Vail Daily column: Observing the obvious at races |

Vail Daily column: Observing the obvious at races

Since passing the grand old age of 30, there have only been two excusable reasons to ever drink a beer before noon.

Both include sunscreen, but one involves the legs of a plastic chair sitting quiescently in salt water while the other has my legs being frozen stiff (along with my entire backside) due to single digit temperatures of a cold metal bench during a ski race. After downing two cups of rum-spiked coffee the sun makes its appearance over the southern horizon, and within minutes the metal bench resembles the metal slides that would burn my legs during those hot August days as a kid in Texas.

Jackets are shed, sleeves rolled up, sunscreen slathered and beer ordered, clock time being damned.

But I suppose “ordered” is a facetious term, as during the downhill races last week there was a good 20-30 minute wait to purchase a $7 12-ounce can or a $7 16-ounce cup.

Some choices are stupidly simple, but then again I could have had one or two Bloody Marys as well, which appeared to be the preferred drink for the temporarily frozen.

As to the rest of the event, with my youngest having to be at the volunteer tent each morning by 7:30 to either train or slip the racecourse, this left the early hours as a fascinating time for people watching.

I never had the displeasure of parking in the mud-soaked Rodeo Lot, but found standing in line at the Bear Lot rather, um, bearable. The weekend crowds were predictably much more diverse than weekdays, but listening to the easily-offended throngs as their belongings were searched before boarding “Race Finish” buses made me wonder how any of these folks ever make it onto an airplane.

The steps leading up to the viewing stands are a massive improvement over past years, but I still actually heard more than one complaint about the lack of escalators.

Poor Beaver Creek will just never live up to the ever-increasing and demanding expectations of the wealthy and pretentious.

Speaking of bloated, so many were gasping for air by the time they made it to the viewing areas that I half expected to see teams of EMTs standing ready with oxygen tanks, but no, instead they were met with a carnival atmosphere of jugglers, a man walking on stilts, magicians and single-colored frozen mimes (oh, and free Nature Valley bars, we can never forget the never-paid-for-one-in-my-life free Nature Valley bars).

Artistic, sure, and I suppose briefly entertaining for the kiddies (I believe the “Bloody Mary to kid” ratio was 73 to 1), but what in the world did any of that have to do with world-class ski racing?

On an extremely positive note, we had the pleasure of sitting with Travis Ganong’s parents, along with a small army of his supporters from Squaw Valley, as they were sitting in the steerage section with the rest of us non-VIPs.

The excitement and ultimate thrill of spending a few hours with ski race parents literally light years ahead of my wife and I in terms of experience was unmatched, and then to have their son scream down the course to an incredible second-place finish was phenomenal.

After the races, we’ve been going down to the tent on top of the ice rink, where the exact same $7 beer is magically only $5, but it really doesn’t matter at that point as it’s way past noon either way.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at

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