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The power of powder

Nicole Frey
Preston UtleyA skier cruises through fresh snowfall Sunday at Vail Mountain during the first powder day of the season.
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VAIL- Sunday dawned gray and snowy with a pale sun futilely trying to break through the clouds. But the gloomy weather didn’t keep eager skiers and snowboarders inside. On the contrary, the weekend’s snowfall was an irresistible temptation to all snow enthusiasts who love to ride the precious powder. “This is just they way we want it — fresh powder,” said Chad Williams making his way to the mountain nearly an hour before it would open. “This is what you dream about. It’s just effortless skiing.”Driving up from Denver with two friends, Williams said he and his posse chose Vail Mountain because it had received the most snow recently 12 inches in the last 24 hours and also had the most terrain open. “It’s snowing and snow is what it’s all about,” said Vail spokeswoman Jen Brown. “Clearly many people love powder and to have a powder day in November is phenomenal.”Although Williams was early, L.P. Rogers had him beat to the first powder day of the season. Arriving at Chair 16 before 7 a.m., Rogers said, “If you can’t have the first chair, you’re sleeping too late.”Sporting a hat of animal furs that extended down his back, Rogers said he craved powder for the “special noise it makes when you move over it.”

By 8:30 a.m., the line stretched to the gate, and doubled by the time the lifts opened at 9 a.m. to the cheers of those waiting. A recent New Hampshire transplant, Annie Merrifield said she would be happy to ski anything.”But this’ll be good though,” she said. “I think it’ll be awesome.”In line before the lift opened, Kelly Goertzen said a powder day compels him to pack a lunch he’ll eat on a chair lift to avoid wasting time by stopping to get a meal. “Powder is a spiritual experience,” he said. “You don’t want to waste it.”While the younger generation hasn’t yet latched on to the spirituality of freshly fallen snow, they were just as excited about its presence. “It’s just a good feeling to be skiing in powder,” said 11-year-old Dylan Berenson of Boulder.

Stopping to sip hot chocolate, 7-, 8- and 9-year old members of the Vail Ski and Snowboard Club admitted it was getting cold in the snowstorm, but it wouldn’t stop them from seeking out fresh stashes. “It’s the closest thing to flying without leaving the ground,” said the children’s instructor Ray Jay Benoit. Tearing up Game Creek Bowl, Karen Evans said a groomed base with powder on top made for ideal skiing conditions. “When you fall, it doesn’t hurt,” Evans said. “It’s such an adrenaline rush.”Evans’ friend Christy Macfie said an added bonus of fresh snow is the feeling that “nobody’s been there before me.”As many exuded unabashed enthusiasm for the new snow, still more were left wanting more.



“It’s good; it’s just getting crowded,” said Josh Dickman of Denver. “I’m not sure it’s 10 inches like they said, but it’s good for November. I hope it keeps up.”Silverthorne resident Gary Waterman echoed Dickman’s sentiments saying the mountain was “almost there.””More snow, less people,” he said. “But it’s still better than other places. It’s so busy at Breckenridge, and there are more lifts open here.”As always, Vail Resorts is always gunning for more.”I think it’s fantastic to get the powder and kick off the season with a couple good snow falls,” said Christina Schleicher, spokeswoman for Beaver Creek Resort. “It allows us to make more snow, but we always enjoy getting the real stuff from Mother Nature. Our crews are going to be working really hard to open more terrain which will help us going into the holiday season.”Much more than a day of fluffy skiing and riding, Gus Gustafson said the snow was much needed for the health of the mountain. “We have been waiting for the snowfall,” said the Edwards local. “We’ve had very warm weather, and we needed this.”

Skiing with Gustafson and seven other children and adults, Danielle Hogan was less enthusiastic about the powder than her companions, or most people on the mountain. “To the less experienced skier, groomed trails are better,” she said.But Gustafson reminded her without the initial powder there would be nothing to groom. Whether cheered or hated, the forcast promises the powder will continue coming down. Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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