Skiers enjoy warm temps, soft snow at Vail Mountain’s Opening Day
VAIL — Jennifer Natbony started guarding her first chair spot on Monday. Cesar Hermosillo showed up at about 6 p.m. Tuesday.
By 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, a sizeable line had formed at Vail’s Chair 8, threatening to crowd the bottom of the resort’s only open run and block the entrance to the Lionshead gondola, which was offering free scenic rides. So the decision was made to start early, with the first chair of the 2017-18 season traveling up Vail Mountain between 8:45 and 8:50 a.m. Natbony was already boarding the lift for her second run at 8:59 a.m.
“I’m glad they started a little early,” Hermosillo said. “I was stoked to get up there and get back on the snow at Vail.”
It was Hermosillo’s eighth consecutive year making Vail’s first chair. An avid powder skier, he said he enjoys taking early-morning turns at Vail, regardless of the conditions.
Conditions, while warm, were pretty good by most accounts. The above-freezing temperatures created a soft base of snow to carve into, as opposed to the icy surface skiers and snowboarders often find during the early season in Colorado. And unlike many years, the sides of the runs were white, rather than brown. A few inches of fresh snow on Tuesday helped to make things look like winter, which is still about a month away officially.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is the forecast has several days of warm temperatures upcoming, which will make snowmaking a challenge. Highs could hover around 50 degrees this weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
By the end of the ski day on Wednesday, temperatures were approaching 40 degrees and a gentle rain was falling on the slopes.
It’s not the type of weather that will promote more openings at Vail, but with Beaver Creek also opening on Wednesday, skiers and snowboarders in Eagle County do have options.
And over on the east side of Vail Mountain, the Gold Peak Competition Arena also opened this week. Slalom skiers and freestyle jumpers enjoyed training sessions at the practice arena, which, for the time being, is only open to professional athletes and club racers.
On Tuesday, Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin was seen skiing gates at the Golden Peak venue. Morgan Schild, a regular on the World Cup moguls podium, was also training at Golden Peak on Tuesday.
“As soon as the lift turns at Gold Peak, we’re here,” Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach John Dowling said from Golden Peak on Wednesday.
In addition to a large jump off of which the athletes were performing inverted aerials, “we’re doing some technical flat work and some turn concept stuff,” Dowling said.
And over on Born Free on Wednesday, World Champion sit skier Andrew Kurka came in from Alaska to take a few runs as he readies for the 2018 Paralympics, where he has already qualified in the downhill. He was joined by fellow U.S. Paralympic athlete Josh Elliott, who lost his legs fighting in Afghanistan in 2011 as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“We’re training a bit in Colorado to get ready for Pyeongchang,” said Elliott, who came in from San Diego. “We’ll be at Vail a bit and then we’ll also head over to Aspen.”
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