Golden Peak expansion would improve safety for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail racers (letter) | VailDaily.com

Golden Peak expansion would improve safety for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail racers (letter)

Vail Daily Letter to the Editor

My name is Elise Viola. I am a senior at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy. As a competitive ski racer, I have spent the last nine years of my life training on Golden Peak.

In the fall, Colorado is one of the first places to get snow, so nearly all of the ski racing community flocks to our home mountains to start training. With Vail and Copper being the two mountains with sufficient training space, teams from all over the world cram onto these two mountains, causing the number of people on the hill to be insanely high.

Each team is given one "lane" to set their course for a two-hour period before the next team arrives. As many lanes are packed onto the hill as possible, with teams using every inch of snow and second of daylight. There are teams loading the chair from 6:30 a.m. all the way until 4:30 p.m.

With lanes being so close together, conditions can be dangerous, given that skill levels range dramatically, from Ski Club's 12-year-olds to elite World Cup racers. Golden Peak race arena bustles with stressed and excited skiers for nearly a month and then suddenly the guest teams leave. At this point, Ski Club athletes gain the ability to train with enough room, where if you were to fall you do not have to worry about a 200-pound World Cup skier plowing you over.

Sadly, this space is short lived. Come December, Vail Resorts takes half of the trail away again in order to blow snow for the U.S. Open. Suddenly, all ski club racers are yet again packed onto a small run, giving athletes no room for error.

If Ski Club Vail were to expand the Golden Peak Race Area, it would allow for much safer training. Coaches would not have to set courses on top of each other in order to ensure that all athletes are able to prepare for their upcoming races. As of right now, there are days where we are forced to fit five courses where only three should safely go.

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The current venue was created for Vail when the club had half the number of athletes, but now it has more than doubled in size, and it is time to account for this in training space, as well. If we want to continue to see successful athletes like Lindsey Vonn coming out of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, we need to be able to train properly and, more importantly, safely.

I understand that people have concerns, such as some of the homeowners in Vail, who are worried about the loss of the aspen trees, as they feel that it will change the aesthetic of the mountain. This is only one small section of trees that will be cut down in a valley full of aspens. The benefits of a larger training space and the possibility for hosting higher caliber events outweigh the loss of a few aspen trees. If Ski and Snowboard Club Vail is allowed to expand Golden Peak, their athletes will be able to train far more safely and receive more quality training, leading to more successful athletes.

Elise Viola

Avon