Vail Daily column: Hidden gems of the Vail Valley
Ryan Summerlin September 25, 2012
Eagle County and the Vail Valley are filled with hidden gems. No, we’re not talking about (or taking any stance on) the Hidden Gems/open space/wilderness discussion. We’re talking about the various “hidden gems” in terms of the number of resources available to businesses and to our community, many of which are at our fingertips. And we’re talking about the number of organizations that are “hidden gems” that benefit our quality of life and overall economy in ways we might not see on a daily basis.Some hidden gems that the average resident might not be aware of, or might need a reminder about, right here in our backyard:HAAATS (High Altitude Army Aviation Training Center)The High-Altitude Army Aviation Training Site, located at the Eagle County Regional Airport in Gypsum, hosts our allies and our military pilots with specific high altitude training. Pilots spend one day of the training in the classroom learning the intricacies of power management in high altitude mountainous terrain followed by four days flying throughout the Rocky Mountains.Community GardensVail, Minturn, Eagle-Vail and Eagle are all home to community gardens. These gardens provide a sense of community for each area as well as other benefits to the greater community. The Salvation Army, for example, has a plot at the Eagle-Vail Community to grow fresh vegetables for those who need them. CSU extensionThe Colorado State University Extension is housed at Eagle County. Extension agents are specialists in the areas of youth development, consumer and family education and horticulture and small acreage management. They run our county 4-H program among many other beneficial programs to the community.Colorado Mountain CollegeCMC now offers 4-year degrees, adding value to our community and providing an affordable a way for local students to get college credit. CMC has also done a great job of growing its business development courses to offer continuing education to the business community via certificate programs and online learning opportunities.Small Business ResourcesWhile not unique to Eagle County, we’re fortunate in Colorado to have a variety of resources available to small businesses. From start-ups to established businesses, programs such as Small Business Lending (via the Colorado Bankers Association), the Colorado Small Business Development Centers, the Colorado Enterprise Fund and other programs offer expertise and financing options to small businesses. A complete list of small business resources can be found at VailValleyPartnership.comRed CliffThe oldest, and highest altitude, town in Eagle County, Red Cliff is a hidden gem located just 12 miles from Vail. With outdoor recreation a key component of Colorado’s tourism growth, Red Cliff and it’s quaint mountain town feel are the perfect base camp for a day visit or as a starting point for mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, kayaking, rock climbing and hiking or gallery tours. And Red Cliff is home to one of Eagle County’s most unique events – Man of the Cliff.Eagle County Trails systemOur trails system might lag behind some of our neighboring counties, but plans are in the works to increase our trails infrastructure to provide a contiguous valley-wide recreation trail. From Fruita (with increased sales taxes increasing over 50 percent in large part due to its mountain biking infrastructure) to Teton County, Wyo. (with a trail system generating an estimated $18 million in economic activity), trails benefit both the local community and the tourism economy. We should consider our recreational trail system as we discuss local infrastructure needs in Eagle County. Colorado Ski & Snowboard MuseumColorado Tourism Office research (via Longwoods International, 2011 Report) shows that cultural activities make up 26 percent of visitors “specific interests” when on a Colorado vacation (up from 22 percent in 2010). The largest percentage of Colorado’s visitors are “touring” the state without specific itineraries; of this market segment, 34 percent visit a museum during their time in Colorado. We’re fortunate to have a local museum honoring our history (10th Mountain Division) and to be the home of the Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. Some of these gems add to our economic vitality, some add to our quality of life and some are important to our lifestyle and quality of life. Regardless, Eagle County is home to numerous hidden gems – and it’s important we don’t take them for granted.As always, I encourage all member businesses to get engaged with the Partnership and to contact us with any suggestions you may have to help us better serve you and for non-members to join the Partnership. Call us at 970-476-1000 or stop by our offices in Avon at Traer Creek Plaza to share your feedback.