Ski Resort Life

East Update: November 2000


Extreme Competition, Eastern-style

Anyone who thinks big-mountain freeskiing is strictly a Western phenomenon should check out Jay Peak on the weekend of Feb. 24, says resort President Bill Stenger. That’s when some of the East’s best off-piste rippers will be letting it all hang out on The Face. “There are about 600 vertical feet there of very steep, very sheer terrain, with a nice mix of trees, rocks and chutes,” says Stenger (leaving out more apt adjectives, such as “frightening” and “@&%!*! unskiable”). At a mountain known for uncommonly deep snow and sick terrain, The Face is a proving ground for hotshots. For the more sane, the Mixing Bowl offers excellent vantage points for viewing the heroics (and/or carnage). The event is sanctioned by the International Free Skiers’ Association. Potential participants should amend their wills and call Jay for more information: 802-988-2611.

What He Did On His winter Vacation
Like many high-school sophomores, Ben Grunow went on a ski trip with his family during winter break last year. As it happened, the Stowe youth went to Wengen, Switzerland. He also happened to notice a flier for a big-air competition going on that week. On a whim, he entered. He went big, he spun around a lot, and before a nighttime crowd of screaming Europeans, he took second. The purse: $400 (which buys a lot of Swiss Army knives). But more important, a career was launched. Stowe has him organizing a new freeride team (no more secret kickers in the woods; they’ll train in the terrain park). He’s got sponsors (Dynastar, Lange, Oakley). And he plans to enter as many competitions as school and financing allow this year. To think, his mom wouldn’t even buy him a trampoline. “I never encouraged it,” she laughs.

Where There’s Snow, There’s Fire
The town of Newry, Maine, is looking for a few good skiers…who happen to be handy with a fire hose. That was one recommendation of a consultant to the fledgling fire department, which is responsible for protecting 320 year-round residents in addition to $200 million in property and thousands of visitors at Sunday River Ski Resort. His suggestion: Entice out-of-town firefighters who own condos to join. The bait: Free passes at Sunday River.

Must Be The Wax Fumes
The masked gunman who robbed the Stowe Mountain Resort Base Lodge last President’s Week picked a good day to do it¿the busiest of the season¿but a lousy disguise. The alleged robber, Eli English, was a resort security guard, and when he brandished his gun and demanded the weekend’s receipts, police say, co-workers instantly recognized him and thought it was a joke. That’s debatable, but the robber was serious. He grabbed $48,000 and made the unlikeliest of getaways: on skis. Police suspect he hiked the Tirol trail to where his getaway boards awaited, then skied down to the Mountain Road near The Matterhorn, a Stowe après-ski institution, to await the shuttle into town. The real crime? He didn’t buy a round of drinks. A search of Eli’s home uncovered gun, mask and goggles fitting the description given by co-workers, as well as ski apparel stolen from the resort shop. Eli awaits trial.

Use No. 174 For Old Straight Skis
Two boys playing with an innertube came close to death last April when they were swept into the icy waters of the swollen Sunday River during spring runoff. When Police Chief Darren Tripp and fellow rescuer Jim Bennett arrived on the scene, the boys clung to an alder branch amid the torrent. “They’d been there awhile and were about done,” says Tripp. The rescuers found a canoe to work with, but no paddles. Only a pair of skis. “Dynastars, I think,” says Tripp. “And whoever owned them took very good care of them: They were damn sharp.” Using safety lines and the skis, Tripp and Bennett reached the boys, got one in the canoe, and secured the other¿too weak to climb in¿to the side for the trip to safety. Both weere treated for hypothermia and sent home. Tripp says he can’t endorse the Dynastars as standard rescue equipment. “A shaped ski might’ve worked better.”

Ski You In Court
Should a ski-bumming hotel worker be allowed to claim worker’s compensation after he injures his back skiing on his day off? Yes, said the Vermont Supreme Court last winter, ruling in “Grather v. The Gables Inn” that knowledge of local terrain and ski conditions was essential to Joseph Grather’s employment at the Stowe lodge and noting that his ski pass was part of his compensation. No, said state lawmakers, who promptly closed the loophole, which threatened to play havoc with resort employers’ insurance rates. Bill H.844, signed promptly by Vermont’s skiing governor, Howard Dean, specifically protects employers who offer passes to entice workers.