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Burton cancels 2021 US Open Snowboarding Championships in Vail over coronavirus concerns

Burton Snowboards on Tuesday announced that due to ongoing uncertainties around the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, which was slated to take place March 1-6 at Vail Mountain’s Golden Peak.

“This was a difficult call to make since we’re so many months away from the next Burton U.S. Open, and we’re not sure what will be happening with the pandemic nine months from now,” said Burton CEO John Lacy in a news release. “After playing out multiple options for the 2021 event, we realized there is too much at stake due to the potential public health risk and the financial risk for Burton to invest millions in an event that could end up being canceled.”

Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said Tuesday he and Mayor Dave Chapin had been on the phone with Burton representatives.

“They wanted to reach out personally,” Robson said. “We heard directly from their spokespersons how important Vail is to the event, and how important Vail is to the sport, and to the family.”

Longest-running event

Heading into 2021, the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships had boasted the title of the world’s longest continuously running snowboard event.

Burton has owned and run the event since 1983 and Burton says nearly every iconic rider in the sport of snowboarding has at one point competed at the U.S. Open, and a title is one of the most coveted in the sport.

“This is disappointing for everyone. The riders, crowds, brand partners and crews who work the event are all what has made the Open the favorite event of the snowboarding community for 38-plus years,” Lacy said. “It’s more like a snowboarding family reunion than anything else, and the impact of this decision is widespread throughout the snowboard community. But as disappointing as it is, protecting the long-term health of this community is what’s most important. If we need to miss a year of the Open to help slow the spread of COVID-19, we’ll get through it.”

When asked if the Open would come back, Burton’s owner and chair of the board Donna Carpenter said, “Of course the Open will be back. It’s the greatest event in the world!”

Ideas forthcoming

Alison Wadey, director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association, said she was heartened by Donna Carpenter’s remarks about the event’s return, adding that it’s an “honor and privilege” to host Burton.

Looking into the 2020-21 ski season and beyond, Wadey said, “There are a lot of decisions we’re going to have to face. … What can we do to create a sustainable economy that might have a little less tourism?”

Robson said losing the U.S. Open is a big disappointment, not just from a financial and sales tax perspective, but culturally.

Moving forward, Robson said “All we can do is work hard” on new economic development initiatives.

Vail Commission on Special Events member Barry Davis said he expects the new initiatives will be plentiful.

“When things calm down, we’re going to see some super-creative ideas,” Davis said, adding that he expects some of those ideas to come from Burton.

Davis noted that innovation has a chance to thrive in times like these, adding that he believes people think one of three ways during a crisis.

“You can put your head in the sand, or you can think things will go back the way they were, or you can focus on the future,” Davis said. “I put Burton in that third category.”

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area to open Wednesday, with limitations

ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI AREA — Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s request for a partial reopening has been approved and will be effective on Wednesday. This was the only variance request from Summit County that was approved by the state. The requests to reopen short-term rentals and dine-in services at local restaurants were denied. 

The variance for A-basin to reopen allows the ski area to host a maximum of 600 skiers per day. Summit County Public Health may adjust this number if physical distancing requirements are unable to be met in any locations within the ski area, including parking lots and base areas. Skiers must register through an online reservation system and reservations will be able to be made at 7 p.m. 36 hours in advance of the intended ski day, with reservations opening at 7 p.m. Monday, May 25.

Those with reservations for a certain day must bring a printed confirmation and valid ID. Guests will be asked to show reservation confirmation before entering the parking lot.

An operations plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 was submitted with the ski area’s application for a variance, which includes precautions and procedures surrounding reservations, lines, base area services, physical distancing enforcement, sanitation and employee training, PPE and symptom screening.

“There are a lot of people that are very excited to get back on the hill and back to do some skiing,” A-Basin COO Alan Henceroth said. “This is going to be a very different setup and will take all of us awhile to get used to it.”

Henceroth said that the ski area will open with three lifts and will sell a limited number of day lift tickets — 30 per day — as the opening is mainly for pass holders of A-basin season and Any Day passes, Ikon passes and Mountain Collective passes. The mountain will be open everyday from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Reservations to ski or snowboard at A-Basin will be strictly required and those who do not have a reservation are urged not to show up, according to Henceroth’s blog

“People are going to come, we’re going to keep them spread out, we’ve redesigned our lift mazes and scanning and that whole system to keep people spread out further,” Henceroth said. “We’re not going to allow tailgating and gathering and partying. That’s not what this is about, that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid. We have next season to party, we don’t have to do that now. We’re really focused on getting people skiing and riding and having a good time.”

Henceroth said that physical distancing will be enforced and that guests must wear facial coverings in designated areas, including in the restrooms, in the base area, in the lift line and through the scanning process. The lanes of the lift lines will be spread out and people will only have to be scanned once. Henceroth said the ski area will look different in that the only two things that will be open will be chairlifts and bathrooms, although he hopes the ski area can eventually phase in some food services and retail operations.

The three lifts that will open on Wednesday will be Black Mountain Express Lift, Lenawee Mountain Lift and Pallavicini Lift, which are all on the front side of the mountain. Uphill Access will also open for uphill passholders on Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. Henceroth said the ski area plans to stay open for as long as they can, hopefully well into June.  

“This is an incredible opportunity we have and we’re all going to have to act responsibly to make this work,” Henceroth said. “And, everyone’s going to have to pitch in and keep their distance from each other, keep their face masks on where appropriate. Don’t show up if you don’t have a reservation and we could have a really good time, but we’re going to have to follow these rules to make it work.”

The ski area also urges people on their website to stay home if sick or high risk and notes that “this is not an experience suitable for beginners.” It is recommended that only experienced skiers and snowboarders come to the ski area at this time. 

According to a news release, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s denial of Summit County’s request to reopen short-term rentals and dine-in services was cited with concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus in the county based on case data. The county appealed the decision after receiving unofficial notice on Saturday, but CDPHE leadership notified Summit County officials on Sunday that it would not change its decision regarding the denials.

Triple murder suspect caught in Vail Valley taken back to California

GYPSUM — A murder suspect caught Thursday in Eagle County following a high-speed chase was on his way back to California by Friday afternoon.

Eagle County authorities accommodated the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and moved Louis Gabriel Lucero’s first Eagle County court appearance to Friday morning, The California authorities took him back to San Bernardino County to face charges of murdering his on-again/off-again girlfriend Erlinda Villareal and her two young sons, ages 9 and 12.

Lucero, 35, is accused of killing all three early Wednesday morning and dumping their bodies in the desert about 12 miles from the Victorville, California home he sometimes shared with Villareal. He fled east, stealing vehicles along the way, including three vehicles in Colorado, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said.

His last auto theft was around 11:30 a.m. Thursday in Dotsero in western Eagle County, where he allegedly stole a car and sped east along Interstate 70. Eagle County Sheriff’s deputies and officers from other Eagle County agencies chased him at speeds above 100 mph. He jumped off I-70 in Dowd Junction and headed south on Highway 24 through Minturn. He crashed the car near Red Cliff and fled on foot, but was quickly caught by deputies.

In Eagle County, Lucero was charged with two counts of first degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding, attempting to elude, felony criminal mischief, leaving the scene of an accident, and reckless endangerment.

Lucero’s Eagle County charges will take a backseat to the three murder charges he faces in San Bernardino County, California.

The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department was so anxious to get Lucero back to California that officers actually flew to Eagle County Thursday night, using a plane sometimes used for prisoner transport and other duties — a 1975 twin-engine Beech Super King.

The deputies from San Bernardino County took off for California at 2:30 p.m. Friday.