Until this week, artist Greg Montgomery had never stepped foot in Vail. But that didn't stop him from entering a poster contest held by the Vail Daily, town of Vail and Vail Resorts back in August in order to honor Vail's 50th anniversary. We caught up with Montgomery, who lives in Albany, New York, on Thursday, his first full day in town. "This is amazing, just amazing," he said, referring to the town. "I bet it's even more amazing with another few feet of snow on the ground."Years ago, Montgomery made it as far as Copper Mountain on Interstate 70, but he never quite made it to Vail, he said."So when the opportunity came to come to Vail - everyone knows about Vail - I said, well this I gotta see." This afternoon, from 4 to 6 p.m., Montgomery will sign copies of his poster at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in Vail. The posters are being sold for $39.99 and are for sale at the Vail Daily, Mount N' Frame in Vail, Christopher & Co. in Beaver Creek and the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in Vail."We've gotten excellent feedback on the poster so far," said Sue Pachmayer, who has been selling the posters at the Colorado Ski Museum since the end of September. "It's striking when you look at it. People like the colors, the concept and the fact that the 10th Mountain Division is incorporated in the poster."The contestFifty two artists submitted somewhere around 65 poster entries to the contest. A group of seven people - including representatives from Vail Resorts, the Vail Daily and the town of Vail and its Art in Public Places program - spent three hours going through the submissions before choosing Montgomery's. "One of the Art in Public Places board members, Doe Browning, implemented a system where every poster was projected by a laptop onto a screen. We went through each one. The process was similar to jurying an arts festival," said Mark Bricklin, the Vail Daily's marketing director. "Doe was very organized and methodical about it. We really let them - the town of Vail and art in public places people - take the lead."Montgomery's stood out from the rest of the submissions for a few reasons, Bricklin said. "They liked that he had this flow from 10th Mountain Division to now," he said. "They thought it was the most professional and most polished design submitted, and they really liked the design."The winnerDuring the past 27 years, Montgomery has designed plenty of posters, but most of them had nothing to do with skiing or Colorado, but rather the focus has mostly been equestrian in nature. For nearly three decades, he's designed a poster each year for the Travers Stakes, a thoroughbred horse race held each August in Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York, where Montgomery lives for the month of August each year."The Travers, if you're in the horseracing business, is a very big deal. It's the first race in the country that had a million dollar purse, and it's the oldest horse race in the country," he said.The poster Montgomery created for Vail has a similar feel to the Travers race posters he designed. It's clear with all of Montgomery's work that he is a "big fan" of the old British Railway art, posters created in England to "get people on a train and go on vacation," he said. Montgomery heard about the contest from longtime Vailite David Cole, who visits Saratoga Springs each August with his wife, Virginia Craft Payson, for the horse races and have collected Montgomery's work for years. "He showed up with a copy of the Vail Daily announcing the contest and said, 'I know this is an extremely busy time of your year, but ...'" Montgomery recalled.Despite a hectic schedule, Montgomery agreed to give it a go. He researched some Vail history and with some input from Cole, eventually designed the mostly red, white and turquoise blue poster as it looks now, with a 10th Mountain Division soldier, a skier in waist deep powder and a snowboarder. In the background, the Covered Bridge and the Clock Tower, iconic Vail landmarks, can be seen, and along the top of the poster is the faint outline of a Vail Mountain topographic map. And now that Montgomery is finally seeing Vail for the first time this week, ideas for more Vail posters, perhaps even a series, are percolating in his brain."Vail is a place where there is so much going on," he said. "There are some really interesting people in a really interesting town that's famous for international skiing."
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