National Brotherhood of Skiers 50th Anniversary in Vail, CO, Day 6: Powder, Races, and Uphill Skiing

Haleigh Hafner | BackcountryBackcountry
NBS Racers getting warmed up. Photo Courtesy Vail Resorts.

Day 6 of The National Brotherhood of Skiers 2023 Summit in Vail, CO, was filled with exciting events for all skiers. From movies featuring the NBS athletes to Backcountry skiing, there was something for everyone to do today. Luckily enough for the 2,180 summit attendees, Vail got a blanket of power last night to make these events a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

The advanced racers started the day off with a bang on the Golden Peak race track, sponsored by Helly Hansen. NBS attendees got to register for this race ahead of time, and each person got timed as they went down. An emcee got the crowd riled up as she announced each racer coming down the mountain with their respective times. The group featured below stopped to take a picture with me after finishing the course in under a minute. They were shredding the course up!!

NBS Advanced Racers who finished the course in less than one minute. Photo Courtesy Haleigh Hafner.

There were a lot of NBS skiers out on the mountain today! Maurice, a backcountry and uphill ski guide, said there was about a 20-person group skiing all day in Blue Sky Basin. He said the extra powder Vail got last night made the conditions in Blue Sky top-notch for the group skiing through today. 

NBS Summit
NBS Athlete rocking his racing number in the back bowls. Photo Courtesy Haleigh Hafner.

Blue Sky was not the only part of Vail Mountain loaded with NBS members. In the back bowls, I ran into a ton of excited members. We were all taking advantage of the excellent snow conditions today. It was extremely challenging to find a summit attendee without a smile on their face today.

Ski Club from Milwaukee, WI. Photo Courtesy Haleigh Hafner.

For Summit skiers who needed to take a midday break. . . the summit showed a Warren Miller film called Winter Starts Now, which featured footage from the 2022 NBS summit in Aspen, CO. This film is monumental for the organization. During the NBS General Membership meeting today, the meeting moderator expressed his deep respect for the Warren Miller film. He said this movie showcased all the incredible work NBS has done as an organization.

NBS treasurer
NBS Treasurer Joel James speaking at the General Membership meeting. Each meeting is open to the public. Photo Courtesy Haleigh Hafner.

At about 4 PM, a group of badass women went for an uphill ski tour. The guides – Maurice (mentioned above) and McKenzie – led a group filled with predominantly first-time uphill skiers on an unforgettable journey. The group that participated in this event was an all-women group who were excited to try this new activity. 

Although some of the group members I spoke with were slightly panicking, saying, “Why did I sign up for this???” all the women were so motivated to experience this new, therapeutic activity.

A group member who usually snowboards tried her luck at a splitboard today! Photo Courtesy Haleigh Hafner.

The group started their days bright and early at 9 AM with a tour of Gravity Haus, where we met to begin the uphill trek later in the day. After the facility tour, each group member got fitted for backcountry skis, boots, and any equipment someone would need to prepare for backcountry skiing. Since this was the majority of the group’s first time doing this type of skiing, McKenzie and Maurice helped this group navigate their experience.

When the group got ready to hike up the mountain, a bystander stopped them and expressed gratitude for the group. He said it was “powerful to see not only a group of all women, but a group of women of color” take over the mountain.

His comments made us all remember that there was a time when this group would probably not have been allowed even to ski. This group that went out today signifies the progress made in this country for equal rights regarding gender and race since NBS was incorporated in the 1970s. This comment made us all reflect on how grateful we were to be in Vail today. 

As the women started their hike up the famous Simba run, the pride they felt being able to partake in this activity was evident by their gaping smiles and contagious attitude. Simba begins at the top of Vail and ends at the bottom of Lionshead village. That is a daunting hike for a first-time uphill skier! This group deserves all the praise they can get

Female uphill skiing
Full group of women who went out for the Uphill tour. Photo Courtesy Haleigh Hafner.

To end the day, I joined a group of NBS members staying at The Antlers for the hotel’s signature wine and cheese night. This event occurs every Thursday, and all hotel guests are invited to join. The Antlers lobby is a fantastic spot to host this event every week. From 5 – 6 PM, a large group filled the hotel lobby with music, conversation, and laughter. Antlers offered a gorgeous spread of charcuterie, hors d’oeuvres, and a plethora of wine selections that would make a sommelier’s head spin. I was honored to be part of this unique tradition that Antlers offers to its guests. 

Tomorrow is the last full day of the 50th anniversary summit. Stay tuned to see what happens!

Celebratory “woo!” before starting the hike up Simba. Photo Courtesy Haleigh Hafner.

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