Letter: Vail is a ghost town
March 3, 2008
Reading Dick Hauserman’s book ” The inventors of Vail,” I found there some interesting words which show very impressive and clear changes in Vail: the change of a colorful skiers’ village into a bombastic ski resort.
Hauserman wrote about those early days: “Wealth, for instance was not a significant determining factor in the social structure, although many wealthy people were involved. How well you skied was just as important, or how interesting lives you led, or to help out a friend who was just learning to cut turns in the powder. … A Vail ‘spirit’ evolved that was invincible, and it lasted for more then a decade.”
Sorry this decade seems really to be over now. Today the non-skiers have moved in, and I keep comparing them to “vegetarians who run a meat company.” Skiing remains a sport of the Vail employees, but not any longer a sport of the Vail employers. VR’s Rob Katz has left Vail right away when he started his job. And he seems not to be interested at all in skiing Vail Mountain. Also many “upper” Vail people seem to understand more about money-making and dining than making a proper turn on the mountain.
After Pete Seibert and Dick Hauserman wrote their stories, there is now one more book missing. It should be named “The destroyers of Vail.” I guess this book will become pretty heavy. Today, “normal” people get forced out of Vail, and Commissioner Peter Runyon wrote about it in the Daily: “Most American homeowners have considered their houses not only homes but also their retirement investment. On this score the Wilsons have done very well.”
Great, if they sell their home and go to Montana ore somewhere else – they have made good money. But, who wants to sell his home, if he is not forced to do so? Property taxes go up until finally the so-called “economy class” among the Vail people cannot afford anymore to stay – so they have to sell their homes and move somewhere else. So Vail people are moving out, and new homeowners are moving in. They are here for two months, and the rest of the year the place is empty. Local business goes down and locals leave.
When I started at Vail Ski school in 1963, we had about 40 instructors. Today you may find five of them who are still around – the rest have left – why? Who lives in Vail? Some older people die, and the spirit of Vail is dying with them. All the others are down valley.
The Vail ski town has been turned into a showy resort. To compare a resort to a town is like to compare a robot to a human. A town has life, people, fun. A resort is dead. It is a money making machine – and that is exactly what Vail is expected to be.
Raising taxes just helps perpetuate the whole thing. Growth cost money, but who wants the growth? The final result is that Vail is a ghost town. Those who want to live here don’t have the money to stay, and those who have the money to stay don’t want to live here! Sounds a little crazy, but seems to be true.
Dick Hauserman wrote about the inventors of Vail: “The lifestyle, however, and not greed, was the prime motivation for everyone!”
But that was 45 years ago.
Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and his family are regular Vail skiers, although he was sidelined for part of this season by a knee injury.