Surviving Vail’s opening day |

Surviving Vail’s opening day

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado

For a moment on Friday morning, I thought I was in the middle of a John Denver song.

“Rocky Mountain High,” indeed.

Despite what Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb and Dumber” believes, Denver wasn’t full of it when he wrote the tune.

I confirmed the truth when I skied Vail Mountain for the first time on Friday ” Vail’s 46th opening day. Not only that, it was also my first experience skiing in the state of Colorado.

What a great start.

Cub’s Way

As I native Iowan with limited time on skis, I had no idea what to expect. Would my cheap skis hold up? Could I survive the steep slopes? Did my snow pants make my butt look fat?

I quickly found out.

I’m not going to lie. A lot worse than butterflies were tinkering with my stomach on my initial trip up the lift. I predicted a fall when getting off the chair, and made sure my fellow travelers knew to steer clear of my flailing limbs.

Surprisingly, I managed to stay on two feet and slid down to the landing area. I savored the moment by scanning the view. Wow. Only half way up the mountain and it was spectacular.

After texting a few jealous friends, I chose my first run ” Cub’s Way. Apparently, no runs on Vail Mountain are named Kitten’s Ally or Puppy’s Lane, or else I likely would have picked one of those.

The less-than-intimidating name gave me confidence. I took the run with a relaxed feeling on the initial slow descent. It didn’t last long. Only minutes later, I was staring down Born Free ” only a blue run ” with thoughts not suitable for this paper.

With my poor turning skills doing little to slow me down, I sprinted toward pain, trying desperately to stop.


Luckily, the fall kept me going off a cliff and reserving an ambulance for the afternoon. And it barely hurt.

The rest of the day went well. My butt avoided the snow, and I had only a couple of close calls. Even though I won’t be challenging Lindsey Vonn to a race anytime soon, I could tell I was getting better with each trip up the mountain.

Enthusiastic skiers

Despite the lack of snow and open trails, the skiers who went to opening day were almost overly excited. Non-skiers took advantage of the warm weather by packing patio decks close to the Born Free Lift and snuggling with a beer well before noon.

With each trip up, I met another three riders who were pumped to be on the mountain. The question of the day was surely, “How many runs have you done already?”

Two giddy snowboaders from Washington were also riding Vail for the first time on Friday. After graduating from college last spring, they wanted to take six months off and live the mountain lifestyle. Who can blame them?

At times, it’s easy to take Colorado’s beauty for granted. Still relatively new to the area ” only having lived here for three months ” I already find myself driving around and paying little attention to the scenery.

That changed on Friday.

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

Support Local Journalism