early season training at Golden Peak, cited “An influx of millions of dollars of economic activity from thousands of athletes, coaches, technicians and family members traveling here from around the world to train in what is a notoriously quiet season,” in benefits of early season training at Golden Peak.

A worker from Manor Vail Lodge, during an early season opening of years past, said the atmosphere there got workers at the hotel “ramped up and excited about ski season,” adding that “The coaches frequent our restaurant and it brings some nice early season business to the hotel.”

Former Ski & Snowboard Club Vail communications manager Geoff Mintz said he remembers creating the webpage which touted the possibility of an October opening for the Golden Peak expansion project.

“It seems like this would have been one of the years it could have possibly opened in October, with how early some of these other venues were able to get going,” Mintz said. “It’s disappointing, for sure. You hate to see the Vail kids having to drive all the way to Loveland.”

The savings in road time for locals in Ski & Snowboard Club Vail was another economic benefit to be considered in the Golden Peak expansion, said former Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Director Kirk Dwyer, who filled in after Radamus left the club in 2016.

“The expanded terrain will provide a higher-quality, safer and more productive training arena for our athletes, allowing families to save on travel expenses while providing an economic benefit to the Vail community,” Dwyer said.

Mintz said that doesn’t appear to be happening this season.

“I remember writing that language for SSCV about being open in October, and we’d always indicate that it was weather dependent, because at the time we thought weather was the only thing that could hold up the opening of the venue,” Mintz said. “But this year was as good as it gets for early-season weather.”

But now that the Golden Peak training area is open, Vail is set to receive a slice of the economic activity that comes with having an early-season ski racing center available to teams.

Joe Paul of Team Gilboa said he scheduled his team of 100 racers to use the Golden Peak venue right away on Sunday’s opening.

“It’s our Thanksgiving tradition,” he said.

Plack said you never know what you’re going to get in looking at stream flows and weather temperatures.

“Every season is a little bit different at each mountain that strives to provide early season training for athletes, and Vail Mountain is no exception,” he said on Sunday. “We’re thrilled to have provided a great early season offering for our guests, and we’re excited to have training off the T-Bar today. We’re committed to opening all terrain, for both the public and our athletes, as quickly as possible based on the conditions we have to work with.”

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