Ski areas say goodbye to 2011-12 season |

Ski areas say goodbye to 2011-12 season

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO, Colorado
NWS closing day KA 4-15-12

VAIL – Closing Day snow report: Vail, 3 inches; Beaver Creek, 7 inches – and the snow continued to fall off and on throughout the day.

It was an ironic ending to a season in which snow, or a lack thereof, plagued ski resorts across the West. The Lake Tahoe region had no recorded snowfall for the entire month of December, while Vail’s Back Bowls didn’t have enough snow to open until Jan. 19, and even then the Back Bowls only partially opened.

Sunday’s celebrations included the same carefree, festive spirit of Closing Days past, but this year the celebration was about something else for a lot of people – the end of a season that many skiers and snowboarders would like to forget.

For local residents like Paul Hields, the celebration on Sunday was about “the end of the worst season in 30 years.”

While many echoed a similar sentiment, there were also plenty of skiers who truly enjoyed this season because they say a ski season should never be taken for granted.

Josh Mishell called the season “underwhelming, especially after last year,” but added that “skiing is skiing – you can’t go in July, so make the best of what you have.”

That’s what people did Sunday, whether they felt bitter about the season’s snowfall or not. Sunday was a day to enjoy the mountain, and even a little bit of fresh snow, and to enjoy the mountain lifestyle that unites us all. It’s a lifestyle that, regardless of the weather, makes us feel lucky and grateful most of the time.

“A bad day skiing is better than a good day with no skiing,” said Mike Maher, via the Vail Daily’s Facebook page.

“Despite it being a bad snow year, especially compared to last year’s epic snow year, we still had some good days,” Maher said.

There are always the bad snow years mixed in throughout history, and luckily there seem to be a lot more great snow years than bad ones. Talk to locals around town and they’ll talk about that terrible year in the late 1970s. Then there was that season in the 1980s, and the 2002 season, which was, until now, the worst drought year Colorado had experienced in recent history.

Sometimes Mother Nature has her own plans, and not even the Southern Ute Indians in southern Colorado could perform a snow dance powerful enough this season to change that. The Southern Utes graced Vail Mountain with a snow dance Jan. 7, and the snow fell the entire day they were in town, but it didn’t produce the significant snowfall many had hoped for.

Snow isn’t the only thing that makes a great ski season, though. People celebrating Closing Day on Sunday proved that fun could be had no matter what.

Thomas Mailhot, of Evergreen, said he had three of the best days he has ever had in Vail this season.

“I was here when they opened Blue Sky, I was here when they opened (Chair) 5, and it was unbelievable,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to take away from the season. … It’s been a good year, it just hasn’t had one of those 2-foot days.”

Jess Nordby, from Minnesota, said he had a great season at Vail. Nordby was celebrating the end of the season at Vail at the famous Chair 4 at 4 p.m. celebration Sunday with hundreds of others. Skiers and snowboarders donned festive throwback one-piece ski suits from the 1970s and 1980s, while others wore costumes, denim and other celebratory attire.

Nordby said he visited Vail from Minnesota three times this winter, and all three times the snow was fantastic.

He joked that maybe he should have come out to visit more often this season.

“I had a great season,” he said.

For Vail Mountain, looking toward next year with optimism is easy – Vail will be celebrating its 50th anniversary season next year, and there’s a long list of events surrounding the anniversary that will make next season a great one, including a documentary film premiere showing Vail and its pioneers throughout the years.

At the pond skimming event Sunday in Golden Peak, the mood was as exciting as ever. The weather might have been chilly with gray skies – unlike the sunny, warm closing days in recent memory – but the attitude was nothing but fun.

As skiers and snowboarders came barreling down the pond skimming approach, you couldn’t help but smile and think about how much fun it is to be a part of the ski culture.

“We’re celebrating the end of (the season at) Vail,” said Chris Conrad, who competed with his two brothers, Thomas and Nick, in pond skimming for the third straight year.

While the brothers recognized what Chris called an “unfortunate” season in terms of snowfall, they also recognize how lucky they are to have a mountain like Vail so close to home.

“It’s always a great day, the last day of Vail, so you’ve just got to have a good time,” Nick Conrad said.

Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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