Saddam capture could mean crowds |

Saddam capture could mean crowds

Matt Zalaznick/City Editor
Tom Carroll, 16, sails through blue skies Sunday in the Snowboard Outreach Society slopestyle event at Golden Peak on Vail Mountain. Carroll finished third in the 16-17 year-old division.

The capture of Saddam Hussein may be a major victory for the Bush Administration and even for the U.S., but, skiers and snowboarders say, it may mean longer lift lines at Colorado ski resorts.

“I don’t think Saddam’s capture will have an effect on the riding,” said snowboarder Mike Hagy, from Denver. “Other than that hell might be freezing over and there could be more powder days.”

Knowing Saddam is out of his spider hole won’t make Hagy sleep any better at night, Hagy said, but the apprehension of other evildoers could help him carve a little easier.

“If we get Osama, I’ll feel a little better,” Hagy said.

What about the longer lift lines?

“The more freak terrorists they find,” added Hagy’s hawkish friend Dan Dillman, a snowboarder from Denver, “the better.”

Pete Skulskie, a snowboarder from Keystone, said Saddam’s capture had at least a positive karmic effect on the slopes.

“One less evil out of the world puts you more in tune,” Skulskie said. “It’s one less thing to worry about.”

The Saddam pass

Skier Ryan Sampson, from Tampa, Fla., raised the ugly specter of bigger crowds and longer lift lines in the wake of the capture of the man news anchors have been calling the “Butcher of Baghdad.”

“People will come out on vacation, they will come out skiing,” Sampson said. “Once we get bin Laden, more people will come out. They won’t be afraid to fly.”

Gosh … how long will the lines at Chair 5 be the Saturday after Osama is dug out of his spider hole? The crowds mobbing Born Free! The mayhem in the roundabouts! Sure, it may make the world safer, but it may cut down drastically the number of runs us local powderhounds can sneak in before work on future powdery mornings.

“I guess it’s good for Vail – it brings more money,” Sampson said of the potential onslaught of secure tourists, “but the locals will hate it. I would mind that, too.”

But there’s nothing to worry about yet – wait, there is still something to worry about – Osama’s still on the loose. Well, Sampson had nothing to worry about Wednesday on Vail Mountain, which means local merchants may have something to worry about, aside from Osama still creeping around in his own spider holes and scaring tourists away.

“As a tourist right now it’s perfect,” Sampson said. “It seems like there’s no one on the mountain.”

Speaking of worrying about things, snowboarder Ken Shiflet of Denver says he comes to the mountains to stop worrying about things.

“I come up here to get away from all that,” Shiflet said. “This is a place to relax and get away from everyday life.”

Do you pay attention to “all that’ while you’re down on the Front Range.

“A little bit,” he said. “Not much.”

Iraqi terrain

Snowboarder Johnny Smith, a major in the Air Force reserves from Colorado Springs, took a broader view, considering he may be sent to Iraq within the next year.

“I’ll be sitting in a tent with 20 other guys, having to walk 20 feet to the bathroom, having to fly to Baghdad, thinking last winter I was at Blue Sky Basin in two feet of powder,” said Smith as he made his was up Vail Mountain Wednesday morning.

Though full of sensitive military information, Smith was able to reveal his snowboard was “green.” Aside from attempting to put out counter-intelligence misinformation about the color of his board, he called the capture of Saddam “history.”

“You feel good that part of history is taken care of,” he said. “But we’ve got a lot more to do over there.”

Skier Marc Hafner, from Louisville, Colo., had the most unique take on how Saddam’s arrest will change the skiing world.

“Iraq’s actually got some good terrain,” Hafner said. “This might free it up and make it easier to get to. I’d like to say, “I skied Iraq after the toppling of Saddam.’

“I’ll ski anywhere,” he added.

But Hafner also talked about the frightening possibility of a surge in tourism.

“It would be nice to boost tourism,” Hafner said. “Being a local, though, I don’t want to boost tourism.”

Local? Last time I checked, Louisville, Colo., was in Kentucky.

So, if the lift lines are going to swell, shouldn’t the Bush administration have considered the feelings of the powder-starved denizens of ski country and waited until after ski season to announce Saddam’s capture, so as not to unleash a horde of less-jittery tourists on the mountains?

“That’s an odd question,” said skier Brian Peko from Denver whose answer to the question was a definite “No.”

“I think they needed to catch him when they had to catch him,” Peko said. “Time matters. I think America needs to know what we’re doing over there is serving a purpose.

“I’m happy now that he’s gone,” Peko added. “It makes you want to ski more and ski better.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at