Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
It takes a certain degree of hubris to announce — as Vail Resorts and the Vail Valley Foundation respectively did last week — that there will for sure be lift-served, alpine skiing as soon as October at Keystone, Nov. 12 in Vail and early December for World Cup men’s ski races at Beaver Creek (it takes a hell of a lot of snow to host a downhill).
Sure, such announcements fire up the stoke machine for the coming ski season, maybe squeezing out a few more season ski pass sales and generating some early-season bookings, but the reality is that it’s Mother Nature’s call. And right now she’s fairly pissed off.
Don’t know if you’ve checked outside the window lately but it’s been pretty hot, smoky and dry for the last month or so. Yeah, we had some great rainfall (bit excessive at times) in July, causing fire-scar mudslides that shut down I-70 through Glenwood Canyon for weeks on end. But since then it’s getting pretty brittle out there.
I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen fire restrictions put back in place. Just look at what’s happening in the climate-ravaged, drought-stricken Lake Tahoe area, where massive wildfires are forcing evacuations in and around ski areas. All it takes is a couple careless campers or some VRBOer kids with fireworks.
Yeah, I love ski racing, too, and it sucked that COVID-19 scrapped last season’s races at the Beav’, but in previous seasons we’ve had to cancel due to a lack of snow, and this is once again shaping up to be an unpredictable La Nina winter. Remember, last season (also a La Nina) we were a full 100 inches of snowfall below our seasonal averages. It can’t get much worse than that, right? Right?
As for Vail opening on Friday, Nov. 12, with its awesome new snowmaking system leading the charge, sure, that would be great if it happens, although our increasingly stressed streams and local rivers can typically use a bit of a break that time of year. But the reality is that such early openings are becoming unicorns that we shouldn’t even try to chase as the world continues to super-heat due to heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions wreaking havoc on ecosystems and economies across the globe.
And trust me when I say that Nov. 12 would not at all be the earliest opening in Vail history (sorry, Vail Daily). My first season in Vail was one of the best in recent memory, and I have photographic proof (buried deep in a box in my crawl space) of myself in rear-entry Raichle boots and flared stretch pants skiing a foot of fresh on Kangaroo Cornice on Nov. 6, 1991. Those first four or five seasons I lived in Vail were legendary for the amount of natural snowfall pummeling the mountain.
But that was back when Mount Pinatubo was erupting in the Philippines, providing natural cloud seeding, and Al Gore was the only one talking about climate change. Now it’s such a solidly accepted scientific fact that I don’t even have to make the anecdotal argument that the seasons have shortened, December is the new November and March is the new April.
Naive, I know, but I would urge us to be more pragmatic in planning for ski-season openings and tell the consumers this is not your fault but we’ll open when Mother Nature allows (and please arrive, if you can, fully vaccinated and by electric vehicle if possible). Meanwhile, ski races in early December will not be something we can guarantee in coming decades, just as a full Lake Powell seems like a quaint relic from years gone by, so please take that into consideration, International Ski Federation, as you grapple with messy Democracies and environmentalists.
That being said, I hope to eat some serious (snow) crow on this blog this coming ski season and that I’m choking on powdery face shots as compared to last season. Optimistically, I did re-up my Epic Pass and will continue to pray to the Snow Gods so that I can actually ski down the Stone Creek drainage to my house in EagleVail this season without risking shin-shattering encounters with the abundant deadfall in those trees. But I’m also not going to hold my breath that will happen, unless it’s to keep from choking on smoke.