Tutus and T-Bar: Your Breckenridge closing day survival guide
April 21, 2017
2017 Breck Plunge
What: An annual end-of-season pond-skimming contest for snowboarders and skiers held at the base of Peak 8
When: Sunday, April 23, at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Peak 8 base area, Breckenridge
Cost: $25 per competitor
The event is open to skiers and snowboarders, age 18 years and older. Each competitor gets one run, with the top 20 runs advancing to finals. Registration is available on-site only at the Peak 8 activity center from 9:30-11 a.m. Pond-skimming begins at 1:30 p.m., followed by finals at 3:15 p.m. and awards on the T-Bar patio around 3:45 p.m. For more info, see the homepage link at Breckenridge.com.
It's hard to believe the ski season is almost over. Though Ullr blessed us with a few bonus inches, the slopes are showing off their spring facades of dirt, rock and slush. Sunshine, corn snow and promises of closing day entertainment are in full swing.
But as the end draws nigh, it's crucial to plan appropriately in order to wring the last bit of joy and merriment from the mountain. From grilling tips for on-mountain feasts to staying safe in the slush, here is your guide to ending the season in style.
Grilling and chilling
When it comes to spring skiing, it's more about the quality than the quantity. Though the conditions may be questionable, there is one thing that can turn a sketchy day on the mountain into a day for the ages: the on-mountain barbecue. There are three decks with complimentary gas grills located on Vail Mountain, and the Beach at Arapahoe Basin has several charcoal grills, plus plenty of room to post up in a truck bed. Unforunately, on-mountain grilling isn't very popular at Breckenridge, where it's not exactly frowned upon — just not encouraged.
If you're heading to Vail for closing day, Hawk's Nest deck is located by the Blue Sky Basin overlook, past the top of High Noon Express Lift (No. 5). It isn't huge, but it has great views of Blue Sky Basin and Sun Up Bowl.
Henry's Hut, which is located across from Patrol Headquarters, is situated outside of the warm-up yurt. Again, it's not huge (you can fit approximately 25 people comfortably), but it also has great views. Both decks are prime real estate for the annual Four at Four celebration.
The other deck with a grill is in Blue Sky Basin's Belle's Camp, located at the culmination of SkyLine Express Lift (No. 37). One of the biggest decks on the mountain, it has more cooking and sitting space, but it's also exceptionally popular. As a result, arriving early or late is key if you want space on the grills. Remember: All decks close at 4 p.m., so plan your afternoon accordingly.
But what to make? Sure, you could pack some brats and burgers and call it good, but a perfect spring day seems to call for a more refined repast.
"Charcuterie, cheese or crudite type snacks are easy finger food and healthy," Bridget Heitz wrote on Facebook. Edwards resident Stephanie Drew agreed: "A friend of ours brought foil-wrapped Brie and heated it until squishy. Add jam and crackers — wowsers!"
Other suggestions include fajitas and kebabs, both of which transport easily in foil. Jeff Kennedy — a Moe's Original Bar B Que employee who created a barbecue for more than 100 people at Big Sky one year — offered up his professional opinion.
"You gotta have something quick to start," he explained in an email. "I like a pack of Conecuh sausage (Alabama sausage that grills up fast and good) and a little bowl of pimento cheese (make it loose so it stays dippable in the cold)."
Kennedy also suggested doing a lot of the preparation the night before. Marinate pork tenderloin overnight, and then double seal it in plastic freezer bags for transport. Bake sweet potatoes, halve them and individually wrap the halves in foil with a pat of butter in each one — then, simply place on the grill.
He even brings dessert: "Individually wrap chocolate chip cookies in wax paper, then foil," he said. Place them on the grill to heat for a sweet, gooey treat.
Some things to remember for slopeside grilling: The community grills at Vail and A-Basin aren't huge yet draw a lot of people, so sometimes reheating something pre-cooked, such as ribs, makes the most sense. Don't forget utensils for grilling, eating and drinking, and get to the grills either early or late to try to avoid crowds. Hopkins said the best time is around 2 p.m. because most people are done eating: "Plus, they might share delicious leftovers."
"Be a good participant," Heitz said. "Sharing is caring with tables and grill space. And don't be a punk: Be mindful of wind blowing things away. Pack-in, pack-out or find the trashcans. No one wants to pick up after you, especially not Mother Nature."
Dress for success
Perhaps one of the most beloved traditions of closing day is donning wild duds. There are several different avenues to pursue when choosing your costume:
• Character study: Super heroes, full-coverage animal suits (pink gorilla, anyone?) and call-outs to current events are always appreciated.
• Blast from the past: Find a brightly colored onesie, rock those rear-entry boots or layer up every neon item you've found over the years — it's all appropriate on closing day.
• Less is more: Not that we're advocating your bithday suit, but as the weather warms up, fewer layers are necessary. Skiing in T-shirts, tanks and/or shorts is an option, but it's wise to take a few extra layers in case the weather turns (as it often does after 2 p.m. on closing day).
Whatever you choose to wear, make sure your sight and movement are unimpaired, and that you wear plenty of sunscreen on exposed bits.
Live to ski another day
There's nothing worse than spending the last days of the ski season in the emergency room. Spring snow conditions can cause a variety of injuries, especially knee and shoulder injuries, which are very common. Lauren Rust, a former ski racer and physical therapist at Howard Head Sports Medicine, has seen all sorts of end-of-season injuries, including concussions, and gave tips for avoiding late-season injuries.
"Don't ski until 10 a.m.," Rust said. "In the spring, the snow warms up during the day and will freeze at night. That means the snow will be rock hard and icy in the morning. Wait until later in the morning to ski when the snow has softened up."
Additionally, shadows can change the temperature of the snow, which can be perilous. On catwalks, the colder, slicker snow in the shadows can cause you to speed up, Rust said. Then, as you hit the sunny, sticky snow, it can throw you forward. Landing with an outstretched hand is a classic cause of shoulder injuries, Rust said.
"This is especially true in the afternoon at lower elevations when the snow is so soft it turns to 'mashed potatoes,'" she said. "When the snow is slushy, it is easier to catch a ski edge and can cause a twisting force on your knees, setting you up for knee injury."
Whether you're making plans for a sunny deck on the mountain, preparing your costume or gearing up for some friendly competition, there's nothing quite like spring skiing. Breckenridge's closing day is tomorrow (April 23) and Vail Mountain closes the same day. A-Basin is tentatively open through mid-June, depending on conditions.
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