"The Talons" quite a challege | VailDaily.com

"The Talons" quite a challege

Stephen Lloyd Wood

Already ranked consistently by SKI magazine as one of the top 10 ski resorts in North America, Beaver Creek is trying something new this season – using its new high-speed chairlift as part of a new marketing campaign aimed at expert skiers.

The concept comes from a look at the trail map focusing on Red Tail Camp, known primarily as the venue for the annual Birds of Prey downhill race, part of the World Cup. Two existing lifts that rise from the facility – the Grouse Mountain Express and the Larkspur Lift – offer miles of steep, thigh-busting terrain. A third lift, the slow-moving Westfall Lift, was replaced this summer with a high-speed quad, the new Birds of Prey Express Lift, making even more miles of steep terrain more accessible.

Beaver Creek marketeers say when they looked at the map of “the new area” – and brainstormed using the names of the trails on offer, such as Goshawk, Peregrine, Bald Eagle, Ptarmigan, Golden Eagle, Osprey and Ruffed Grouse – the image of a bird’s talon was obvious. If the new strategy works, Red Tail Camp, which seems underused for much of the regular ski season, will become the base facility for “The Talons.”

Talons Challenge

“The concept is letting people know some the terrain we have is the steepest and longest in North America,” says the resort’s chief, John Garnsey.

To boost the buzz, the Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School is pushing “The Talons Challenge,” a rewards program for skiers and snowboarders wishing to improve their skills on steep terrain or to boast of their proficiency. Two different pins – gold and platinum – are offered for those meeting the challenges over the course of one season.

The gold pin can be earned by skiing one run served by each of the three Talons lifts – such as Peregrine under the Birds of Prey Express, Bald Eagle on Grouse Mountain, and Loco in Larkspur Bowl.

“For somebody who’s aspiring to be a bumps skier, they could make it a goal,” says Pete Sonntag of the Ski and Snowboard School. “For some, it would be a cakewalk.”

For the latter, there’s the platinum pin, earned by skiing every run served by the three lifts – about a dozen or so long, steep runs. Specifics are still being ironed out by the ski school staff.

“We’re really trying to reach out to the destination guest who’s also an expert skier,” says Sonntag. “We’re already known for our service and our grooming – but not for our double-diamond runs. People don’t really appreciate what we have here.”

Of course, the challenges can only be met if they are witnessed by “certified Talons Challenge instructors,” Sonntag says.

“We have a good feeling for who can take any guest anywhere on the mountain,” he says.

Local’s challenge

So what’s a local to do if he or she wants a platinum pin but doesn’t want to take all season to earn one – a pricey venture, considering private lessons cost more than $100 day? Well, there’s always doing a group lesson with others who want to ski all dozen or so Talons runs in one day.

“Sure, we want to create a buzz with the locals,” Sonntag says, adding he looks forward to the challenge himself. “After all, this could spur some people to trash their instructor.”

For more information, call the Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School at 1-800-475-4543.

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