Mercurynews.com: March 28, 2017
Spring fever is breaking out at ski resorts across the country. In Northern California, record snowfall means epic snowmelt and a wacky tradition called pond skimming.
April is pond-skimming season in the Sierra and beyond. Long after powder purists have stored their boards, this silly ritual brings business to resorts that might otherwise be quiet.
Growing up in Minnesota, the first thaw was like winning the lottery. Folks went a little bonkers – dressing up in everything from wedding gowns to Viking horns and bikinis to jump across an artificially created slush pond in front of a lodge. More often than not, we’d sink in what looked like a giant Icee — triggering peels of laughter and hoots from the deck above.
In the Rockies, Vail, Colorado, hosts the World Pond Skimming Championships each April. The course features a jump where contestants launch themselves across a 100-foot pond of freezing chop. It’s a spectacle on ice — with a splashdown finish that has winners skimming triumphantly across the surface and losers sinking in the slush. It defies the laws of physics and probably the laws of common sense.
At Big Sky Resort in Montana, pond skimming is also a megaevent, with back-to-back ponds and a snow ridge in the middle. Like a troll under a bridge, the ridge grabs the skier just when they think they’re home free. Guys donning Santa suits and gals in pajamas — they all get a watery wake-up if they don’t clear the second pond. And most don’t.
It’s as much about fashion as it is about form. Judges look for the wackiest, most outrageous costumes — garb that gets the crowd hooting and hollering. Points are awarded for best splash and best crash — along with air, style and distance. It’s a far cry from the days when we’d compete just for fun. This kind of crazy is serious business.
When I was a kid, there were no prizes for pond skimming — no lift tickets or trophies or titles to take home. The adults would drink beer as they sunned on the deck and the kids would just jump the slush. Somewhere along the way, it turned into a sport with big bragging rights.
But that’s human nature. We take things to extremes. And I’m just wondering … could an Olympic event be far behind?
Squaw Valley Resorts hosts its 27th Annual Cushing Crossing April 22 with pond skimming, celebrity judges, big spills and laughable thrills.
Spring Loaded at Heavenly runs March 25 to April 9 with live music, loud outfits and après parties.
Northstar California Resort holds its pond skimming event April 1 with a 1980s throwback theme and prizes for the top three pond crossings, best crash and best costume.