VAIL, Colorado - "Did you see Michelle Obama today?"
It's a question that was asked many times Saturday around Vail, as word spread throughout town - on chairlifts, on the in-town bus, in retail stores and restaurants - that the first lady is here on a ski trip with her daughters and some family friends over Presidents Day weekend.
But the answer was often "no."
The private and personal trip for the first lady has meant very few sightings, or at least few that could be verified. While celebrity sightings in Vail or Beaver Creek are not uncommon, a visit by the first lady seems to be generating more buzz than usual.
Vail Mountain ski lift operators confirmed she had been through the lift line, along with a Secret Service entourage, Saturday morning, but other than that, the first lady has kept a low profile since arriving in Vail Friday evening.
Michelle Obama's press secretary, Katie McCormick-Lelyveld, issued the following statement regarding the visit to Vail:
"The first lady and the Obama daughters are on a private family trip to Colorado. 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 Secret Service presence was obvious around Obama's Vail Village hotel Friday evening and all day Saturday. One Secret Service man in one of many large sport utility vehicles within the first lady's motorcade shook his hand at a Vail Daily photographer as she tried to snap a photo of the vehicles.
The agents, with their translucent audio wires tucked snugly behind their ears, have also been seen throughout town since before Obama's arrival Friday.
The security presence is how Masters Gallery Director Rayla Kundolf knew there was an important VIP in town. She said there's been very tight security around the village and especially around Obama's hotel. Kundolf put two and two together when she saw the motorcade of sport utility vehicles, some with government license plates, around the village.
"Then I heard through the grapevine that (Michelle Obama) was here," Kundolf said.
Across the street at Luca Bruno, a high-end clothing store, owner Luca Bruno said he also knew of the first lady's visit because people around town have been talking. As of Saturday afternoon, he was hoping she might pop in and do a little shopping in his store.
Bruno said the visit is great not only for the first lady, who he said likely needs the relaxation, but also for Vail.
"It's very cool. I'm very happy for her, first, because she's here skiing and relaxing," Bruno said. "And second, for us, for Vail - it's a great image."
For the first lady to choose Vail over all of the ski resorts in the country is very flattering and speaks to the quality of the resort, he said.
"It doesn't get much better than (the first lady visiting)," Bruno said. "It's just great for Vail."
It's been a while since Vail and Beaver Creek locals and visitors have seen this kind of activity. President Gerald R. Ford once called Beaver Creek home and the resort was referred to as the White House of the West during his administration. Gerald and Betty Ford were very involved in the community and their names adorn some of the valley's most popular public places - Ford Park, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and Gerald R. Ford Hall.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.