Splashdown soaks Beaver Creek
But the “Splashdown” is how every ski season ends at Beaver Creek – with skiers, snowboarders and passengers of alternative, yet-to-be-proven snow contraptions racing down the bottom of the Centennial run into – and hopefully all the way across – a chilly, man-made landing pool.”It’s just a pair of old K2s with a three-piece lawn chair,” Hunter Brown, a receptionist and bellmen, said of his splashdown conveyance.Brown started his run seated upright on his sketchy ski craft, which he said was originally designed for Vail Mountain’s season ending BB&B party. But he wasn’t allowed to bring the contraption up to Minnie’s Deck, where last week’s blow out blew out.For steering the lawn chair, Brown had a paddle. And not surprisingly, after taking off, he hurtled straight into the orange safety fence.Brown regrouped and went face first toward the pool. His prospects looked, well, poor.”I only made it halfway across,” Brown said.Then he sank.But, hey, Hunter Brown, you have any advice to the all the kids out there who dream of being big stars on the ski-bottomed-lawn-chair puddle-jumping circuit?”Be as dumb as possible,” he said. “And use power tools.”Aside from the main splashdown event, there was also a barbecue for Beaver Creek employees, many of whom show up in elaborate costumes.All eyes Monday were on the Splashdown, however, as co-workers came careening down the slushy slopes and crashed in the pool. A few skiers and snowboarders made it all the way across – but almost as exciting was watching the jumpers struggle out of the cold water, with a little help from ski patrol.Rick Crussett, a Spruce Saddle and Starbucks employee who was resplendent in an orange Tigger suit, said the puddle-jumping experience was uplifting.”But the suit really didn’t help. It added about 15 pounds,” Crussett said.Continuing the Winnie-the-Pooh theme was Cassidy Robinson, who made it halfway across the puddle in a Eeyore costume -that’s the donkey.”The suit definitely didn’t help,” Robinson said.The tragic side of Splashdown is the shattered dreams of soaking puddlejumpers who’ve trained all season just to crash as soon as they hit the water.”It didn’t quite go the way I planned,” said Erica Yashimoto, who worked at the Inn at Beaver creek and the Reception Center. “I fell in the water almost immediately. I have no idea how any would make it across at all.”I’m not cold anymore. Maybe I’m dead,” she added.A few puddle-jumpers weren’t satisfied merely surfing across the pond -and that impulse usually led to catastrophe.”You have to make it across and have some style,” said Paul Amicucci, a night-shift Snowcat operator who was soaking wet. “I tried to get some air and do a board grab but I landed too hard and I couldn’t control it.”Repeat: He was drenched.But Amicucci, as well as his pals on the Snowcat crew, are the folks responsible for all the nice, soft, smooth groomers.”The snow coverage on the mountain was pretty good until last week,” Amicucci said. “When you get out and ride your own grooming, you know you’ve made a big difference.”Puddlejumping, of course, is not without its diehard fans.”Near the end the water’s low, so, just like the downhill, you don’t want to be low in the starting order. And you want have nice wide skis and you need some style,” said John Klasny, who works with Ski Club Vail and a variety of local puddle-jumping training programs.”Actually, this the first time I’ve seen puddle-jumping,” Klasny then admitted. “But the guy in the sumo outfit was outstanding.”Puddle-jumping, like most sports, also has its party-crashing philosophers.”There’s celebratory feeling. It’s the end of the season and the snow’s gone. So it’s also bittersweet,” said a man, who only identified himself as “Russ” because he was not a Beaver Creek employee. “The summer’s great but as far as ski season, we’re all done.”One puddle-jumper who attempted to splashdown in a kayak didn’t actually splash down. He hit the safety fence and then went barreling toward the crowd gathered at the edges of the pool.He was dragged back up the hill and pushed into the water.Another disastrous contraption was Jesse Denieltolis and Mike Carson’s less-than-sleek, two-man, dual-snowboard puddlejumper.”The problem was were both the co-pilot, we didn’t have any real direction,” said Carson, a Beaver Creek technician. “We almost took out half the crowd and then they pushed us in the water.”Carson was almost strangled by the fence as he and Denieltolis headed down the course. They righted themselves and, like the kayaker, almost rammed the spectators.”The hill was titled toward the left,” Denieltolis said. “We just kept sliding left.””It was the hill’s fault,” Carson said.That’s what two-man, dual-snowboard puddlejumpers always say when they crash.”Yeah, get a life,” said Carson’s friend named “Craig,” a ticket office employee.