The O. Zone

Fall-like weather brings promise of new life to ski towns

By David O. Williams
Real AspenAugust 16, 2010

I don’t care what Alexander Pope wrote in 1733, hope, in a ski town, does not spring eternal. It springs autumnal.

David O. Williams

As I sit and type in the cold gloom of decidedly fall-like day in the Vail Valley on Monday, Aug. 16 (yeah, it comes early at 8,000 feet), I am not driven to despair by too short a summer or too much wet weather in the central Rocky Mountains.

Instead, I’m cheered by the prospect of this weather pattern carrying over another month or eight and delivering yet one more memorable ski season like 07-08 or 08-09 (forget about 09-10, except for the very end). And who could forget the whole first half of the 90s in general, or even a season or two in the late 90s, or … well, you get the picture.

The ski seasons blend together in an endless stream of unconsciousness – of powdery face shots plastering goggles and filling gasping lungs. And until ski season actually begins – at least until the first silly act of cranking up a snow gun and sucking dry a mountain stream to spray fake stuff for a mid-October opening - the 10-11 ski season is a clean slate. It could be epic; it could be pedestrian. Only time will tell.

There are other aspects of fall that give hope, including the Colorado Rockies three of the last four seasons (actually making the playoffs two of those seasons), and so far the Denver Broncos are unbeaten in the regular season. They’ll no doubt win five of their first six before completely imploding in November and December.

Some of the politicians running for various offices in the November general election are actually doing so for noble reasons and with every intention of trying to improve the lot of their fellow man. That’ll come to a screeching halt after a year or two in office, but for now it provides a glimmer of inspiration.

In Vail, massive new buildings I would have sworn to you would still be unfinished this ski season are actually wrapping up construction. Back in late 08, when Wall Street was collapsing and Obama was talking about hope and change, I thought there was no we’d see much of either on the local construction front over the next couple of years.

People may still be talking about the dreaded double dip recession, but at least we’ve got some styling new hotels, condo projects and retail spaces to enjoy the next crash in if it is coming our way. Solaris – with its plush new CineBistro movie theaters and Bol bowling alley and bar – along with the new Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton projects give Vail something a lot ski towns don’t have this coming season: a pulse in town.

On the mountain, a new high-speed quad chairlift in Sun Down Bowl will pry open the logjam on powder-day mornings on Vail’s backside. I predict it will be the single biggest addition to Vail Mountain since Blue Sky Basin opened a decade ago and took a tremendous amount of skier traffic pressure off the existing Back Bowls.

Skiing, of course, is what gives me the most hope this time of year. I love mountain biking on cool, crisp mornings and flying over a bed of yellow aspen leaves on the single track, but mostly I like it because I know spinning up the North Trail now will pay off on powder days later.


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