Stuck between seasons in Eagle County | VailDaily.com
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Stuck between seasons in Eagle County

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
Photo Illustration by Theo StroomerDecisions, decisions: During mud season, Eagle County residents can chose from a number of winter and summer activities.
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On Wednesday night, Chris “Mongo” Reeder and Mike Evans prepared for their end-of-ski-season trips.

“I’m packing up the camper and all the rafting gear …and trying to get out of Dodge,” said Reeder, a Vail ski patroller and U.S. Rafting Team member.

While Reeder was hoping to get away from the snow, Evans was getting ready to be knee-deep in it.

“I’m leaving Thursday morning at 3:30 a.m. for a hut trip,” said Evans, an instructor at the Children’s Ski School and tennis pro at Cordillera and Sonnenalp. “I taught skiing 107 days or something like that and didn’t get to freeski that much. This is our time to go out and play and enjoy hanging out with each other.”

On Sunday, both Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek closed for the season, and as the tourists and seasonal workers left town this week, locals were left to ponder what to do during mud season.

“We were laughing at ourselves,” Reeder said. “Sunday we partied on the mountain, … then we went down to Glenwood (to paddle) and went back again Monday and did it. It’s literally straight from winter and into summer on the same day.”

Not so fast, though.

“Monday, people came in to rent telemark stuff,” said Ryan Russell, who works at Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards. “There’s mixed emotions. The die-hards are loving the snow, and people who are sick of it are ready to paddle.”

On Thursday, with a fresh dumping of close to a half-foot in Eagle County, skiers climbed up Vail Mountain with skins and snowshoes, looking to catch some of this season’s endless powder, while others drove to Breckenridge, which reported 10 inches of new snow. With Loveland and Arapahoe Basin open until they decide to close, skiers and boarders can get plenty more days on the mountain, and with a heavy snowpack and cold temperatures, the backcountry may have good skiing into July.

“During a year like this, I plan on doing a few more backcountry days,” said Jay Henry, a pro mountain biker. “The spring backcountry skiing will be incredible for another two months.”

Come mid-April, no matter how good the snow, for some, the winter toys need to go away.

“Mentally, I’m just done,” said Lisa Isom, who runs the Cordillera Nordic Center and lives near Tennessee Pass.

“Right now, I’m watching it dump and have 3 feet of snow in my yard and could go for ski tonight, but don’t want to,” Isom said Wednesday evening. “This weekend, I had a long run in Edwards and was on pavement, and I couldn’t believe how nice it was. I could have high-quality training in snow, but I’m ready to focus on summer sports.”

In years past, Isom wouldn’t have had to decide what to do.

“By now, the snow is usually rotten and you don’t have a choice, but this year it’s ridiculous,” she said. “We have a choice this year, but most of us would rather not have choice.”

The record amount of snowfall this winter and persistently cold temperatures wasn’t just an upvalley phenomenon. Downvalley, the snow pushed back the opening dates of Cotton Ranch Golf Club and Eagle Ranch Golf Course and kept skateboarders like Jared Thompson from hitting the park in Gypsum.

“There wasn’t anywhere to skate so I snowboarded,” said Thompson, an Eagle Valley High School student.

This week, however, both Edwards and Gypsum saw plenty of action.

“A lot of the skaters in Edwards were definitely snowboarders I’d seen on the mountain,” Thompson said. “But more of the people there were just coming to hang out and skate. They are used to being outdoors, and the mountain closes, and they have nothing to do.”

Of course, those who can go West or South for a few weeks.

“I think that’s the common theme,” Reeder said. “They go to the beach or the desert. Mexico or Moab.”

As amped up as locals get to jump on their mountain bikes or hit Class V rapids in their kayaks, waiting a bit isn’t the worst thing in the world. With mountain-bike trails downvalley still a bit damp and upvalley trails under feet of snow, Henry is turning to his road bike.

“That’s a good way to start training anyway,” he said. “You can ride as easy as you want, and there tends to be fewer hills. I think even if mountain-bike trials were dry, I’d spend time on my road bike.”

While some refer to the Vail Valley during mud season as a ghost town, those who are sticking around want to embrace what nature has to offer.

“That’s why we’re here,” Evans said. “That’s why offseason is so great. We get great weather. Some days I might teach a (tennis) lesson and go ski. Who knows? That’s why it’s fun.”

Only a few days in, Henry is already loving this mud season.

“The other day, I skied powder all day and went for a bike ride in the afternoon. Only in April in Colorado can you do something like that,” Henry said. “Summer is on its way, and it can take its time. I enjoy this time of year when you can do anything.”

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 970-748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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