Vail ends ski season and retires High Noon Lift |

Vail ends ski season and retires High Noon Lift

Vail Daily/Kristin AndersonDeborah Kobelan, left, takes a picture of, from left, Teletubbies Pat Elliott, Alex Griffin, Connor Dow and Dave Taylor during a closing day party Sunday at the top of Vail Mountain.

VAIL – There’s a spot on Vail Mountain’s High Noon Lift known to locals as “The Vortex.”

“You have to be riding on chair No. 12, ‘the observatory,’ looking at chair No. 11 in front of you,” said Vail ski patroller Dave “Auggie” Augusiewicz. “When you get to lift tower No. 11, you will see chair 111 passing tower 11 at the same time as chair 11, and it’s a vortex. And when that happens, you better go buy a lottery ticket or at least go into town that night. Because it’s a magical moment when that happens.”

In 31 years on patrol, that Vail version of a Hot Tub Time Machine moment has happened to Augusiewicz only once. And after Sunday, it will never occur again.

Along with a majority of Colorado ski areas, Vail Mountain ended another season Sunday. Thousands flocked to the resort where they were greeted by overflow parking and a sunny spring ski day, celebrating what many described as a marginal season with a major mountaintop party.

At the base of the mountain, thousands more lined the banks of an icy pool built for the annual World Pond Skimming Championship. But for the majority of revelers, the sentimental attraction could be found at the summit, where Vail’s famed High Noon Lift (chair 5) made its last lap around the bullwheel before the fixed-grip triple-seater is retired this summer. A state-of-the-art high-speed quad will move into its spot on the ridge separating Vail Mountain’s two original back bowls – Sun Up and Sun Down.

“We’re going to miss chair 5, and it’s going to bring a tear to my eye when it comes down,” Augusiewicz said.

Vail patrollers sent off the chair with their version of a 21-gun salute when they detonated a series of leftover avalanche charges buried in the snow beneath the closed lift as the boisterous crowd roared its approval.

For some, the moment served as a highlight of a season characterized by below-average snowfall that managed to eke above a cumulative t otal of 300 inches after nearly 3 feet of snow fell during a powerful two-day storm in early April. Vail typically sees 350 inches.

“It wasn’t the best season,” said John Webb, a Denver resident who has averaged 40 to 45 ski days a season since buying property in Vail in 1994. “The snow was below average until February. But the year before and the year before that were epic, so it’s easy to get spoiled.”

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