Vail Resorts (owner of the Breckenridge Ski Area) announced Monday that the company has agreed to acquire its first international mountain resort, Perisher Ski Resort in New South Wales, Australia, for total cash consideration of AU$176.6 million (approximately US$136 million), subject to certain adjustments. Perisher is the largest and most visited ski resort in Australia, and is well-positioned with access to the country’s largest cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane. Perisher is also the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere. The acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015 following the satisfaction of certain conditions, including approval by the New South Wales Government.
The acquisition includes the resort areas known as Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Blue Cow and Guthega, along with ski school, lodging, food and beverage, retail/rental and transportation operations, which together comprise Perisher.
“The acquisition of our first international mountain resort is a significant milestone for our company. We’re thrilled to welcome the guests and employees of Perisher, Australia’s largest and most iconic resort, into the Vail Resorts family and deepen ties with one of our most important international markets,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “This acquisition is part of Vail Resorts’ continued strategy to drive season pass sales and build loyalty with guests from around the world. Australia is one of the most important international markets for ski resorts across the Northern Hemisphere, generating an estimated more than 1 million skier visits annually to resorts in North America, Japan and Europe.”
Vail Resorts also announced that as of Monday, Perisher has re-opened season pass sales for its upcoming ski season, which is set to open on June 6, 2015. Perisher’s popular “Freedom Pass” is on sale for AU$749 and will include benefits substantially similar to Vail Resorts’ Epic Local Pass, with unlimited skiing and riding at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City and Canyons in Utah; and Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada. It also will include 10 days of free skiing and riding at Vail and Beaver Creek in Colorado. All Epic Pass purchasers will receive unlimited and unrestricted skiing at Perisher.
Some of the world’s future Olympians and X Gamers will be throwing down at Copper Mountain Resort for the next two weeks as part of the 26th annual USASA National Championships. The competition will start with snowboarding events this week, March 28 through April 3, followed by freeskiing, April 4 through April 7.
“We see so many athletes here that are up and coming,” Copper spokeswoman Stephanie Sweeney said of the event. “The level of competition is great. It’s the top amateurs in the country.”
Close to 1,900 athletes will participate in the two-week competition. In the past, participants’ ages have ranged from 5 to over 70. Athletes range from first-time competitors to those on the cusp of, or early into, their pro careers.
The grassroots-level series has served as a feeder to the pro level and Olympic competition.
Past competitors include Olympians and perennial X Gamers like snowboarders Taylor and Arielle Gold of Steamboat Springs, and Olympic gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington. As for skiing, 2014 Sochi medalists Gus Kenworthy, Joss Christensen, Maddie Bowman and Nick Goepper can all trace their roots to USASA-level competitions.
“This is one of the important steps along the way,” USASA Rocky Mountain Series director Paul Krahulec said. “It will start the kids on their way to the next Winter Olympics.”
For U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association development manager Abby Nyberg it’s a place to catch a glimpse of young talent.
“USASA is where you get your start,” she said. “It’s a really big step in the development pipeline.”
Current U.S. Olympic Team snowboarders Taylor and Arielle Gold qualified for the U.S. rookie team shortly after competing at the USASA level. Now the two siblings are annual contenders at events like the X Games and Dew Tour.
While the younger divisions might just be getting their feet off the ground, the 15-and-up open division will showcase the brightest in ski and snowboard slopestyle, halfpipe, boarder and skiercross.
The snowboarding competition will also feature giant slalom and slalom, which will count for FIS points and as a NorAm-level competition. The open division slopestyle and halfpipe competitions will also count toward Association of Freeskiing Professionals and TTR World Snowboard Tour points.
In addition to splitting a $10,000 purse for each event, open division winners will become eligible for next year’s Revolution Tour and future Project Gold U.S. Ski and Snowboarding team junior training camps.
During the two weeks of competition, the halfpipe at Copper will be closed. Portions of the terrain park will also be closed for slopestyle. All events are free to attend with spectator areas at each venue.
In addition to USASA Nationals, Copper Mountain also annually hosts a stop on the pro-level ski and snowboarding U.S. Grand Prix and the U.S. Alpine Ski Team’s early-season Speed Center training facility.
“We are proud to be a home for training for all levels of athletes,” Sweeney said of the resort’s push to support winter sports.
7 p.m., Summit High School, 16201 Highway 9. The Wedding Singer is a lively tale of romance set in 1985, New Jersey. Join Robbie, Julia, Glen, Holly and Linda as they make their way through the big hair and big bands of the 80’s to the altar. The Wedding Singer is a musical with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Beguelin and Tim Herlihy. It is based on the 1998 film of the same name. (970) 977-0021.
Silverthorne, March 28 & 29
All day, Quality Inn, 530 Silverthorne Lane. See the works of featured artist Holly Jorvig. The show highlights a variety of styles, including hand-painted photography, children’s art, watercolor and drawings. Artist’s present. Eclectic studio show. The hours are Friday 2-9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to noon. Refreshments. For information contact Holly email@example.com.
Education Foundation of the Summit’s Trivia Night
Silverthorne, March 28
6 p.m., La Quinta Inn and Suites Conference Center. The event is sponsored by FirstBank of Summit County. All funds raised will go to the Education Foundation to support public school students and teachers in the Summit School District. Participants can also buy tickets for drawings and participate in a silent auction. Tickets are only $25 ($30 at the door) and include light dinner refreshments, your first drink, drawings and silent auction. Purchase tickets at the door or in advance by contacting Kyle Spencer at (970) 468-7231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save Our Snow
Dillon, March 28
All Day, Arapahoe Basin, 28194 US Highway 6. All proceeds from this event will benefit the High Country Conservation Center, Summit County’s local resource center that provides awareness, education, appreciation, and preservation of the environment. Come on out and meet the Green Team and representatives from the HC3 and learn about A-Basin’s sustainability initiatives. To celebrate the day and the ‘Power to Save the Powder’ a demo tent is setup in the village in the Base Area.
Carpe Diem String Quartet with Pianist Len Rhodes
Breckenridge, March 28
7 p.m., Colorado Mountain College, Eileen and Paul Finkel Auditorium, 107 Denison Placer Road. The Carpe Diem String Quartet with pianist Len Rhodes will perform the music of Grieg, The Beatles, Piazzolla, Fujiwara, and Webb. This concert benefits both the Dercum Center for Arts and Humanities and Summit Music and Arts. This is the sixth concert of the the 2014-15 Summit Music and Arts Concert Series. $20 in advance/$25 at the door. Students 17 and under free. For information call (970) 389-5788.
Dillon Reservoir is one of just two places in the country’s lower 48 states home to a trophy fish called Arctic char, and after years of stocking, Colorado Parks and Wildlife report that the fish are doing well.
Based on his biennial fish survey last summer and accounts from local anglers, Parks and Wildlife fisheries biologist Jon Ewert said the char seemed to have reached a critical mass and their success may signal a turning point in the improvement of the reservoir as a fishery.
“Over the course of the past year is when this fishery has really taken off finally,” said Ewert, who works in Summit and Grand counties as one of 18 CPW fisheries biologists.
Bob Evans, longtime manager of the Dillon Marina, agreed and credited the improvement to Ewert’s work.
“I’ve never seen the ice fishing and the fishing in Dillon as good as it has been this year and last year,” Evans said, “and it seems to be getting better every year.”
Now that a recent study proved the fish are successfully reproducing in the reservoir, Parks and Wildlife reduced the bag limit for anglers in hopes of growing the Arctic char population.
Effective Wednesday, April 1, the new rule lowers the daily bag and possession limit of Arctic char to one fish 20 inches or longer. Anything smaller must be immediately release. Currently, the bag limit is four Arctic char of any size.
“By the time they get to 20 inches in size they will have at least a couple opportunities to spawn before they’re available to be harvested,” Ewert said.
The agency’s goal is to be able to stop importing Arctic char eggs from Canada, raising them in hatcheries and stocking them once the population is self-sustaining.
Summit County anglers and fishing outfitters have been supportive of the new limit.
“It’s essential to preserve those fish,” said Nate Crawford, who runs Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures in Dillon. “They’re a gem to us. If we catch one it’s a gem.”
A RARE PRIZE FOR SUMMIT ANGLERS
Like rainbow or brown trout, Arctic char have spots dotting their bodies. The char’s spots, however, are lighter in color than the rest of their bodies.
Arctic char look most similar to brook trout, which are colorful fish with pink spots surrounded by blue halos.
“Arctic char have pink- or peach-colored spots, but they do not have any halo,” Ewert said.
They can also be most easily told apart, especially by an angler watching from above the surface, by their lack of squiggly lines, or vermiculations, on their dorsal fins.
Besides Summit County’s largest reservoir, a reservoir in Maine is the only other place in the U.S. anglers can find Arctic char.
“It’s something that people can’t find anywhere else,” Ewert said, and because the char are a cold-loving fish adpated for deep lakes, Dillon Reservoir provides a rare suitable habitat. “It’s a perfect match.”
Anglers have been most successful catching the char while ice fishing and using small jigs in less than 60 feet of water, though some summer catches have been reported.
Arctic char were introduced to the food chain after biologists realized mysis shrimp were taking over Dillon Reservoir.
The tiny shrimp were added in the 1970s to encourage brown trout growth, inspired by a lake in British Columbia where freshwater shrimp were the massive trout’s food source.
But unlike in British Columbia, Dillon Reservoir currents don’t cause the two species to interact. Brown trout feed during the day while the bottom-feeding shrimp hide. Then they switch places at night, and the shrimp compete with the trout for zooplankton food.
“They keep trying to do something to fix something,” said Jackson Streit, owner of Mountain Angler in Breckenridge. “It’s not a perfect science.”
Streit moved to Summit in the 1970s and said the fishing in Dillon Reservoir has dropped off dramatically since then.
To improve the reservoir’s recreational qualities, Parks and Wildlife stocked Arctic char sporadically in the 1990s and then every year since 2008.
Ewert said he stocks about 20,000 4-inch-long Arctic char a year in the reservoir.
He also adds roughly 300,000 fingerling rainbow trout each year, from 3 to 5 inches long, as well as close to 30,000 rainbows that are catchable size of 10 inches long.
From 2012 to 2014, a Colorado State University student named Devin Olsen studied the population to find the answers to two simple questions.
“No. 1, are they doing a good job eating mysis shrimp, and No. 2, are they reproducing on their own in Dillon Reservoir,” Ewert said.
Olsen found definitive yeses in his research, which showed not only that the fish were going down deep and eating the shrimp but also that a significant amount of the fish he handled, about a third, had been hatched in the reservoir.
He was able to prove that last point, Ewert said, by dissecting the fish and looking at the chemical composition in a bone similar to the human inner ear. Because their aquatic habitat it different, fish hatched in the hatchery have an easily distinguishable different chemical composition than those hatched in the reservoir.
“There’s no doubt where that fish came from,” Ewert said.
‘ALL FOR IT’
For the last 10 years, Ewert has conducted a netting survey at Dillon Reservoir. He sets up large nets at the bottom of the lake in the same six locations at the end of June, as close to the same date as possible in even-numbered years, and leaves them overnight.
For the first time, he captured Arctic char in 2014 in all six areas of the reservoir, he said, “so they’re everywhere in the lake.”
He caught 14 char ranging from 8 to 18 inches in length, and he determined the char made up 4 percent of the reservoir’s overall fish population.
The most common fish in Dillon is white sucker, a non-sport fish Ewert compared to a weed, which made up 66 percent of the fish species in 2014, down from 76 percent in 2012.
The next most populous fish in 2014 were brown trout, at 17 percent of the fish species, followed by Kokanee salmon at 8 percent and rainbow trout at 4 percent.
This summer, Ewert will survey char specifically with targeted deep water netting to learn more about the population and the fish behavior.
At Cutthroat Anglers in Frisco, fishing guide Kory Lewis said the new limit won’t negatively impact business, as the limit for other trout hasn’t changed, and could be a positive if attention on Arctic char attracts more anglers to the area.
“I’m definitely all for it,” he said. “They’re a really good eating fish.”
Ewert said through the six-month process of changing the regulation, one person contacted him upset about not being able to take home the rare, large Arctic char.
“But the fact is there’s a developing population,” Ewert said, “and fish over 20 inches might be scarce now, but they’re going to become more and more common.”
Perhaps five years from now, he added, the agency will loosen the rule and allow anglers to take more Arctic char home.
“Regulations don’t have to stay etched in stone forever,” he said. “They’re a tool that you apply to help the population improve in a way that you think it will, and then [you] reassess, give it at least five years and see what the effect is then.”
After spearheading 10 months of discussion on state wildfire laws affecting counties, Summit County commissioners signed a series of agreements on Tuesday that would update outdated policies on wildfire management and emergency funding.
Commissioners signed an agreement facilitating wildfire management between the state and local governments, which was last updated in 1991. They also signed a new version of a funding agreement relating to fire-fighting efforts, which had not changed since 2003.
“None of the agreements that our governments signed before said what they were actually doing,” said Summit County Emergency Management director Joel Cochran.
The agreements were updated to reflect the process counties currently use to request state aid in fighting wildfires. For example, if a wildfire extends beyond a fire district’s means, then responsibility is handed to the sheriff at the county level. If a fire is beyond a county’s resources, then the state is given control.
While Summit County has not recently fought any fires that have extended beyond the county’s control, they still pay $20,000 to the state’s emergency fire fund every year. This allows the county access to $1 million for fighting large-scale, complex fires that it otherwise would not have the resources to manage. Under the new agreement, the state is also limited to adding a 13 percent administrative fee to fire bills; before they were able to ask for a much larger cut.
”In my opinion, Summit County was a leader in helping craft this new solution,” said Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs. “We worked hard to try to find common ground.”
Summit County’s involvement began after the Division of Fire Prevention and Control proposed new versions of both agreements. However, due to the restrictive nature of the contracts, Summit County refused to sign the original agreements proposed by the state.
“We thought that the state was dictating too much how the [county] funds would be used,” Gibbs said.
More than 12 counties became involved, as Summit County officials worked with state officials, county sheriffs and attorneys for nearly a year to find an agreement.
“We had several chats between counties and the state to figure out what language was most appropriate,” said Melissa Lineberger, a policy analyst for the Divison of Fire Prevention and Control. “The state wanted the counties to give more, and the counties wanted the state to give more.”
Instead of taking the form of a contract, the revised agreement was written as a memorandum of understanding, allowing counties more flexibility in applying for aid in fighting wildfires. Lineberger added that the state had received positive feedback from the counties during recent discussions.
“Summit County’s kicked the ball quite a bit to make this happen,” said Summit County Sheriff John Minor. He added that the counties that choose to opt out and retain the previous law “… will be operating on an archaic, ineffective agreement.”
While most county leaders are on board with the agreements, a few raised concerns that counties are now listed as responsible for wildfires. However, Cochran said that in practice, the process should continue as it has in previous years, as the government has historically provided additional emergency funds to help cover the cost of wildfires when the Emergency Fire Fund runs dry.
“How Summit County works with the three fire districts won’t change. How we work with U.S. Forest Service, that won’t change either. In my opinion, it just changes the relationship we have with the Division of Fire Prevention and Control,” Gibbs said. “I think the state heard from the counties that had real concerns, and instead of digging in their heels, they listened. I give them a lot of credit for finding a solution that works for everyone.”
The Agreement for Cooperative Wildfire Protection will be effective for five years, and the Emergency Fire Fund agreement is effective for one year, with four one-year automatic renewals.
The second round of construction for Frisco’s Main Street is slated to start in just a few days, on April 6. The city center, which was last updated in 1982, is in need of more than a fresh coat of paint.
The focal point of the “Step Up Main” project is to fix drainage on Main Street, with planned fixes for aging structures and surface-level improvements. Construction crews will also work on adding new streetlights, new benches, and redoing both sidewalk and asphalt during this spring’s construction, which is scheduled from the beginning of April through late June.
“To a certain degree, I hope when we’re done, it becomes a nicer storefront for business owners,” said Frisco public works assistant director Rick Higgins. “Our goal is to keep a clear path for them for as long as we can.”
To keep traffic flowing, Higgins plans to limit road closures to one block at a time, working outside from the sidewalks in toward the road. He hopes to keep intersections open for as long as possible to minimize impact.
With more than 260 business owners on Main Street, the city is examining ways to provide alternative access to storefronts while sidewalk construction is underway. Businesses may use additional signing during this time, and bring in customers through side and back doors.
Higgins added the city will put forth extra effort to keep streets clear of dust and debris during construction.
“We need to be sensitive to that kind of thing, since Main Street gives the impression of this town,” Higgins said. “This is on the surface, it’s what you’re going to see, it’s the finished product.”
While roads will remain open for the initial stages of the project, city officials plan on detouring cars to Granite Street while the asphalt is repaved. Painted stop bars in alleyways will also be added to slow down traffic.
Starting in April, road crews will populate Main Street stretching from the intersections at Fourth Avenue to Seventh Avenue. During that month, they will start trenching and put in conduits. As they remove the old streetlights and electrical wire, they will add in the new wood and steel lights that were built by Public Works.
“We’ve had real electrical challenges with the 30-year-old streetlights,” Higgins added.
Since the unpredictable spring weather is a major factor in the project, Higgins said they plan to regroup at the end of April and see if they need to catch up on construction.
Then, in May, workers will tear up and repave sidewalks, giving one week for each block. In June, Main Street will be lowered 10 inches to improve drainage, as crews remove asphalt and re-pour the street.
“It’s a constant challenge for us to keep water flowing on the old Main Street,” Higgins said. “Our goal is to improve the drainage situation. That’s kind of what started the conversation about Main Street.”
The budget for the current phase is $1.8 million, with Columbine Hills Concrete serving as the general contractor for the project.
Frisco finance director Bonnie Moinet said that support for the project comes from the city’s capital improvement fund, which is primarily financed by real estate transfer taxes.
The total cost for phase one of the project, which took place last summer, was $1.28 million. Phase three, which consists of improvements from Madison Avenue to Second Avenue is slated for this fall, with an estimated cost of $1.28 million. The final phase is scheduled for spring 2016, with an undetermined cost.
The drive between Breckenridge and Frisco, as well as the bike ride along the Summit County recpath, will look different in a couple years as the two routes swap places in an area known as Iron Springs.
CDOT is moving forward with a Highway 9 project that will add lanes and realign just over a mile of the road. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.
CDOT officials say the new road will meet a need for faster vehicle travel times and increased safety by eliminating a curve along Dillon Reservoir known as Leslie’s Curve better than widening the road in its current alignment.
Once the realignment is finished, CDOT will have one more section to upgrade as part of its Highway 9 improvement process started in 1999. That piece will be from the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and Frisco Peninsula turnoff to the intersection with Main Street in Frisco.
The state department released its Finding of No Significant Impact report for the Iron Springs alignment project on March 13 after the Federal Highway Administration approved the document finished in December.
The report says that no significant concerns have been raised by individuals or organizations about the project that can’t be addressed during planning and construction, said Amy Ford, CDOT director of communications.
The 76-page document includes all 63 comments CDOT received on the project from 57 individuals and six representatives of government agencies and other organizations. Some individuals and organizations were counted more than once as they submitted both written and verbal comments.
The report also includes CDOT’s responses to every comment, with some detailed feedback to questions, concerns and opposition from local residents.
Residents of the Water Dance community represented the majority of those against either the realignment, the widening or both, and they expressed concerns about increased traffic and road noise and associated depreciated property values.
CDOT officials have said Water Dance residents shouldn’t be affected by construction noise from this project because it is about a half mile away. CDOT plans to further address noise concerns with those residents when they begin planning for construction on the final Highway 9 segment, which is still several years out.
Other local residents were upset about the greater trail distance created by moving the Dickey Day Use parking lot west, and some spoke or wrote to CDOT about encroaching development in Frisco.
Frisco resident Bob Thompson wrote that he witnessed the addition of the medical center, County Commons and peninsula recreation areas since he became a full-time resident in 1989 and is opposed to the realignment project.
“It seems to me that the opinion of those who live in Breckenridge or Silverthorne ought not be given as much weight on this particular issue as those of Frisco residents,” he wrote.
Dan Kibbie, another Frisco resident, wrote, “This project is mostly being done to get the hordes of people to Breckenridge at the expense of other communities.”
Other Frisco residents expressed support of the project.
“The Iron Springs ‘shortcut’ is the best plan and should be implemented as soon as possible,” wrote Robert Feuerriegel. “It completes the four-lane corridor, solves several safety issues and has side benefits for recreation, wildlife, and environmental impact.”
“Moving the recreational trails closer to the lake and the highway away from the lake is a win, win,” wrote G. Bowlin.
Several people asked CDOT to reduce the speed limits into Frisco, create roundabouts at some intersections and improve the synchronization of traffic lights. CDOT responded by saying those issues weren’t being considered in this project but some may be addressed in the final segment construction.
Frisco resident Mary Parrott questioned the need to change the road at all because of safety.
“Yes, there are curves and hills — we are Colorado, not Kansas,” she wrote. “It will still be a hill, icy many times, and there will still be accidents. Please tell me what the accident and injury rates are, for the period of say the last 10 years, for the infamous ‘Leslie curve’ stretch of Hwy. 9. Then, let’s take say a stretch of I-70 of the same length, and containing a curve (perhaps in Officers Gulch, for ex.) and look at the accident rate there over the same period.”
In response, CDOT wrote that a safety analysis showed a concentration of accidents on Highway 9 within the project limits, with 67 accidents occurring from 2007 to 2011 that caused eight injuries and one fatality.
During the same five-year period, there were 12 overturning accidents in a one-mile stretch of the highway that includes Leslie’s Curve.
In response to questions and concerns about the bike path, CDOT wrote that it will be routed through underpasses at the two locations where it will cross the highway to avoid traffic conflicts.
Underpasses were deemed more appropriate than overpasses due to the geometry of the road alignment and the surrounding topography.
CDOT also analyzed an overpass for wildlife movement with input from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service and decided instead to create three underpasses for wildlife.
Two of the three underpasses, those at each end of this stretch of highway, will be combined with the Blue River Bikeway crossings.
In response to traffic concerns, CDOT wrote that current traffic volumes are 20,000 vehicles a day, and that number is expected to climb to 31,000 by the year 2035.
Once all the work is completed between Breckenridge and Frisco, drivers will be able to travel between the two towns in about five minutes less time compared with leaving the road as a two-lane highway.
Projected costs for widening the road in its current route and constructing the realigned road were within 5 percent of each other, CDOT wrote, though that cost estimate doesn’t include the advantage to Summit County tourism of being able to maintain traffic on Highway 9 while a widened road is built.
The project is now advancing to the final design stages and will be built in 2016 and 2017 with $17.5 million in funding identified through CDOT’s Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) Program.
The second annual GoPro Big Mountain Challenge junior regional competition came to a close Sunday under sunny skies at Breckenridge Resort’s expert hike-to terrain on Peak 6.
After two days of big lines and big air it was the host team that came up with some of the biggest performances of the weekend. Team Summit Colorado’s Cam Dudiak and Stuart Edgerly took the top two spots in the 15- to 18-year-old male big mountain skier category, followed by Davis Henschel and Grifen Moller. All four athletes took aggressive lines that included multiple cliff drops. Sadie Grimm and Kelsey Wright, also of Team Summit, finished second and third respectively in the female grouping, behind Rhianna Borderick.
Riders ages 10 to 18 spent the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association’s weekend-long competition choosing creative lines that included clearing rock formations and sizable cliffs on the steeps of Peak 6.
“It’s everything from guys just doing the chutes, getting in their parallel turns, to hucking 40, 50-footers,” Matti Wade, one of Team Summit’s coaches, said of the competition.
While the younger athletes kept their feet mostly on the ground, a number of the older competitors showed they might have what it takes to step up to the pros.
“This is a launching pad for young athletes and their pro careers,” said Chis Carson, Team Summit’s director of freeski programs.
In big mountain competitions, athletes are judged on style, creative line choice, jump size and aerial maneuvers, with points awarded to the top performers, similar to slopestyle only on natural features.
“I thought it was fantastic,” Breckenridge competition director Dave Little said of the event. “We’re stoked to see some great lines through the venue.”
The Peak 6 extreme hike-to terrain, which opened in the winter of 2013-14, features large cliff bands, rock formations and narrow gullies, all on a near 50-degree slope.
“I think it’s legit. It’s a great venue,” Wade, himself a former big mountain competitor, said. “There are some big lines up here ... some lines that make me pucker up.”
Team Summit head big mountain coach Ryan Van Nuys agreed. “The venue is completely amazing. It offers more lines than any in the state.”
The hope among both Team Summit and Breckenridge Ski Resort officials is to continue to bring similar events to the mountain.
“I think there is a strong likelihood that we will do more of these competitions down the road,” Little said, adding that pro-level competitions could potentially use the terrain.
And the demand clearly seams to be there. Last year’s competition featured 60 competitors ages 13 to 18. This year the event was capped at 95 and sold out in the first 20 minutes.
Breckenridge already hosts the annual Dew Tour Mountain Championships slopestyle and halfpipe competitions, bringing elite level athletes — many who train at the resort throughout the winter — to the mountain each year. More big mountain competitions would be another step towards recognizing Breckenridge as an extreme sports training ground, in addition to its family friendly reputation.
“I’d like to see it,” Carson said of bringing in adult or pro competition. “That’d be awesome.”
For 29 years, Jane Peterson and her daughter never braved the ice on Lake Dillon in late March.
On the 30th anniversary of the Dillon Ice Melt — an annual Rotary Club tradition founded by Peterson’s husband, Don — she and her daughter tentatively stepped into a hovercraft piloted by a Summit County Water Rescue volunteer.
The craft slowly, slowly made its way from the shore to a swath of snowy ice not far from the Dillon Marina dock, crossing small cracks and even an exposed patch of glassy, half-slushy lake water.
And then the pilot gave the two the ride of their lives. He gunned the hovercraft engine two or three times, spinning the longtime locals in loopy circles before heading back to the safety of dry land. From the dock, a group of about 30 spectators clapped and cheered, snapping photos as the event founder’s family gratefully stepped out of the hovercraft.
“Dad didn’t let us go out on the water,” said Peterson’s daughter, Lyn Peterson Philips, shortly before one of the Rotarians convinced her to board the craft with mom. “But he took my husband once. God, he was scared to death.”
But Peterson and Peterson Philips were willing to brave the slushy ice, if only for a few seconds. Don Peterson died two years ago, and to celebrate the landmark anniversary of her husband’s event, his wife and daughter were willing to try something they had no interest in before. The two shakily exited the craft wearing big smiles of relief.
“Words don’t even describe how this makes you feel,” Peterson Philips said back on the shore. “There are certain things that give you a special feeling in life, and this event is one of them. Today is one of them.”
30 YEARS OF TRADITION
Peterson and Peterson Philips’ joy ride came shortly after Rotarian Wendy Myers, was zoomed out onto the lake by a volunteer to position the Ice Melt device, a bright orange barrel with an attached clock and Christmas lights.
From now until it breaks through the surface — hopefully sometime after April 19, the final day of the season — hundreds of locals will keep an eye on the barrel, waiting for the exact millisecond it disappears. After all, that’s the point of the fundraiser: Community members buy tickets for $5 apiece to guess the exact time, date and water temperature when the device falls through. The closest guess wins $4,000, with $2,000 and $1,000 for the runners up.
As Myers unloaded the craft — before returning, she had sat on the ice with a rescue volunteer for 15 or 20 minutes — the audience on the deck cheered and snapped photos again.
“Oh, it was beautiful out there,” Myers said when she returned, clad in a bright-yellow wet suit and diamond-studded tiara. “It’s a different perspective, especially from last year.”
As a Summit County tradition, the device launch happens in all weather conditions, including last year’s raging blizzard.
Luckily, Saturday’s launch was the polar opposite: bluebird skies and nearly 60 degrees, with a touch of a breeze. One Rotarian was selling Ice Melt tickets on the dock, and as he walked through the fray, veteran guessers started talking about how tricky it will be to actually win $4,000 this year. Will the ice hold out until April? Will we get a cold snap? Will the device fall through tomorrow? The next day?
“People have such interesting theories about how this will happen,” Rotarian and Ice Melt chairwoman Diane Monaghan said. “Lots of people like to wait for the last minute, but that might not be the best strategy this year. I think people believe if they wait for the last minute they’ll have a better guess. There can be a lot of precision that goes into making a guess with this.”
No matter the strategies and superstitions, the Ice Melt again comes back to tradition. Take the device sitting in the center of the lake: It’s the same one built by Peterson’s husband in the early ’80s.
“He was always tinkering in the house,” Peterson Philips remembers. “Back in the day, his CB (radio) handle was ‘Gadget Man.’ He loved to engineer and fiddle with things, find out how they work.”
The device may be the same, but the event itself has grown by leaps and bounds over the past three decades. Between 5,000 and 6,000 people buy tickets every year, and it has become one of the club’s leading fundraisers.
Peterson Philips remembers the first few years when a helicopter, not a hovercraft, was responsible for dropping the barrel and all-important clock on the lake’s surface.
She and her mom once had dozens of photos from the early days of event, back before it became a beloved kiss-off to the winter season, but they were destroyed in a house fire several years ago.
Yet the tradition is stronger than ever, just like their business, Summit Gold Jewelry in Frisco, which celebrates 28 years in business this year. And today, Don and Jane Peterson would have celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary. Forty-four of those years were spent in Summit County.
“He would love this today,” Peterson said as spectators started to leave. “He really would.”