The sweet saga of the Vail Panty Tree
Once upon a time, some artistic, visionary powder hounds realized that one thing, and one thing only, could add to the legendary natural splendor of Vail’s Back Bowls – a pair of lace panties.And so that winter, many years ago, on a starkly beautiful tree where all Back Bowl skiers could see, they hung a pair.Others soon followed suit, and before long, the Vail Panty Tree was born. And winter after winter, that one lucky tree, naked of its Aspen leaves, was perennially replete with lace panties.Rumor has it that this special decor was donated courtesy of triumphs of the nights before. Others swear it was the serendipitous generosity of ski partners who just couldn’t wait. The fact is, the Back Bowls can get pretty cold. But then, they also can get pretty hot.Which may be why, as the years went by, the Panty Tree sprouted various other lacy garments, leading many to refer to it as the Lingerie Tree.
Not to be outdone by Vail, one ski season some Beaver Creek aficionados christened their own Panty Tree. However, lacking the subtle history of Vail’s legendary Back Bowls, they grew it rather blatantly, on the front of the mountain, in full view of the Centennial Lift which serves as access to all.The family outcry was swift and loud. Vail Resorts immediately sent staff up the lift to pluck all the panties.The next day, lo and behold, more grew. The next evening, lo and behold, staff plucked. And so it went until one evening staff almost fell off the lift trying to pluck a problematic pair.The next day, the tree was cut down and the warning was issued: Vail Resorts would keep cutting down trees until the panty frenzy stopped.It stopped. At Beaver Creek, that is.
For the remainder of that ski season, Vail’s Lingerie Tree nervously flourished. Until the Cruel Summer of ’97. Rumor has it that a disgruntled backcountry hiker (perhaps a lynx?) took offense and cut down the Vail Lingerie Tree.When the next ski season began, there was not a panty to be found in the Back Bowls (on a tree).But nature is hardy, and even in the face of mass destruction, has the will to renew. Soon, ever so slowly and near the site of the original, a new Panty Tree grew. And this Panty Tree, being of later, scantier vintage, was even more beautiful than any of yore.But, human nature is fickle, and fickle does not always breed finer. So it was with the pretty Panty Tree which slowly devolved into a disheveled Bullet-Proof Brassier Bower. In every size, and in the dullest of snow-laden colors, they weighted down the branches of many an Aspen unlucky enough to catch this unsightly blight.And for years, nobody seemed to notice. Or care.
Until an antidote was proffered, in the name of Grand Marnier. Thanks to an inspiring advertisement strategically placed in magazines that skiers are known to peruse, ‘You just recognized a pair of panties in the Sundown Bowl tree. … The conversation is waiting,’ became a mantra to visitors from far and wide.And so to the Back Bowls they came, in droves, with contributions divine. In one short season it happened: the Panty Tree once again came alive. And multiplied in beauty, until now there are no fewer than five.So if all of your ski lessons, and all of these ski columns, and all of the fat skis, haven’t improved your technique to a level which takes you into the Back Bowls, maybe – before this season ends – the Panty Tree will get you there.And then all will live happily ever after.Elizabeth Eber is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Vail.Vail Colorado