David O. Williams
Metaphorically speaking, Vail like a virgin bride at the altar of the snow gods
November 17, 2007 —
Because I watched a repeat Thursday night of Stephen Colbert’s Meta-Free-Phor-All with Sean Penn (damn writer’s strike), I’ll construct a painful metaphor to describe Vail’s current situation.
With the announcement Thursday that Vail Mountain is pushing back its opening day (originally scheduled for Friday) until Wednesday, Nov. 21, we are like a town of surfers endlessly waxing our longboards and waiting for the tsunami.
Or, to strip away the artifice the way Penn stripped away W’s “bloodstained underwear” (don’t ask, just go to http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/04/21/stephen-colbert-vs-sean-penn/), we’re a town full of skiers waiting for the first significant snowfall of the season so we can crank up the lifts.
It’s not just a matter of little or no snow over the past three weeks, it’s how bleeding balmy it’s been. Most of America relishes such weather, but many of us here in ski country hate the stuff. Warm daytime and nighttime temps mean seriously curtailed snowmaking.
A slew of ski areas (Aspen, Eldora and Steamboat) have joined Vail in pushing back their openings the way opposing offenses have been pushing back the Denver Broncos defensive front four this season (there goes that metaphoroff thing again).
And look for more delays if the temps don’t drop. That’s the bad news. The good news is temperatures have dropped so far this weekend. A drive over Vail Pass Saturday afternoon revealed steady drizzle turning to snow at around 9,500 feet, although none of it resulting in any accumulations. But temps at the top of Vail Pass (10,600 feet) were around 29 degrees.
Breckenridge and Keystone opened more terrain Saturday (including top-to-bottom at Keystone) and a storm is headed our way Tuesday into Wednesday, Nov. 20-21, carrying with it a 50 percent chance of snow and a much higher probability of colder temps more conducive to snowmaking (really good news for crews at Beaver Creek prepping for World Cup ski racing Nov. 29 -
see related story in Real Sport).
Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, said in a release we may even have a powder day on our new opening day, which might be a bit of a reach given the limited terrain and manmade surface beneath any fresh stuff that will be available for next week’s Vail Valley doubleheader (nearby Beaver Creek is also set to open Wednesday), but we’ll take anything from the snow gods at this point.
Think this is a recent phenomenon and Al Gore’s more of a golfer than a snow rider (he has vacationed here in the past)? On Dec. 15, 1980, Beaver Creek opened for the first time with four chairlifts servicing a fraction of its skiable terrain due to unseasonably warm and dry weather. Then the Beav’ shut down the next day and didn’t reopen until Christmas Day.
That was back in the days before wide-scale snowmaking and incessant media hype built up everyone’s expectations for November and even October skiing when historical precedent made December openings much more realistic.
Thanksgiving holidays have always been more of a crapshoot than a turkey-shoot when it comes to skiing, even at the higher elevations of Colorado.
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