Wouldn’t you rather be in the islands? | VailDaily.com

Wouldn’t you rather be in the islands?

Matt Zalaznick/ City Editor

AP PHOTO

In Aruba, you never have to scrape ice off your windshield. You don’t need snow tires in the Virgin Islands, either the British or the American. There are no heating bills in St. Lucia.

So how come so many people flock to the chilly mountains for Christmas? Even more demented, how come so many people insist on living here year-round and battling the slippery, sloppy, slimy elements?

“I love Colorado in general,” said Jen Cousino, a skier from Denver, who was headed up Vail Mountain Tuesday. But what about the snow and ice?

“That’s different,” she admitted. “But when it’s a beautiful, sunny day with good snow, I’d rather ski than lay around on the beach.”

The mountains vs. beach debate, currently raging between Howard Dean and his Democratic competitors, strikes a deep chord for Chris Keefe, a snowboarder and surfer from San Clemente, Calif., a city located on the coast near San Diego.

“In the winter, I’d rather be here,” said Keefe as he got ready to ride up Vail Mountain. “I love coming here and being able to board. But there are times of the year I’d rather be in the islands.”

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Which comes first: snowboarding or the surfing? Where do Dennis Kucinich and Joe Lieberman stand? Keefe didn’t prevaricate.

“I’d have to say surfing,” he said. “The greatest thing about surfing is it’s free. The mountains are killer and there are some places you can go for free but out here, there’s a lot more people.

“And surfing is a lot mellower,” he added. “You walk down the street and jump in the water.”

Ottoman image

Turkey, meanwhile, is not an island. But it snows there and the streets rarely get plowed, says Susan Gogus, a skier from Istanbul who was on Vail Mountain Tuesday.

“I’d rather be in the islands. I live where it’s cold and I like spring skiing,” she said. “I could be in the islands now and come skiing in the spring.”

It’s tough getting around Istanbul in a snowstorm, she added.

“They don’t plow the snow as well,” she said. “Pretty much if it snows, you’re stranded for a while.”

Well, the town of Vail was planning a snow plow exchange program with the city of Istanbul. It was part of the Bush administration’s new initiative to improve the United States’ image abroad, particularly its relations with the Ottoman Empire.

Vail “plow ambassadors” would have been in Turkey on Tuesdays and Thursdays and back here in town the rest of the week. But the program was canceled when Bush learned the Ottoman Empire no longer existed. Canceling the program, however, still cost taxpayers several billions of dollars, an expense that will be deferred to Medicare later this century.

Snowboarder and skier Tim Aust may have a more expert perspective on the question, which all the Democratic candidates have so far dodged. Aust is from the islands – well, almost. He lives in Clearwater, Fla., which is lot closer to islands than Vail Mountain. He said the transition from warm and balmy to freezing and extremities-numbing is a cinch.

“You get bored of one and you do the other,” Aust said. End of interview.

Sea breeze beckons

Gavin Jones, a snowboarder from Lafayette, Colo., said he has no use for the islands.

“I’m a mountain man. I moved from the East Coast to live in the mountains,” said Jones, originally from Allentown, Pa. “I went from 1,000 feet of ice to 3,000 feet of snow.”

It’s hot enough in Colorado, anyway, he said.

“I love the winter. The winter is my favorite season,” Jones said. “It gets hot enough here in the summer to get it out of my system.”

Daniel Foster, who works in Keystone but is originally from Clemson, S.C., said he doesn’t mind icy roads at all.

“Not when I’m riding the bus,” he said, “like when I’ve been drinking.”

Billie Mohrbach, a snowboarder who’s originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, said she doesn’t need the island breeze because Vail’s plenty warm. She figured it was about 20 degrees below zero in her hometown this week.

“I’d rather be right here. My dream vacation is right here,” she said. “The islands are for summer vacations. You’ve got to take advantage of the snow while it’s around.”

Mike Mylar, a snowboarder from Colorado Springs who attends the University of Colorado at Boulder, was riding Vail Mountain Tuesday morning, but said he is spending the holidays in the islands.

“I’m leaving in three days to go to Hawaii,” he said.

Because you hate the winter?

“It’s cheap to fly on Christmas,” he said.

On the age-old debate between summer and winter, warm weather and cold, Mylar said people who prefer the chill of snow to the warmth of the beach are not telling the truth, or at least, deluded.

“I’m sure at any time you’d rather be in the islands,” he said.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.