Skim forward, spring back |

Skim forward, spring back

Shauna Farnell
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyJohn Popper and his band Blues Traveler headlined last year's Spring Back to Vail event. This year's performers include Snoop Dogg, Mix Master Mike and Toots and the Maytals. l

At the base area of Golden Peak, precisely where this April’s World Pond Skimming Championships will take place, 18th-century pioneers would strap on their primitive wooden planks and try their best to make it from one slushy shore to the other … Or so say organizers of Spring Back to Vail.

These days, Vail celebrates the spring in a similar fashion; except that skiers come from around the world to attempt to ski across the pond clad in green paint and other zany ensembles, and the celebration culminates in a performance by none other than Snoop Dogg and closing day lift tickets for $10.”It’s become a Rite of Spring here in Vail,” said Jeff Brausch of Highline Sports, which organizes Spring Back to Vail, a two-week celebration of music, parties, skiing and snowboarding that started earlier this week.”It’s a marriage of sport, lifestyle and it’s all about what it means to live in the mountains,” Brausch said.With the Easter holiday falling early this season, Vail Resorts installed some April lodging and lift ticket deals to draw a new string of spring destination skiers, a demographic that usually dwindles in April.Joe and Sage Forsyth of New York had never been to Vail in April, but when they landed six days of skiing for $109, they decided to make the trip.”We thought it might be a little bit of a gamble. We didn’t know if there would still be snow or if it would be raining or what,” Joe said earlier this week from chair No. 11 at Vail. “But honestly, we couldn’t be happier. There are no lift lines, there seems to be as much snow now as there was in January, and it’s so much warmer.””I’ll take sun any day,” Sage added. “Slushy snow doesn’t bother me at all as long as it’s nice and sunny. That’s a big tradeoff for me.”The Forsyths hadn’t heard of Spring Back to Vail, but event organizers have set a goal to build the reputation of their event to national and even international proportions.”Last year’s event was a force for the whole spring – one of biggest end-of-the-season bashes anywhere in the country,” said Spring Back to Vail CO-organizer James Deighan of last year’s spring line-up, which included Blues Traveler Clarence Clemens. “Revisiting with (Vail executives) Bill Jensen and Ian Arthur, we decided to step it up here. This year, we’re the largest spring end-of-the-season bash in the United States with our caliber of entertainment and skier visits. Next year, we aim to become the biggest in North America, mainly beating out our friends at Whistler, (B.C.), and their Ski and Snowboard Festival.”

“It definitely benefits the locals,” Bausch said. “It gives them arguably the best music lineup we’ve ever seen in Vail. Nothing attracts like great music. Maceo Parker is coming right off his tour with Prince; if you’ve ever seen him live, you know how amazing he is. You’ll find the same thing with Toots and the Maytals and Buckwheat Zydeco. It’s such an eclectic lineup. Mix Master Mike is younger and a little more edgy, to Snoop Dogg and The Game, who is going to just surprise everybody. He doesn’t have the name recognition like Snoop, but he’s on his way. The Great Race and BB&B were great and they were underground and a lot of people waited all year for that, but (Spring Back to Vail) shows Vail Resorts’ support of spring, having a good time and listening to music in more of a safe and organized manner relative to what’s been around in the past.”In addition to screenings of Warren Miller’s latest film, “Impact” and some on-mountain athlete photo shoots for next year’s film, Spring Back to Vail will also offer a venue for those itching for the costumes and competition aspect of The Great Race in the form of the World Pond Skimming Championships at Golden Peak, judged by Bill Jensen, Ryan Sutter and an “all celebrity panel,” Deighan said.”It really is a world championship,” Deighan said. “They’re coming in from all over. We’ve seen people from Uganda, Jamaica, The Czech Republic. Some of the most seasoned athletes, too – former Olympians, NHL and NBA stars. It’s a competition based on the creativity of costume and showmanship. One of the most memorable costumes over the years was The Incredible Hulk. He was from the Carron Islands off the east coast of Australia. He was a spitting image of Lou Ferrigno in his green makeup. He came across the pond flexing, his teeth in full grit. He made it all the way and splashed at the end. It’s a little known fact that back in the 1700s, pioneers who roamed these mountains … urban legend has it that they filled out this area with water and practiced an early form of pond skimming. We were honored to revive it.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or

The history of local spring libationVail has long since had a reputation as a spring party venue, but much of the partying was a bit, how shall we say, unsanctioned.The now-defunct BB&B event – the letters of which have been said to represent some variation of “Babes,” “Bombers,” “Beer,” “Bud,” and just about every other B-word affiliated with partying – was primarily a locals’ gathering that was banned by the U.S. Forest Service, Vail Resorts and the Vail Police Department two years ago, because the partying simply snowballed into … well, ice balls, among other dangerous things.”Some locals would get together at the end of the year and it was their opportunity to blow off a little steam,” said Cmdr. Joe Russell of Vail PD. “There would be ice ball fights, generally a lot of drinking. What really set the tone for (the ban) was the ice ball fights. People were getting hurt and falling out of trees. I recall one situation where someone fell 30 feet out of a tree. And also the trash and refuse left in the area around Minnie’s Deck (on Vail Mountain) were some other issues that brought it to light in terms of shutting it down. Once the mountain melted, they would have to go back up there and they had several loads of debris and trash.”Russell can’t recall the exact number of years that BB&B took place, but he said it was several and was reminiscent of another local spring party event, The Great Race in Lionshead, which met with a similarly wayward end.”It was an event where people would get dressed up in crazy attire and have races around Lionshead Plaza and do crazy stunts,” Russell said. “It was another way for people to celebrate the spring and the end of the season. That lost steam, too. There was lots of drinking and drugs. Laws were enforced. After a period of time, the same type of event over and over again starts to lose its appeal. I suspect there is some new way to celebrate the spring time.”Throwing the past into the pondAlthough Spring Back to Vail organizers hope to draw national attention and participation to their event, they say it was also designed to serve as a better outlet for Eagle Valley residents to ring in the spring.Vail Colorado

Monday, April 11:8 p.m. – 1 a.m. Guys Night Out at Vendetta’s with “Hot Dog” the movieTuesday, April 12:8 p.m. – 1 a.m. Girls Night Out at The SanctuaryWednesday, April 13:6 – 8 p.m. Street Beat concert with Ronnie Raygun 80s party band at Checkpoint CharlieThursday, April 14:8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Coors Light Pub Poker at VailFriday, April 15:11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Malay Day halfpipe, rail and jumps contests to honor late Vail team rider Josh Malay

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