Ski nostalgia at Beaver Creek |

Ski nostalgia at Beaver Creek

J.K. Perry
Kira Horvath/Vail DailyJason Roberts hits a nice section of powder at Beaver Creek on Monday. The mountain will open Wednesday.

BEAVER CREEK ” Tracy Francis skipped classes the first time she skied.

The 13-year-old freshman ” clad in jeans and a T-shirt ” drove with friends to a ski area near her Seattle home. Unable to turn or stop on the slopes, Francis ended the day drenched in melted snow and with an absent mark against her.

Her parents didn’t mind.

“They just laughed,” Francis said. “We were good kids, so skipping wasn’t so bad.”

The early skiing left an indelible mark on Francis’ life. Now 35 and living in Phoenix, the married mother of two plans to teach both her children the ropes of the slopes.

“The hope is they can ski circles around us,” Francis said Monday while skiiing at Vail.

As skiers and snowboarders remember their snowy roots, Beaver Creek launches yet another season on Wednesday. The mountain crews Monday diligently worked to groom 43 inches of natural snowfall plus the manmade stuff, drive signs into the hillsides and repair chair lifts.

What and how much terrain might be available opening day hasn’t yet been announced, but it sounds something like several chairlifts serving hundreds of acres. Beaver Creek employee Jason Roberts, 30, sampled several acres on Monday while recounting the first time he skied in his buddy’s Iowa backyard.

The two set up a wooden jump covered in snow. Roberts launched off the homemade kicker and nearly skied into the house.

As a teenager, the Clinton, Iowa native taught youngsters to ski at Chestnut Mountain, located in the Mississippi River Valley of Illinois. Roberts made lifelong friends there.

“I met a lot of cool people,” he said. “Six people I taught skiing with live in the Vail Valley.”

Kyle Innes of Vail never skied. The 19-year-old learned to snowboard at Michigan’s Pine Knob, a resort Innes and friends called a “landfill.” But the early days were filled with falling.

“The first three days were horrible,” Innes said. “I was young, so it didn’t really hurt me.”

Minnesota resident Ross Reed’s early days skiing might be classified as “old school.”

At age 4, Reed learned to ski with ancient cable bindings on a Minnesota hill sans chair lifts or rope tows. He often needed to pack down the snow so he and his siblings could ride the hill each Saturday.

“Nobody pushed me ” it was just on my own,” said Reed, now in his 40s.

Hope Oathout skied free each Wednesday upon the icy slopes of Dartmouth Skiway in New Hampshire. The then 5-year-old was dropped at the slopes to ski without her parents.

Oathout first skied Western slopes when she moved to Oregon. She now commutes from her Boulder home to ride at Vail. What once seemed massive at Dartmouth now pales in comparison to the Rocky Mountains.

“There was one area called ‘The Face’ you could see from the lodge ” it was a big deal,” Oathout said.

Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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