For my entire life, summer vacation has meant one thing: the beach.
Growing up in Montclair, New Jersey, I split my summers between my parents; down The Shore with my Dad in Seaside Heights and up in New England with my mother on Narragansett Beach. We’d spend the day alternating between sand and surf, and our nights gorging on fresh seafood and ice cream.
As an adult, my sojourns to the beach continued. Partying till dawn with friends on Fire Island or biking around the sand dunes of Provincetown. In fact, if you had told me a month ago that my summer would lack any time at the beach, I would have told you that it wasn’t a summer at all.
What’s changed? Well, I came to Vail. And as I’m sure East Coast-raised locals can attest, my perception of summer has been turned on its head.
Entirely Different Weather
The first thing I noticed was the weather. Back East, summer isn’t summer without the kind of humidity that keeps you soaked, even after you’ve dried off from the shower. But here, only seconds off the plane, and it was like I was learning to breath for the first time. Sure, my lips and cuticles are taking a little time adjusting, but my hair has never looked better!
Why had I spent so many summers sitting in front of an air conditioner instead of venturing outside? In Colorado, the temperate weather means I can hike eight-miles and hardly break a sweat. And the cool nights mean I can wear jeans without looking as if I jumped in a lake. A summer of this dry, crisp air has opened up a whole other world to me.
I love the ocean. A powerful force of nature that can sweep you out to sea on a whim. Floating over the waves brings me peace and reminds me of my place in the world. I never thought I could get through June without a cold Atlantic plunge.
Greatness of Water
Then I went whitewater rafting for the first time. The water was just as powerful as the ocean — and colder to boot! But I wouldn’t just float over the waves, I would crash through Class Four rapids. I would conquer the river in a way I never could the ocean. And the feeling was absolutely exhilarating.
But what would summer be like without dipping gobs of juicy lobster into bowls of melted butter? I wouldn’t know, because in the first month of being in Vail I’ve had more seafood than I had all last summer — and that includes a beautiful lobster claw and tail.
Vail might not be a complete replacement for the beach — the sand on the mountain biking trails just doesn’t cut it. But to hell with the beach when in the same day in Vail I can hike to the top of a snow-covered mountain, catch a free concert from my favorite one-hit wonder of 1992, learn how to butcher 10 pounds of pork belly, get a massage with cans of local beer and learn how to fly-fish at my five-star hotel’s expansive pool. (Yes, I’ve done all those things in the past month.)
A Dying Idea?
Maybe I was holding on to a dying idea of summer all this time. We use to beg our parents to take us to the boardwalk for a ride on some janky roller coaster or a spin around a broken-down go-cart track. Now, families take downhill mountain biking lessons together or plan multi-day fly-fishing floats. If 8-year-old Benjamin was around today, I don’t think another trip to the pool or the ice cream parlor would cut it anymore.
Vail, by being the center of activity and culture that it is, has become a kind of new barometer for summer. Though locals tell me the season is just beginning, I am sure of one thing already: the beach will never be enough for my summer again.
Benjamin Solomon is the winner of America’s Best Summer Job, a 10-week, all-expenses paid summer job exploring what summer in the Vail Valley has to offer. A freelance writer based in New York, Solomon has contributed to publications such as Vanity Fair, New York, Travel + Leisure and is the former editor of Next Magazine. Follow his journey on Blog.Vail.com as well as on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #VailBen.
I love the ocean. A powerful force of nature that can sweep you out to sea on a whim. I never thought I could get through June without a cold Atlantic plunge.