Vail Valley: ‘A day to shred in his honor’
Vail Valley, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” Josh Malay’s mother, Pat, describes Malay Day in Colorado’s Vail Valley as “a big Josh hug.”
A big group gets together every year to remember Josh Malay, a 23-year-old Vail team snowboarder who died from a head injury after a snowboarding accident in Spain on Feb. 29, 2004. The first Malay Day was less than two months after he died and it’s become a local tradition.
The sixth annual Malay Day was Thursday, and for the first time it was held at Beaver Creek instead of Vail.
“It’s awesome to see it here (at Beaver Creek) where it should have been the whole time,” said David Gutowski, a 30-year-old local rider who knew Malay for about five years. “This is where he rode.”
Malay was a Vail team rider, picking up big wins at sessions and making a name for Vail on the international snowboarding scene, said his brother, Sean Malay.
He split his time up between the two mountains, but there’s no doubt that Beaver Creek was his home mountain, Sean Malay said.
“He spent a lot of time here,” he said.
That what made the sixth Malay Day so special, not to mention the time put into setting up the park for the friendly session-style competition that takes place every Malay Day. Sean Malay has worked at Beaver Creek for five seasons and drives a park cat. He and the crew set everything up for the day with Josh in mind.
“This is all his style,” Sean Malay said. “Everything is big.”
The weather was also Josh Malay’s style. He didn’t particularly love riding under overcast skies and imperfect snow, but it wouldn’t stop him either, said Mark Koelker, a friend of Josh’s and an annual Malay Day attendee.
“(Malay Day is about) remembering how if the weather is as crappy as it is today, he’d be out here shredding with a big smile on his face, having a ton of fun,” Koelker said. “He’d be out here doing it anyway.”
There were at least 50 skiers and riders who showed up for Malay Day, getting there on some of the iciest runs of the season. Some knew Josh Malay, some know his brother, but everyone knows his legend and what the day is supposed to be about.
“It’s a day to shred in his honor,” said Christopher Ewart, 20, of Edwards.
The turnout melts Pat Malay’s heart. She flew in from Minnesota for the event and said there just aren’t enough words to thank all the people who put so much work into setting up the event. She sees many of the same faces at Malay Day year after year, and said it almost feels like a family reunion now.
“It’s just a huge shot of energy,” she said.
Sean Malay, who is now the same age his brother was when he died, 23, is just happy to be among people who loved and respected his brother as much as he did. As music pumped through the loud speakers and skiers and riders hit huge jumps in celebration of Josh Malay, he just smiled.
“We want to show everyone that this is just another day at Beaver Creek ” this is how we roll,” Sean Malay said. “This is how Josh would want it, too.”
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com