Spring Break at Vail

I’ve always loved spring skiing, but the reasons have changed slightly over the years.

Spring break today means something vastly different to me than it did some decades ago when I was care-free college student.  Back then, while fellow coeds were jetting off to Ft. Lauderdale to party righteously in skimpy bathing suits, my roomie and I headed to Alta in Utah for spring break.

Spring Break is the perfect time to rip the Back Bowls at Vail with pals.

We knew our friends would come back tanned, and we were determined to do the same—but we would ski. Our tans would be goggle tans, which we certainly thought were cooler anyway.  We would drink fuzzy navels in the hot tub.

Things have changed since then—and then again, they haven’t.

Our kids will not ski past an opportunity to go airborne. Kangaroo Cornice,  Vail, Colo.

This spring break, as we have done for the past several years, we took our three kids, now 11, 13, and 16, to Vail for the day. Costumed skiers flew past us on the slopes and entertained us in line. We saw a dread-locked shark; Po, the red Teletubby; and a girl in a giant purple blow-up fat suit. There were superheroes: Batman, Superman and Mr. Incredible.

Earlier in the week I had skied behind a shaggy white Yeti, a big purple dinosaur, a kid in a hot dog costume at Eldora. He was young enough not to get the word play: Hot dog skiing! Wayne Wong would have been proud.

On the chair with our pals, Bill and Cathy, who we peer pressured to ski extra laps in the Back Bowls.

Why people ski in costumes in spring is unknown to me, but it’s good fun. I think it has something to do with the renegade vibe of snowsports and the revelry of spring break at high altitude. All that sunshine and thin air makes people giddy.

At Vail, we met up with our friends Bill and Cathy and their kids, who we’ve been connecting with for spring break skiing for years now. It’s become a tradition. We rip hard for a day, hot tub and have dinner at whatever fancy condo they’ve rented for the week.  We are hangers-on.

The girls in Sun Down Bowl. The drop was this big…. (scroll down).

It had snowed 6 inches overnight, and we found patches of untracked snow in the trees in Sun Down bowl. We convinced our girls to slip down a steep tongue of snow bisecting a cliffband, because—you know—it was the warmup run.

We headed for Blue Sky Basin, and in the trees off The Divide we found more untracked snow that I wouldn’t call blower powder, but it was still lovely. The warm sun had turned the snow to the consistency of warm frosting. Vanilla, naturally. The boys jumped off every rock they could find. On rides up the chair, we took in the scenery. I’ll say this: The views in the Back Bowls are just spectacular.

Here’s the route we convinced the little ladies to take on the first run of our day.

Here’s a closeup of the little sliver of snow the girls skied. It was steeper than it looked from the top.

We finished the day with a run down Red Square in Siberia Bowl, which was also smeared with that delightful frosting snow. By then our legs were starting to turn to rubber. Nothing a trip back to the front side on the steep bumps of Ledges wouldn’t fix.

What hasn’t changed about spring break: I still love skiing in mild temps under bluebird skies in mushy snow (who needs sharp edges?).  Spring skiing has that beach vibe but without the sand stuck in your ears.

What has changed about spring break: I’m smart enough to wear sunscreen now. Over that college spring break in Utah, my roomie and I both burned our faces so badly we were forced to slather our blistered faces with zinc oxide in order to keep skiing.

Spring break skiing and snowboarding is all about bonding with the chiddlers.

I always now ski in full-length waterproof-breathable pants. In college, we thought it was hip to ski Hawaiian shorts. It was an ‘80s thing. We ended up with ridiculous tans that stretched from boot top to mid thigh. Not a good look.

For us, spring break is now a more wholesome affair. It’s a time to chill and bond with our kids. My days of drinking pitchers of fuzzy navels in the hot tub are happily behind me. Though in Vail, we still managed to relish an après-ski  microbrew while soaking in a bubbling hot tub. These days, we just don’t stay in till we’re pruned and pickled.

Somebody has to make dinner.


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