Mountain Pulse: Off to the races, Vail Valley |

Mountain Pulse: Off to the races, Vail Valley

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT BC town races 1 KA 01-12-09

VAIL, Colorado ” Losing in either the Vail or Beaver Creek Town Race Series can have serious consequences.

Don’t believe it?

Last year, a member of The George’s losing team skied down Pepi’s Face wearing only a thong to settle a bet. Now, that’s pressure to win.

Prizes, free swag, and most importantly, bragging rights are all on the line at the Vail and Beaver Creek Town Races Series. Beaver Creek kicked off its season on Monday. Vail will do the same on Wednesday after postponing its first session on Jan. 7 due to heavy snow fall.

Organizers from both resorts encourage tourists and locals to participate. What’s better than playing hooky from work? How about skipping the 9-to-5 to bash gates, then taking home free swag and drinking free beer? Yeah, that sounds pretty good.

“Everyone is really excited with what’s going on right now,” said Jennifer Geisness, development director at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, which organizes the races on Golden Peak, said. “It’s a real chance for guests to test their times.”

Skiers, snowboarders and telemark skiers can all come out and enjoy a day of racing. The courses are set up for either a giant slalom or slalom depending on the day. Amateurs, pros, adults and kids are all welcome to compete. There is no pressure to go fast, unless an unflattering side bet needs to be won.

“The majority of the racers are just laughing around the gates, trying to get down,” said Jim Brown, director of the Beaver Creek Town Race Series. “It’s not important. You’re in it for the fun and for the apres party.”

Longtime rivals

The majority of entrants are competing for fun against the mountain. Those people don’t race for either The George or Pazzo’s Pizzeria. The Vail Town Race Series is serious business for both restaurants. The two have been friendly rivals since the 1990s.

“They said they are after us (this year),” Pazzo’s co-owner Brian Hutchinson said. “They want our trophies. I’m going to dig out our trophies. I have 25 of them. I’m going to put them on the wall so when they come in here for the after-party, they have to look at them.”

“We have side bets and things like that,” owner of The George, Jim Glendining, said. “It’s competitive, but in a very laid-back manner.”

The two will have plenty of opportunities to race against each other.

The Vail Town Race Series is scheduled for the next seven Wednesday’s through Feb. 25 on Main Arena above Golden Peak. The first three races are giant slaloms, and the next three are slaloms. The giant slalom championship and slalom championship wrap up the series in the final two weeks. Individuals can register the day of the race for $10.

After each day of racing, there is an apres party alternating between The George and Pazzo’s in Vail, where trophies will likely be on display. There will be free food and drinks for the competitors, not to mention the ever-important swag that will be handed out every week.

The Vail Nordic Town Race Series will also be starting soon. Starting Jan. 21, The Vail Nordic Center will host four races (Jan. 21, Feb. 3, Feb. 25 and March 18) on the Vail Golf Course.

Ringers? What ringers?

The Beaver Creek Town Race Series is set up similar to Vail’s. Including Monday’s race, there are seven dates on the calendar. The series will skip President’s Day on Feb. 17, but will be on the course every Monday other than that until March 2.

The first six races are held on Bear Trap, with the finals going down Centennial. Of the seven races, six are giant slaloms and one is a slalom. Individuals can register the day of the race for $15, and can get discounted lift tickets if they don’t already own a ski pass.

The team competition is usually fierce on the Bear Trap at Beaver Creek. This season, Marko’s Pizzeria, The Coyote Cafe and Summit County Friends are the favorites to take the title.

“The valley has some really hard-core, serious racers,” Brown said “They know each other and they love to race against each other.”

To help push their teams to the championship, it’s not uncommon for teams to bring in a ringer. In the past, former U.S., Canadian and Great Britain Ski Team members have raced.

“We get all of the top skiers in the valley down here,” Brown said.

Regardless of skill level, every racer can feel what it’s like to on the World Cup circuit and bash some gates. Now, about that free beer. …

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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