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The bare truth in Vail: Naked skiing, ice bears getting jiggy wit it

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December 3, 2019, 12:24 pm

I love nudity and skiing, although I’ve only ridden snow partially clothed a couple of times – and I’m pretty sure it was either getting dark or by accident after BB&B. Regardless, a good naked skiing controversy draws the clicks and reminds us the sport is still supposed to be fun.

So when someone shared this photo of two ice bear sculptures appearing to get it on from a certain angle near the Covered Bridge in Vail, I quickly went down an Internet rabbit hole of racy ski-related incidents and accidents in Vail – all of them involving humans, not ice bears.

The O Zone by David O. Williams
The O. Zone

But before I trip down memory lane, let me just say that I love Karl Kreuger’s bear sculptures. He’s a neighbor of mine in EagleVail and son of the legendary Ben Kreuger – a founding Vail father who designed and built the Vail Golf Course. I seriously doubt Karl set up these bears this way intentionally – it’s only from a certain angle – but you never know with the Kreugers.

Anyway, I doubt I’ll catch as much crap for posting this as I did when I ran the infamous topless skiing photo (black bars strategically placed) of World Cup ski racer Sarah Schleper in the Back Bowls. That was on the front page of the Daily Trail newspaper. Man was her dad, Buzz, pissed.

Especially when I sold a story about the incident to Ski or Skiing Magazine and they used headlights instead of black bars. But Buzz later got over it, even posing for a similar photo for a spoof edition of the Vail Trail. Sarah still counts it among her career highlights.

Then there was the Blue Moon Basin incident in Vail’s Blue Sky Basin, when a poor guy got caught upside down and pants-less on BSB’s Skyline Express lift – with the photos going viral.

For a sort of recap of some of these hijinks, here’s a rare online column of mine from the Vail Trail back in 2004 (posted on the Vail Daily for some reason in 2010) in the wake of the Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake “Nipplegate” incident at the Super Bowl halftime show.

And you’re right, none of this has anything to do with two ice bears appearing to get jiggy with it near the Covered Bridge in Vail. But it is a nice way to bring up the Vail Valley Foundation’s Tom Boyd, who used to be my sports editor at the Vail Trail and went on to become the venerable first newspaper in Vail’s editor in chief.

And perhaps get some out-of-town journalists here for this week’s World Cup races at Beaver Creek to ask Boyd some questions about his own checkered past growing up in Vail. Enjoy.

Skiing Past ‘Nipplegate’”

As the editor who OK’d the infamous Sarah Schleper topless-skiing cover photo in the now-defunct Daily Trail, I probably don’t have much cred on this topic, but I have a hard time seeing “Nipplegate” as the end of Western civilization.

I’m referring, of course, to Janet Jackson’s way overblown “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show of Sunday’s Super Bowl. To hear the FCC commissioner tell it, he was expecting Lawrence Welk and got Linda Lovelace.

You’ve got to be kidding. From the Britney Spears Grammy promos showing her grinding on all fours in a see-through, sparkly body stocking to Nelly proclaiming “It’s getting’ hot in herre (so hot)” and his cheerleader dancers stripping down to the bare essentials to Kid Rock prancing around in a poncho made of an American flag, there’s was way more to get excited about than just Janet and Justin.

My 3-year-old son didn’t see the defining moment of XXXVIII (he was taking a nap), and I missed it too (working on my computer), but if we had seen it together, I hardly think he would have been traumatized.

Now, roll back the clock a decade, when Janet’s brother performed at a halftime show, setting an untouchable Super Bowl crotch-grabbing record. If Nick had seen that I would have whisked him from the room and enrolled him in a hard-core deprogramming camp. That was offensive.

I think a little upper-body nudity completes us as a society. And when it comes to sports and nudity, there’s a long tradition of busting a move in the buff.

From the first Olympic marathoners running around Greece stark naked to Brandi Chastain stripping down to her sports bra to celebrate the U.S. women’s World Cup win, nudity and partial nudity are a big part of sports.

In fact, skiing, despite being one of the chilliest athletic endeavors, has a long history of goose-bump-inducing nakedness. From Suzy “Chapstick” Chaffee to Shane McConkey, skiing is sometimes best au natural.

Is there anything more extreme than exposing one’s pasty white winter flesh to the elements at 30 mph? That’s what a competitor did at the U.S. Freeskiing Open in Vail recently although he was bundled up in ski boots and a pink thong.

Sarah Schleper wasn’t breaking new ground. She was just upholding a long and proud tradition of partial nudity on the slopes.

Even the newspaper wasn’t breaking too much ground: the British tabloids went that route years ago, and The Vail Trail can point to its Packy Walker fig-leaf cover for historical precedent.

It’s a tradition The Vail Trail hopes to uphold this season when assistant editor Tom Boyd skis Highline in a loin cloth to pay off a bet he lost to me in the weekly football picks. I outstripped, if you will, our so-called expert by some 30 or 40 games. So next time you see him, ask him when the big day is.

Which neatly brings this column full circle, back to the sport of football, where the beer commercials are far more shocking than the halftime shows.

What I was most dismayed by was the Patriots, a team the Denver Broncos have owned for decades, now have as many Super Bowl wins as the Donkeys. If the Colts hadn’t slipped past Denver in the wildcard round, our Broncs would have taken care of business in Boston.

You read it here first: if the Pats repeat next season, eclipsing Denver as the most recent back-to-back Super Bowl winner, and if Boyd can bounce back and beat me in pigskin prognosticating, I’ll ski down Gitalong Road in nothing but chaps and a straw cowboy hat.

Put that on the cover of The Trail.

David O. Williams, managing editor of The Vail Trail, has been reporting the naked truth in the Vail Valley for more than 10 years. E-mail him at dwilliams@vailtrail.com.

OK, that old Trail email address doesn’t work anymore (it’s now davido(at)realvail.com), but clearly Tommy never beat me in NFL picks ever again because I never did wind up skiing Gitalong naked … and you are all very psyched about that.

And my 3-year-old son mentioned in this 2004 column, Nick, is how a sophomore at Montana State University, where skiing naked at Bridger Bowl is probably an annual tradition … or should be. Although nowadays I hear it’s even been shut down at Crested Butte, where it was an end-of-the-season staple when I was going to nearby Western State College in the 80s.

Cheers, and here’s to more photos of ice bears doing it! Have a great ski season, Vail!

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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