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Blue Moon Basin: bare-lift incident reveals naked truth about Vail’s seamy underside
This photo of a skier at Vail left hanging upside-down with his pants down (or is that up?) on a chairlift in Blue Sky Basin on New Year's Day begs the question, was this guy still a tad hungover?

Blue Moon Basin: bare-lift incident reveals naked truth about Vail’s seamy underside

By David O. Williams

January 6, 2009 —  The New Year’s Day unveiling of an unfortunate 48-year-old skier’s hindquarters in a chairlift-dangling incident on the Skyline Express chairlift in Vail’s Blue Sky Basin was revealing in a lot of ways.

It showed how quickly the casual act of getting on or off a chairlift can turn into a highly comic albeit truly frightening Warren Miller ski flick moment, how easily and completely that moment can be recorded and disseminated around the globe, and how little control ski companies have over either the local media or the ravenous beast that is the Internet these days.

Back in the day, the PR handlers at the ski company would regularly call the local paper to chastise us for running pictures of skiers or snowboarders getting big air on Vail Mountain (inverted air was actually banned in the pre-terrain-park-and-half-pipe era). Or they’d yell at us for running pictures that were of questionable taste, in their opinion.

Two incidents come immediately to mind: the time I published a front-page photo of local ski racer Sarah Schleper skiing topless with a friend (black bars strategically placed), and the time I ran a photo of a dad pulling his child out of a mud hole while skiing Vail’s Golden Peak area. The caption read, “This mud’s for you,” and the ski execs were not amused.

I got blasted both times around, because there was an unwritten rule everything in Vail, including the local paper, should be part of a seamless marketing brochure of good vibes. If ski conditions were less than optimal, you simply didn’t discuss it, and people should be shown having fun (but not too much fun).

Last Thursday’s incident, in which an unidentified man somehow wound up hanging upside-down by one ski with his ski pants around his ankles was anything but fun for the man who was suspended anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes depending on which report you read.

The lift crew stopped the lift right away and then managed to back it up and get the man down without injury, but in the meantime the poor guy’s backside was happily snapped by hordes of amateur paparazzi with cell-phone cameras. Although it’s an off-duty Sharpshooter photographer who’s getting his 15 minutes for nabbing the shots that ran in the Vail Daily Saturday, spread like wildfire on the Internet and proved how futile it is for the ski company to try to contain embarrassing moments captured on the mountain.

And whatever partnership Vail has with Sharpshooters might be subject to review. Apparently the shooter was suspended for his indiscretion, but I’ve also noticed a heightened level of aggression by the tourist scrap-book photogs who now accost you at the top of every lift and shill like Mexican blanket vendors on a public beach in Puerto Vallarta.

Can’t blame the dude for snapping that photo, though, and for trying to get a little fame and fortune from his right-time-right-place moment.

Finally, if you’re a smug RealVail local who thinks something like this could never happen to you, think again. I once was happily chattering with some Euro journalists while covering World Cup racing in Beaver Creek, riding the chairlift with my poles under my leg.

I forgot to take them out before getting off the lift and wound up on my back with one of my poles headed down the hill still jammed in the chair. Luckily it finally dropped about five lift towers down.

That was my classic lift-dismounting-idiot moment, and it was only by the grace of god that my pants stayed on. You’ve all been there at one time or another, partially disrobed on some sort of uphill ski conveyance.

You likely kept such indiscretions to the confines of your own personal gondola car, joining the Two Mile High Club (basis of that mythical ski-skin flick “Cumming Down the Mountain), but it’s enough to instill at least a little empathy for the man who has forever re-christened Blue Sky Basin as “Blue Moon Basin.”



Comment on article  4 Comments on "Blue Moon Basin: bare-lift incident reveals naked truth about Vail’s seamy underside "


RKG — January 7, 2009

So the bare bum hanging from the chairlift thing has turned into a little marketing jolt for VR. Was this planned or a New Coke moment? Whatever the case, from the Vail Daily's ongoing coverage to national news it sure can't hurt Vail's, um, exposure.


sherry — January 7, 2009

this is a vacation he will never forget, he can honestly say all he did was hang around :) glad to know he is alright.


roxie — January 7, 2009

love that caption question! I wonder the exact same thing!

Like you said about your own memorable lift mishap: due to being distracted by conversation and NOT being mindful of your gear / location / riding responsibly.

BAD WEATHER ASIDE -- 99% of the time -- modern chair lifts are extremely safe IF respected and extremely dangerous if NOT respected.

There's a reason there's a big sign on the side of lift huts all across the country that says you're not allowed to ride if you don't know how to ride, and that it's your own dang responsibility to get-on/ride/dismount correctly, plus a whole bunch of other rules -- so you can't say you didn't know.

If you don't know how to safely get on and off of a lift, go over to the bunny slope where the operators slow down or even stop the lift for novices ALL DAY LONG.

I would LOVE to know how this guy got his ski *ON TOP* of the front side of a chair. There's ZERO reason to lift your skis when you're waiting at the red line and EVERY reason to keep them flat on the ground. Anybody who picks up their skis while they know DANG WELL that a big ol' bench seat is swinging around behind their butt deserves whatever they get.


Bernie — January 13, 2009

"That's what happens when you don't put the seat down!" laughed Leslye.

Chad wondered if the he was yelling, "Shrinkage...shrinkage!"

I thought the last thing he said was, "Watch this..."



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