Resort report: First Lady at Vail, Sugarloaf reopens Spillway & more

Michelle Obama hit the slopes of Vail with her daughters over Presidents weekend, continuing a long tradition of First Families enjoying the area, while Sugarloaf reopened the Spillway Chair, and the town of Valdez announced plans to bring the World Extreme Skiing championships back to Alaska.

Vail continued its long history of welcoming U.S. Presidents and their families when First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, hit the slopes at Vail and Beaver Creek for the holiday weekend.

Mrs. Obama arrived Friday night in a motorcade of about a dozen vehicles according to the Denver Post. The Denver Post reported, “The motorcade entered an underground garage beneath the Sebastian hotel in Vail Village shortly after 9:30 p.m.”

The White House confirmed to the Washington Post the trip the morning in an email. “The First Lady and several close family friends are chaperoning their children on a ski trip. Personal expenses are being paid for by the Obamas,” the email said.

Vail, and especially Lionshead, was the favored ski spot for President Gerald R. Ford, who purchased a house in Beaver Creek following his presidency. Former Vice President Dan Quayle learned to snowboard at Vail, while former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush both visited the area in the summer to golf.

Sugarloaf reopens Spillway chair two months after accident

Sugarloaf reopened the Spillway East chairlift to the public this afternoon, after completing testing and inspections of lift last weekend. The lift had been closed to the public since it was damaged when it deroped from tower number eight on December 28, 2010, sending several people to the hospital. 

The testing revealed no operational concerns, and the Chief Inspector for the Maine State Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety (Tramway Board) reinstated the operating license for the lift on Monday morning. The resorts’ lift maintenance staff, along with independent lift engineers and members of the Tramway Board, performed a dynamic load test of the Spillway East lift on Friday and completed inspections of the lift over the weekend.

Friday’s dynamic load test simulated the operation of a fully loaded lift, using plastic-lined boxes filled with water to simulate passenger weight on each chair. The lift was loaded to 100 percent of a standard load weight, with approximately 368 pounds per chair in 74 chairs on the lift’s uphill side.

Berkshire, Waterville Valley go green in the East

Berkshire East Ski Area recently hosted an event to mark the commissioning of the PowerWind56, the resort?s new 900kW wind turbine. National, state and local dignitaries and special guests gathered with the project team to celebrate the fact that the resort has become the first ski area in the world to satisfy more than 100 percent of its energy needs with its own onsite wind power generator.

Meanwhile, Chris Sununu, an environmental engineer and Waterville Valley Ski Area?s Chief Executive Officer, announced that the resort has partnered with American Energy Independence Company (AMENICO), a Pittsfield, NH, based renewable fuel producer, to collect their used cooking oil, process it, and return it to the resort for use as a renewable boiler fuel. “Our industry depends on cold temperatures and lots of snow. The entire Waterville Valley Resort management team is committed to reducing our carbon footprint, offsetting foreign oil imports, and following sustainable environmental practices. Choosing AMENICO is just one of many steps we’ve taken to achieve these goals.” Sununu said.

World Extreme competition returns to Valdez

The World Extreme Skiing Championships (WESC), skiing’s legendary big mountain competition, is returning to Valdez from March 25 to April 3, 2011 as part of Tailgate Alaska, the freeride festival for snowboarders and skiers. After a ten-year hiatus, the WESC will celebrate its 20th anniversary and challenge the world’s best skiers on the steep, exposed faces of the Chugach Mountains.

Created in 1991, the WESC played an integral role in the growth of big mountain skiing and helped to launch the careers of legends like Doug Coombs, Dean Cummings, Shane McConkey and Chris Davenport. “Winning the World Extreme Skiing Championships in ’96 was one of the pivotal moments of my career,” said Davenport. “The WESC played an important role in the growth of our sport, and I’m glad it’s being resurrected in the place where it all began for so many of us – Valdez.”

–Peter Kray

On Oct. 6, 2010, veteran journalist Peter Kray joined the SNEWS team and is now editor of the new SNEWS WinterSports channel. We trust you are enjoying the full offering of WinterSports news. Be sure to email your friends and let them know the best WinterSports news has arrived — just in time for the winter season. Got WinterSports news? Send your WinterSports news to Kray at Subscribers can also post WinterSports news releases directly to the SNEWS website. Email us at to learn about posting your own news releases, or for any other questions or comments. We love to hear from our readers!