Blog: Thursday, 7:42 p.m. " ‘Maybe the boniest year ever for being open to the public’ | SummitDaily.com

Blog: Thursday, 7:42 p.m. " ‘Maybe the boniest year ever for being open to the public’

DEVON O'NEIL
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Kristin Anderson
ALL |

Just like the Virgin Islands would be a good place to own a beach bar, Crested Butte would be a prime spot to own a ski-tuning business ” especially this year.

I don’t know how to write the sound, but you can’t go far without hearing it; that sweet lullaby of Rocky Mountain granite beating the tar out of your ski base.

Still, simply getting around the mountain is one thing. The competitors this week are pushing limits on this stuff. They’re going fast, charging the crap out of a hill that is in arguably the worst shape it’s ever been for this contest.

Not that I’d know. But Mark O’Neill would. He has been on ski patrol here for 21 years. He is “49 and a half” and has a white beard. He also has won two of the past four masters championships in this event, which basically makes him the dean of the division.

After taking his run in Thursday’s qualifying round, O’Neill spoke to the snow situation with candor ” a situation, mind you, that was vastly improved by back-to-back 8-inch reports earlier this week. (A goggle-tanned hotel desk clerk told me when I arrived Tuesday night that Tuesday morning was the best snow they’d had all season.)

“This is maybe the boniest year ever for being open to the public,” O’Neill said, staring up at a pitch called Cesspool. “We’re at the bottom of what we can do.

“‘Kinda scratchy’ is what we say around here. Lots of rocks, and I think for technical skiing it’s imperative to stay in control.”

“It’s weird this year,” said local ski instructor Ben Furimsky, 35, a nine-time Extremes competitor who has made the finals in five of his eight previous appearances, and who qualified seventh on Thursday. “Some things are really good; like Cesspool here is skiing pretty good except for the middle, which is kind of bony. But other places, you haven’t even been able to go yet.”

Hannah Whitney is a Gunnison local of five years who skis Crested Butte on a regular basis. She qualified No. 1 among the women on Thursday by launching and landing a very respectable jump in Little Hourglass.

“At Crested Butte, it’s always sketchy out here. There’s always rocks,” she said. “Everybody from other resorts comes here and they’re like, ‘It’s a rock mine out here.’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah.’ But it is worse than normal this year for sure.”

***

Every afternoon, sometime around 6 p.m., the scene goes like this: Hundreds of competitors gather in a banquet room on the first floor of the Elevation hotel, where the Extremes are headquartered at the base of the resort.

They sit around tables drinking beer and eating pretzels, talking about the day’s runs: who looked good, who took the big chances, whom they believe will top the standings. And when the results lists finally are delivered by an event official, the masses swarm. They study the sheet, pointing at names, exulting if theirs is above the cut, drooping if it’s not.

This little ritual also includes the unveiling of the next day’s venue. In Thursday’s case, Staircase was projected on a wall in the middle of the room. This is done so nobody gets an advantage by being able to inspect the run any more than their competition. It also adds a little surprise to each day’s docket, and as we all know, everyone likes a surprise.

***

T-shirt of the Week thus far: “Altaholics Anonymous,” a faded red piece worn by the cook at Eldo in downtown CB.

***

According to the scoring breakdown, “Air is not a judged category.” I guess they mean officially.


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