Vail Daily column: Golden Peak moves from vision to reality
It started as a vision of how to better serve Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes through expanding training facilities at Golden Peak. Nearing the finish line in 2008 with the initial disappointment of additional delays in possible approvals of the expansion of Golden Peak, the focus shifted to modernizing and automating the snowmaking system to allow for early opening of existing terrain for training. Fast forward five years and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is not only serving its own athletes. It is literally “hosting the world.”
Through an unprecedented partnership with Vail Resorts, endless cooperation from the National Forest Service, an agreement with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the support of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail donors and financing by Alpine Bank, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail funded the installation of a state-of-the-art automated snowmaking system for Golden Peak. As temperatures cool, beginning Oct. 1, Vail Resorts expert snowmaking staff begin to produce snow and provide access to the water, electricity, lift operations, mechanics, ski patrollers and nightly grooming necessary to have Golden Peak operational from the first of November through early December as an exclusive venue for competitive snowsport athletes.
Although this month of early-season training is most importantly an opportunity for the Vail Valley’s kids to conduct their preseason training at home, I count our intangible blessings each and every November day:
• Forging an even deeper relationship with the best partners a snowsports organization could hope for — Vail Resorts, the United States Forest Service and the community.
• Creating an influx of millions of dollars of economic activity from thousands f athletes, coaches, technicians and family members traveling here from around the world to train in what is a notoriously quiet season.
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• Generating extended employment opportunities for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and Vail Resorts staff.
• Providing the opportunity for our kids to train alongside some of their heroes, role models and peers, including National team, World Cup and Olympic athletes, representing more than 20 countries; Division I college teams including CU, DU, University of New Mexico, University of Utah, Dartmouth, Harvard, Colby, St. Lawrence, University of Vermont and Middlebury; independent ski academies and our partners; Schigymnasium Stams from Austria who participate in an athletes exchange; Snowsports clubs from Whistler, Stowe, Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley and some of our sister resorts like Afton Alps and Brighton.
• Showcasing Vail to media the likes of “60 Minutes,” ESPN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Eurosport, The Associated Press and USA Today, here to catch a glimpse of Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin, Julia Mancuso, Ted Ligety, Bode Miller, Tina Maze, Aksel Lund Svindal, Marcel Hirscher, Ivica Kostelic, Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Lara Gut as they prepare for the season ahead and the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
• Enabling Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes to begin training four to six weeks earlier than other youth snowsports athletes from around the country without missing school and without the expense of airfare, food, lodging and lift tickets; and benefit from training alongside the best in the world.
Who, what, when, where
Coordinating all of the preparations of the slopes, lift operations, ski patrol, training of as many as 20 different visiting teams and all of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s programs is a massive undertaking. Key is the collaboration between Bryan Rooney, Vail Resorts senior manager, Mountain Operations, and CB Bechtel, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail director of operations, two of the most qualified snowsport professionals at any resort, who together with Vail Resorts’ and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s staff make “Vail like nothing on Earth” even before the resort’s official opening.
With as many as 15 race training lanes available in four, two-and-a-half hour sessions daily beginning at 6:30 a.m., mogul lane, aerial training into an airbag and a Nordic loop, Golden Peak is the equivalent of a winter “three ring circus.”
The Golden Peak Competition Arena has been dedicated by Vail Resorts to competitions, events and Ski and Snowboard Club training since the 1970s. During that time, vast changes in ski racing and the addition of new and exciting snowsports have occurred. What once was a top FIS-approved venue (Vail hosted a men’s World Cup slalom on Golden Peak in 1984) has become supbar in terms of vertical rise. A decades-old plan to extend Golden Peak to add terrain for FIS-sanctioned downhill and super-G events, extend the giant slalom venue, as well as add terrain for mogul training, skicross, boarder x and freeskiing training is again being resurrected.
What once was a “nice to have” expansion of training areas has become a necessity. Additional world-class events brought to Vail such as the Burton U.S. Open, along with the growth of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s programs to more than 600 kids have created a need for additional training space for the Vail Valley’s kids and the future Lindsey Vonns and Mikaela Shiffrins who are trained today by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s coaches.
With the continued collaboration of the Forest Service, Vail Resorts, town of Vail and Vail Valley Foundation, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail hopes to bring this decades-old dream to fruition for the benefit of the community, the resort and the kids.