Vail Mountain completes longest season on record with snow to spare

New flakes fell on a 47-inch mid-mountain base on rare May Closing Day

Skiers and snowboarders wearing an array of costumes line up Sunday at Gondola One at Vail. Vail wrapped up its longest season on record with a rare May 1 closing.
Madison Rahhal/Vail Daily

Correction: Vail Mountain’s longest season on record was the 1997-98 season, which ran from Nov. 7, 1997, to May 3, 1998.

Vail ended its longest season on record in its usual Closing Day fashion on Sunday, with hundreds of skiers and snowboarders celebrating on top of the mountain.

And even though it was a rare May closing, the weather behaved more like March, with wind and snow creating cold conditions on the slopes.

Many closing day traditions were on display. Local Chad Anderson rode his 1980s-era Sims 1600 FE SERIES snowboard with original bindings.

Minturn Saloon bartender Chad Anderson rides this rare vintage snowboard once per year, on Closing Day.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Beverly and David Tomasi visited once again from Houston, Texas, as they always do. David dressed as the pope and Beverly as a fallen angel.

Beverly and David Tomasi blessed the crowd at Vail Closing Day on Sunday.
Madison Rahhal

Ted Kodlowski, who is the mayor of Stillwater, Minnesota, tries to visit Vail every year on Closing Day, as well. He learned to ski at Birch Park Ski Area in the St. Croix River Valley, which offered night skiing and snowmaking in the 1980s. Kodlowski said being raised by a single mother, Birch Park offered him a safe place to spend evenings throughout his youth.

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“Skis were cheaper than a babysitter,” he said.

Sean Delaney wasn’t able to enjoy his Closing Day tradition, skiing Riva Ridge to stop at the tree where his grandfather’s ashes were scattered.

Kait Mikes, Andrea Mikes, Julie Brown, Lauren Kern, and Garrett Gemmel at Vail Closing Day on Sunday.
Madison Rahhal/For the Vail Daily

Riva Ridge closed early on Sunday, forcing skiers onto the run where they started the ski season, Ramshorn.

Vail’s season began on Nov. 12 with Ramshorn and Swingsville open to skiers who were willing to download Gondola One following their ski day.

Captain Russ Nelson plays his trumpet for the lift line Sunday at Vail’s Closing Day. Madison Rahhal/For the Vail Daily

By the end of December, conditions had improved dramatically. A portion of the Back Bowls opened on Dec. 28, with Vail Mountain at the time reporting nearly 2 feet of snow in a one-week period.

Vail ended the season recording 264 inches total; the mountain on its trail map claims an average of 350 inches. The mid-mountain base on closing day was 47 inches, and top-to-bottom access was available from the top of Chair 4 to the bottom of the Lionshead gondola.

The chill in the air gave an assist to the many Vail Mountain and U.S. Forest Service employees who began ushering crowds off the mountain at 4 p.m.

Horns had been installed on top of Chair 11, a large horn blast sounded at exactly 4 p.m. signifying that the season was over.

Matt and Dolly Gobec were drinking wine underneath the Chair 11 exit terminal at the time. The former Vail locals, now living in Edwards, said they visit Vail on Closing Day every year and didn’t remember hearing the horns in years past.

“It was loud,” they said. “We picked the wrong spot. But we had a good time.”

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