SPRING PARTY GUIDE
Dirtbagger's Delight: Spring Local's-only Bashes
By Corrine Garcia
It's 9 am and a disheveled local ski bum is washing down a breakfast burrito with his second bloody mary at Allgood’s Bar & Grill in Big Sky, Montana. His eyes, as red as the tomato juice in his cocktail, are healing after a night of pre-partying for this year's Dirtbag Ball. His gnarled, blond wig is off-set, like someone chucked it on his head from afar, and his neon orange, one-piece ski suit is decaying from years of Dirtbag Day abuse. He looks ridiculous, but that's the point. And he's surrounded by 40 other ridiculously dressed ski bums who are also working on a morning buzz while belting out an occasional "Yeeeehaw!" every time a former King or Queen walks through the door.
After cocktails and breakfast, the crew heads up the mountain for the Dirtbag Parade. Then couples start hiking, or stumbling, up a run to compete in a Powder 8s contest, with spectators drinking off a keg around a fire pit and judges awarding for best costume, best 8s, and best wipeout, among others. The goal is to try to stay sober enough, or at least maintain enough, to attend the evening ball, but inevitably not everyone makes it. After dancing and much more partying, the Dirtbag King and Queen are anointed around midnight and presented with a whip cream pie in the face. Big Sky's Dirtbag Ball is truly a party to remember—if you can.
"It's really cool to be part of it because it's such a big tradition that's still going strong," says Alisa Allgood, queen of 1995. "And whether they say it or not, just about every local secretly wants to be the King and Queen. Being the Queen is like everyone knows who you are, people want to buy you things—drinks and food, even gear. It's like true royalty."
Held this year on March 13, Big Sky's Dirt Bag Ball is an all-day, all-night party hosted as a fundraiser by the Big Sky Ski Patrol. And while some brave tourists watch in awe, it's one of the few ski area shindigs in the nation that's pretty much local's-only.
Most ski resorts host some kind of family-friendly end of the year spring party, most likely a pond skim. But local ski bums almost always manage to pull off their own bashes—the ones that leave tourists gawking in utter shock.
As John Howe of Salt Lake City says, "They all involve about the same thing: locals, liquor, and costumes…"
Here are some other quirky debauchery-fests held this year at different ski areas across the nation :
A-Basin: The Beach
Why mess around with a spring party when you can have one every weekend? A-Basin locals have proven that they are hardcore to the core with their weekend tailgate revelry at The Beach, a strip of the parking lot that sits in front of the base area lifts. Some weekend parties have themes, such as the Drinko-de-Mayo or Thrift Store Ski Party, and other weekends you'll see just about anything. "There never seems to be a shortage of people no matter what the weather," says local skier Jeremy Dobish. "I've seen everything from impromptu weddings to truckloads full of sand and full tiki bars set up. Live bands set up on trucks, stages built, and hot tubs have been brought in…" Dobish compares it to Daytona Beach at 12,000 feet.
When: Every weekend, baby!
Cooper Mountain: Red Bull 1976 Games
Although it might not be your typical sloppy dirtbag drunkfest, you are sure to find a stellar band playing in the Colorado sunshine at Copper's Sunsation. In the past they've hosted Michael Franti & Spearhead, The Wailers, Dark Star Orchestra, De La Soul, and Galactic among others. But the Red Bull 1976 Games, in conjunction with Sunsation, are where the dirtbagging locals are at their best. "Teams of outrageously dressed local skiers channel their inner 70s groove and retro ski skills," says David Roth of Copper. Inspired by the 1976 Winter Olympics awarded and then taken away from Denver, the Red Bull 1976 Games brings the games back to Colorado and “gives the year 1976 its day,” Roth says. Past competitions include Snowblade cross and Old School Air, plus an award for most outrageous costume. And, of course, the locals are all partying like it's 1976.
When: Sunsation, April 10-11 & 17-18, 2010; Red Bull Games, April 16–18, 2010
Crested Butte: The Al Johnson Memorial Ski Race
As goofy as the Annual Al Johnson ski race appears to outsiders—with many liquor-impaired local tele skiers dressed in ridiculous costumes racing up and down the hill—the event has a unique history that's hard to beat. The race memorializes Al Johnson, a hardcore mail carrier in the Crested Butte area from the late 1800's. The legend would ski the area's treacherous terrain with a mailbag secured to his back. And on race day, you may find a variety of things strapped on backs…and fronts, and anywhere. "It looks like a circus," says local skier Jason Wahl. "I think people probably start drinking at about 8 in the morning… It's not mandatory that you're drunk during the race, but it's hoped for." Gunnison local Colie Talbert sums it up as, "Costumes, ski race, and wastoids." Al should be proud!
When: March 21, 2010
Monarch: Parking Lot Cook-Off & Tailgate Party
Monarch locals celebrate the last day of the season, rain, shine, or snowstorm, with an all-day rager in the slope-side parking lot. The tradition is a mere four years old—surprising since, according to Colorado skier Colie Talbert, "Monarch people are good partiers." To balance the booze intake, closet chefs from all over the region convene in Monarch's parking lot whipping up their best grub for a chance to win a season pass and awards for best dcor. "In the past we've had pirate ships, RV palaces, and even an alien spaceship with fog machine special effects," says Monarch's Eric Ramsey. The party starts around 9 am and lasts into the late afternoon. "It's the party that keeps you thinking about skiing or snowboarding all summer long," says local skier John Tracy. "It's crazy. Everyone from town is there, cocktails and PBRs floating around with a sweet tailgating contest with a bunch of dank grub."
When: April 11, 2010
Vail: Belle's Camp
Vail takes a weeklong approach to saying bye-bye to the ski season and the fur wearing, Ugg-booted tourists. Throughout the week there are concerts, parties, and a pond-skimming contest. But the grand finale local's bash on the last day of the season is where it's at. Gathering at Belle's Camp at Blue Sky Basin, locals mock the tourists they've dealt with all season, usually involving some kind of brightly colored, old school, gaper-wear—tight one-piece suits, furry hats and boots, and usually an alcoholic beverage clutched in hand. "Everyone acts ridiculous," says Vail local Kevin Heinz, "and it doesn’t require alcohol to feel the buzz… we’ll stay out all afternoon, progressing from Belle’s Camp to the top of Chair 4 at 4, then traverse the party across to Eagle’s nest ridge to watch the sun set… it’s the highest party in town."
When: April 18, 2010
Taos: Pond Skim 'n Partyin'
Just like almost every ski area out there these days, Taos features an end-of-the-season pond-skim, complete with a hot tub setup for the unlucky many who get doused. But unlike other areas, the party doesn't stop after that. Local hell-raisers follow it up with a block party put on by the local pizza joint and entertainment by the local band Last To Know. "Last year, even in the dumping rain and snow, folks hung out and danced in the street until all hours of the night," says Taos' Adriana Blake. "It's pretty cool."
When: April 4, 2010
Alta: Last Day
Snowbird used to be the reigning king of the spring party scene among Utah ski areas with their April Fool's Day blow-out, full of boozing and costumes, but it ended as a liability hazard according to local skier Kim DeMarco. Now Alta's last day is what she describes as "the local tradition that turns into the ultimate junk-show." Everyone dresses up, skis, and then people meet on Eagles Nest at the top of High Rustler when all the upper chairs close. "It turns into a huge party," DeMarco says, "and then everyone skis down wasted around 6 pm in search of more." Who doesn't love a good ol' end-of-the-season junk-show?
When: April 18, 2010
Crystal Mountain: Dirtbag Ball
Following in the footsteps of their sister resort of Big Sky, Crystal Mountain has their own Dirtbag Ball every spring as a ski patrol fundraiser. The competition for King and Queen is fierce and the party is rowdy, each year with a theme. "My King has the reputation for being on first chair and staying out long after patrol has done sweep, says Sharon Atkinson, the queen of 2004 who lives in her van and is a self-described skiaholic. "Typically there would be the aprs ski time, then the pre-pre-party, then the pre-party, then a parade of costumes…then the Ball." And for the grand finale when music stops? "Walk back across the parking lot, slipping and sliding in high heals and smeared makeup. Everyone wanders out and the bright flashing red and blue lights reflect off the snow and twinkle in the moonlight." The local police departments don't want to miss out on the Dirtbag Ball fun, Atkinson says.
When: March 27, 2010
Jackson Hole: Gaper Fool's
Gaper Fools is the ultimate Jackson Hole local's only party day, featuring partying local's dressed in the best tacky tourist finds. And not only do they dress up like gapers, but they ski and act like gapers, falling and stumbling around the mountain. “It’s April 1st tomfoolery at it’s best." Says Jackson's Zahan Billimoria. And the resort takes no credit for the annual bash, describing it as a grassroots event that became wildly popular among locals. Dressed as the ultimate gaper with the neon and one-piecers, the locals party hard, dance, and celebrate another epic season.
When: April 1, 2010
Killington: Sunshine Daydream/Pond Skim
Killington's annual Sunshine Daydream coincides with their annual spring pond skim this year, making one huge blowout par-tay in a groovy sort of way. After all, Deadheads are pretty mellow, right? Not at The Beast. With a Grateful Dead theme, tie-dye-wearing local skiers run amuck, boogying down to jam bands rain or shine. "It's become one of the most entertaining events of the season," says Killington's Tom Horrocks. "It's a laid-back affair." Laid back? Maybe. Different? Yes. Dirtbaggy? Definitely.
When: April 17, 2010
Waterville Valley: Beach n’ Bumps Party
Locals break out their finest vintage goggles, one-piecers, and long, straight skis for a spring on-hill party that is not for the faint of heart. It's a party alright, but some of the best action is watching the skiers take on the bumps, most using ancient gear, and some with drink in hand. The daytime debauchery is topped off with a fashion party at the Buckets, Bones, and Brews aprs ski bar.
When: March 27, 2010
Sugarloaf: Bud Light Reggae Fest
Once the sun finally comes out after a long, cold winter, Sugarloafers celebrate with a weekend full of world-class Reggae acts, outdoor parties, and lots of spring corn. You'll see a mix of attendees at the 22nd annual bash—old guys in dreadlock wigs, twenty-somethings in neon, and most of Massachusetts will all be gathered around the Beach drinking and dancing and maybe a little bit of skiing.
When: April 15-18, 2010