The path to the races
BEAVER CREEK — During the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, some spectators will forgo the bus ride to Redtail Stadium and take the path less traveled to watch the races.
From Feb. 2-15, Dally, a roughly 2-kilometer skiway from Redtail to the base of Centennial, will transform into Trail 2015 for those who choose to get to the stadium on foot. The trail will be sponsored by Atlas Snowshoes, which will provide 100 pairs of free rental snowshoes for hikers, and Kaiser Permanente will be sponsoring rest stations along the way. Hikers and snowshoers will enjoy rest stations stocked with water, hot cocoa and snacks, be rewarded with giveaways, catch some free entertainment and even spot some polar bears.
Sculpture bears, that is — Eagle-Vail artist Karl Krueger has created five life-size snow sculptures featuring polar bears and birds of prey that will line the way up to the racecourse, with each sculpture depicting different scenes of the bear and the bird wrestling over a snowy globe.
“Polar bears are an easy target. I mean, who doesn’t love them? They’re a worldwide treasure that people from different countries can appreciate,” Krueger said. “They’re something to make the walk up more fun.”
In the spirit of competition
Of course, the main appeal of the sculptures is the fun of seeing towering bears and birds on the groomed skiway, but there’s a bigger story going on, too. As Krueger sees it, the bears represent the giants of the skiing world — the Europeans, and the birds represent the smaller, but powerful underdog — the Americans. Statues at the beginning of the walk depict the bird and bear peacefully together, and subsequent statues show various degrees of struggle and competition. In one statue, the bear and bird are wrestling over the globe, with the bird nearly crushed underneath. However, by the last installation, the two animals are in harmony again.
“They start off together, like they will at the Opening Ceremonies, go into competition and face off, but come back together in the end. It’s all in the friendly spirit of competition,” Krueger said.
Krueger, an architect by trade who is responsible for numerous other sculptures and art installations around the Vail Valley, said the snow sculptures may be challenging to maintain throughout the races, depending on the snow conditions and temperatures. Underneath the snow, the sculptures have a skeleton of wood and wire that help keep them intact, but Krueger said he still expects he’ll have to do a bit of “fighting nature” to keep the bears in pristine condition.
“They’re made for you to suspend your disbelief,” he said. “When you turn your head and see them from the corner of your eye, you should feel like you are actually spotting a bear.”
Also keep your eye out for a “Halfway Cafe” on the trail — a seating area carved from snow where you can kick back and take some photos during your hike.
Hike to the races
Hikers on Trail 2015 should be prepared for a roughly 2,015-meter long hike (yes, really) that will take most people 35 to 55 minutes, depending on fitness and number of stops. The trail is a gradual uphill with a few steep punches. Of course, people can opt to walk down, too, at the end of the races, which will take 20 to 25 minutes.
“The whole idea behind doing it was to alleviate the carbon footprint and offer an active way to get to the races,” said Martha Brassel, with the Vail Valley Foundation. “This community is such an active community that we want to share that love with the world. Also, we hope that people who are so busy during the races that they don’t have time to exercise can sneak in a workout this way.”
Use your own snowshoes or get your free Atlas rentals in front of the Kjus store in Beaver Creek Village. Once the free rentals are gone, the Beaver Creek Nordic Center will be providing rentals for $20.15.
Once at the top, you can return your snowshoes at the Atlas tent or hang onto them for the hike down.
Hikers should make sure to stay to the right, since Trail 2015 will be shared with skiers. There will be no activities on the trail on Thursday, Feb. 10 and 11, when there are no races at Beaver Creek.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.