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Vail 15 December 2009

Posted by magicdufflepud in Uncategorized.
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Like nothing on earth: one of the few slogans that stays well within the bounds of possibility.  Granted, McDonald’s “i’m lovin’ it” does too, but only “it” lacks an antecedent — like, say, avoiding McDonalds. Vail, on the other hand, is quite possibly like nothing on earth, and to say that this early in the season indicates just how awe-inspiring a place it is. Vail’s size defies comprehension: this weekend, mountain managers had opened more than one thousand acres, just one fifth of the total terrain. By comparison, the vast majority of ski hills across the country can’t claim that much territory at the peak of their operations.

Riding the chairlift, you give up hope of taking in Vail’s vastness and instead find yourself wondering, giddily, “How do I get all the way over there?” and at Vail, “over there” typically lies several miles away. Travel several miles in any direction from St. Louis’s Hidden Valley Ski (Place?) and you’ll end up in a subdivision. In fact, you can count a few subdivisions just by standing atop Hidden Valley’s 547′ rise. But I’m being unfair. More appropriate comparisons include Whistler, Squaw Valley and Aspen, none of which I’ve skied, and none of which employee me.

Wheeeee!

So, anyway, Vail is real big. And more than that, it benefits from a layout that denies boredom as a possibility. Suffering from skiing ennui? Take two Vails and call your office-bound friends in the morning. 1000′ of vertical, well-designed, can inspire more excitement and leave you feeling more fulfilled than straight shots twice as long. On the front side, Vail’s typical blues and blacks meander through the woods, opening occasionally into wider fields dotted with stands of pine or aspen. Each run offers an opportunity for discovery: a glade here, a patch of powder there. To ski Vail is to explore Vail, often with the feeling that you’ve ventured out alone.

I think I’m in love.

Oh, and story: Descending some untracked powder in Game Creek Bowl, I realized I’d never really learned how to ski on anything but hardpack, except for that bit I’d heard about leaning back in deep, soft snow. But of course, in the heat of the moment, I forgot all that and put some pressure on my tips to induce a turn just as I’d have done on a groomer. My skis, all too happy to respond, dove into the snow. Literally. They buried themselves two feet deep, while I, immediately released from my bindings and freed of my skis began my joyous though short-lived ascent into the heavens. Like a stone launched from a trebuchet — like a human cannonball!  — I shot toward the sky, and then, upon reaching the apex of my glorious arc, began my equally-rapid return to earth and the inevitable face plant. In all, I traveled some 12 feet from my point of lift-off. Perhaps more. And for those of you keeping score at home, this marks the second time I’ve drawn hollers from the folks on the lifts, although I’m inclined to believe they were applauding the parabolic perfection of my flight. You can be the judge.


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