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Home / Articles / Arts & Entertainment / Get Out /  The Last Hurrah
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The Last Hurrah

Local traditions mark end of ski season

By Wina Sturgeon
Posted // April 10,2012 -

How would you like an all-day party where you’ll have a great time, meet new friends and have a chance to dress (or even act) a little crazy? If that sounds like fun, show up for the season’s last hurrah—closing day at any Utah resort.

Yes, the snow may be soft and—in Park City—sparse, but lift tickets will be severely discounted everywhere. More importantly, closing days are more about having fun than riding the snow. You may not even need a lift ticket; the more rocking celebrations take place at the resort base or a short walk up the hill, no ticket required.

Wearing costumes becomes more popular every year, though at the moment, the only prize offered is admiration. Last year, one woman wore her pristine wedding dress to celebrate her divorce, the veil fluttering behind her as she skied down the hill. There are X-rated antics, like topless flashing and panty-throwing from the lift. You can see men wearing Speedos as they get badly sunburned.

Group picnics on the slopes are another growing tradition. Snowriders bring coolers on the lifts, and impromptu parties spring up everywhere. Crashers are usually welcome.

Snowbird will stay open as long as there’s decent snow to ride, but there’s still a closing-day celebration when the tram shuts down for summer maintenance, which this year is May 6.

But the biggest closing-day celebrations are held at Alta and Brighton—though only Brighton’s is officially authorized. A plus: Snow is still excellent at both of these top-of-the-Cottonwoods resorts.

Brighton’s legendary Dummy Downhill takes place in the halfpipe, and it’s definitely worth walking the few hundred feet up the slope to see dozens of unguided, hand-built “sleds” try to make it as far down the hill as possible before they crash and explode. The contest starts around 5 p.m. One by one, the “dummies” are sent down the pipe, to cheers and jeers from the crowd packing the sides to watch. There are great prizes for the winners, including money for the dummy that goes the greatest distance. Participants must register in advance by e-mailing sportsdesk@brightonresort.com. Each entry must weigh 50 pounds or less, contain no pyrotechnics and be at the resort by 1 p.m. for preliminary weighing and judging. Only the best ones are chosen to start. Here’s a hint from a Brighton expert: Build it low to the ground to get more speed and lift.

But the granddaddy closing-day celebration is a “locals only” open secret: It’s the great Alta traverse and tailgate party—totally unauthorized by Alta, a tradition created by the resort’s many fans.

It begins around the closing hour of 4:30 p.m., when participants gather at the top of Collins. As those on the last chair arrive at the top and the lift stops, there’s a cheer and applause from the crowd. Some ski down, but most take the daunting traverse over to High Rustler, a black-diamond run that’s mightily moguled by closing day. Hundreds, if not thousands, stand shoulder to shoulder at the top of Rustler, throwing snowballs at the first skiers to start down.

Meanwhile, another crowd gathers in the parking lot for what may be Utah’s best tailgate party. Many bring great food to share with friends (and strangers). You’ll always find a grill to share to cook your own food. Gradually, the crowd at the top of Rustler skis down to the feast below. Everyone’s in a good humor; everyone’s having a great time.

There are actually two unauthorized closing celebrations at Alta, because there are now two closing days. The resort first closes April 15, which is when most people participate in the party. But Alta will also open for two more weekends, each of which also includes Friday. A growing number of skiers now do the ritual on the final and absolute closing day just to avoid the crowds.

Nonskiers can also enjoy the fun, since the main party takes place in the parking lot. Even though we didn’t have a typical snow-filled Utah resort season, it’s still worth celebrating the snow gods for giving us what they did.

 
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