Vail is ‘premier fall training operation’
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Vail’s Golden Peak is entering its second year with its high-tech snowmaking system, but word has gotten around – around the world, that is – that Golden Peak’s runs offer professional skiers and snowboarders prime fall training terrain.
The U.S. Ski Team will be back in Vail next week, with famous Olympic skiers like Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso and Sarah Schleper racing down Golden Peak runs designed especially for racing. International ski teams will also be training at Golden Peak in November, including Germany, Austria, Finland, Italy, Korea and Japan, as well as high school and college teams from around the country.
And, of course, Ski Club Vail athletes will be racing down the slopes in November and throughout the winter.
The popularity is the result of a collaboration between Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and Vail Mountain.
Ski Club Vail invested nearly $3 million into the snowmaking equipment, which includes technology that injects the slalom hill with high pressure water, creating a denser snowpack, said Nigel Cooper, Ski Club Vail’s director of program development.
While it’s great to have ski teams from all over the world renting lanes at Golden Peak, Cooper said Ski Club Vail really made the investment so the club’s athletes could train at home rather than busing over to Copper Mountain.
“We built this thing for ourselves,” Cooper said. “We want to keep our people and money here in Vail.”
The training operation was up and running last year, with Vonn skiing some very publicized training runs at Golden Peak in November, but this year there will be more going on.
Cooper said the whole hill was open for training last year, but Ski Club Vail only operated it at about 25 percent capacity.
“We’re probably doubling that this year,” he said.
Mike Day, the U.S. Ski Team’s head coach for men’s world cup slalom and giant slalom, said the team is impressed with the investment that Ski Club Vail has made into building such an elaborate snowmaking system.
“Ski and Snowboard Club Vail really gets it, to go through all that effort to get the terrain covered with snow, but also making the surface hard and icy for us, and going through the effort to inject the slalom lanes with water, too,” Day said. “There are other great venues, but (Ski Club Vail Executive Director Aldo Radamus) and his crew have really gone over the top with the preparations there.”
Vail Mountain Marketing Director Adam Sutner said the collaboration with Ski Club Vail is just one more way to prove that Vail is a world class, internationally renowned ski resort.
It’s Ski Club Vail’s job to attract the ski teams to train at Vail, with Ski Club Vail renting the mountain and paying the operations costs throughout training, creating a mutual benefit for both Ski Club Vail and Vail Mountain.
“It allows us to bring luster on Vail before we’re even open,” Sutner said.
Sutner said last year was proof that the training facility is invaluable. When Loveland Ski Area and Arapahoe Basin were promoting their snowmaking and “white ribbon of death” runs open so early in the season, Vonn was training for the World Cup circuit and the Winter Olympics at Golden Peak.
“We put up videos showing Vonn running gates at Golden Peak,” Sutner said. “It’s how we try to keep ourselves on another plane than other ski resorts.”
The way training at Golden Peak will look this year will be similar. Vonn will be the first U.S. Ski Team member to train there, with her first day on the hill to happen as early as next week.
Ski Club Vail leases space to the various teams every day, for three different sessions per day. The hill is broken down into many lanes, including downhill, Super G and slalom, for example.
There will also be a Nordic track at the bottom of the hill, and facilities in place for park, pipe and moguls.
The halfpipe won’t be complete, but there will be plenty of early season training for all sports, Cooper said.
Cooper also suspects a lot of bookings to come in as the Birds of Prey World Cup event at Beaver Creek nears. He said there’s not a lot of training facilities available for racers at Beaver Creek, so he thinks they’ll train at Golden Peak leading up to Birds of Prey in early December.
“It’s one of those things, you build it and they will come,” Cooper said. “Because of the terrain at Golden Peak, we’ve essentially morphed into the premier fall training operation in the world.”
Cooper said there will be anywhere from 300 to 500 athletes and staff at Golden Peak every day. He thinks there will definitely be a positive economic impact in Vail, too.
The Manor Vail Lodge is already feeling some of that impact. The hotel is the host hotel for the U.S. Ski Team, as well as several international teams, and has substantially higher occupancy in November than in years past, said General Manager Bob McCleary.
“It’s a slow time of the year – we’re definitely happy to have the business,” McCleary said.
Cooper said the teams will be training every day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., as soon as weather allows the operation to fully open sometime by mid-November. He said the public is welcome to come out and watch training any day.
“The training program is going to look pretty exciting,” Cooper said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.