Golden Peak training opens, excitement for Vail expansion surrounds venue
VAIL — Golden Peak was able to open for athlete training earlier than Vail Mountain itself, which also announced an early opening this year.
About 100 athletes gathered on Tuesday, Nov. 13, for the first day competition training for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes. While the training area is known for hosting national teams from all over the world in Vail most Novembers, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is keeping the training local for the opening week.
“Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is choosing to prioritize local athletes during this first week of Golden Peak operations,” said chief operating officer John Hale said on Tuesday. “While the cost of operating the venue is not insignificant, we are thrilled to be able to offer this early season benefit almost exclusively to local athletes before welcoming a broader population of visiting teams to the hill next week.”
In addition to ski racers, freeski and snowboard athletes have a rail garden to use, and moguls skiers also have a practice area. Olympian Morgan Schild, who has won World Cup events in both moguls and dual-moguls competitions, was among the athletes skiing at Golden Peak on Tuesday.
While preseason training is commonplace at Golden Peak, an atmosphere of excitement surrounded the hill this season as the opening comes just days after the U.S. Forest Service’s publication of a favorable draft decision for an expansion of the training terrain at Golden Peak, which could include downhill, super-G, moguls and snowboard-cross courses.
Schild called it a game changer.
“Vail already offers such valuable training, coaching and overall support to their current and alumni athletes, to also have a world class mogul course that could potentially hold World Cup competitions is a big deal,” Schild said. “John (Dowling, freestyle program director) has sent so many athletes to the World Cups across the world, it would be nice to see it come full circle one day.”
The expansion should allow for even greater numbers of athletes being able to use Vail as their training ground in the years to come.
By using Chair 6 as an upload and download lift which would take athletes to a new surface lift, and pushing the training venue another 760 vertical feet up the hill over an additional 42 acres of terrain, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail expects Golden Peak will be able to host training activities several weeks earlier and later during typically low-business periods in the spring and fall.
Across the street from Golden Peak, Lori Salomone has been working at Manor Vail Lodge for 25 years.
She said the investment made in Golden Peak nearly a decade ago, which brought the snowmaking technology to the area that currently exists, brought a new energy to Vail in the weeks leading up and surrounding the opening of the mountain.
“It gets us ramped up and excited about ski season,” Salomone said. “The coaches frequent our restaurant and it brings some nice early season business to the hotel.”
This year, national teams from Austria, Italy, France and Sweden will stay at Manor Vail, as well as college and club teams from within the U.S.
Joe Paul, Team Gilboa out of Minnesota, said his team has been visiting Vail for early season training every November for the last eight years.
This year, Gilboa will bring 75 skiers and 15 coaches and staff, and many of those skiers and staff bring their families.
“We make it a Thanksgiving tradition,” Paul said. “The ability to jump start our season and train on a good surface is really helpful to our program.”
Paul said he estimates his club will spend about $120,000 in Vail this year.
While that sounds like a lot of money, he said for an opportunity to get as much snow time as they do, it’s well worth it.
“We have athletes who benefit from it all season,” Paul said.
The story of the Minnesota skier experiencing Vail’s terrain and having their life forever changed may be a familiar tale from the legend of Lindsey Vonn, but Paul said it’s actually a much more common story than you might think.
“We have athletes in the club right now who, after winning and performing well at the Rocky/Central level last season, will actually move to Vail and join Vail’s program,” Paul said. “We have three athletes right now who are in that process, who will become members of Ski Club Vail this year.”