Rediscovered photos rekindle memories of Ted Bundy’s Vail victim | VailDaily.com

Rediscovered photos rekindle memories of Ted Bundy’s Vail victim

VAIL – Julie Cunningham just wanted to help the man struggling with his crutches in Vail back in 1975. She looked like many of Ted Bundy's 36 known murder victims — young, slender, pretty and white, with long brown hair. When the Glenwood Post Independent cracked open a safe last week that contained photos of the infamous serial killer, interest in his trail of terror was rekindled. Part of that trail passed through Vail. Bundy's Vail victim Bundy was driving a Volkswagen Beetle and stopped in Vail. He pretended to have an injured knee and was using crutches, but poorly. It was spring and Cunningham, 26, worked in a Vail ski shop. She was walking to a local restaurant on March 15, 1975, to meet a friend when she saw Bundy. She walked over to Bundy's car to offer to help, and he asked her to carry his ski boots. She had no idea who he was, how evil he was or that she was about to die. No one did. It was still early in Bundy's five-year string of murders. Bundy was charming, as the evil often are. According to Bundy's jailhouse confession, they exchanged pleasantries, Cunningham, moved closer to help Bundy, who appeared to be struggling with his crutches. When she was within reach, Bundy snatched her to him, knocked her unconscious, handcuffed her and stuffed her in the trunk in the front of his Volkswagen. He got back on Interstate 70 and drove west to the desert, where he yanked her out of the trunk and strangled her to death. He dumped her body in the desert. She was never found. A month after he killed her, he said he went back and buried her remains. "I don't know why. I just sometimes do that," Bundy told Vail police detective Matt Lindvall when he confessed. 1990 confession During a three-hour hour session with Lindvall on Jan. 24, 1989, Bundy confessed to how he killed Cunningham and more. Bundy was executed that night in a Florida electric chair. Bundy described Cunningham's death in excruciating detail to Lindvall, who had traveled to Florida to question Bundy about three murders. Lindvall later said Bundy's 11th-hour confessions were an attempt to prolong his life. Bundy said he wanted a "deal" before he'd confess to Cunningham's murder. He wanted Lindvall to approach the governor on his behalf, asking him to postpone the execution. Lindvall wanted to talk to Bundy about three different cases, but Bundy insisted on starting with Cunningham because her body had not been found. Bundy was originally brought to trial in Garfield County for murdering a Snowmass woman, whom he had killed in January, before he killed Cunningham in March. On Jan. 12, 1975, a 23-year-old registered nurse named Caryn Campbell decided to retrieve a magazine from her room in the Wildwood Inn at Snowmass. Campbell and Cunningham could have been sisters, they looked so much alike. Campbell's fiancee watched her enter the elevator in the hotel's lobby; friends saw her emerge from it upstairs. She vanished somewhere along a well-lit hallway between the elevator and her room. Her nude body was found a month later next to a dirt road just outside Snowmass. Bundy had beaten her to death. Bundy escaped from the Garfield County jail before the trial concluded. He stole a car in Glenwood Springs, and when it broke down in Edwards he hitched a ride into Vail, where he spent the night in a hotel lobby. The next day, he got on a bus that eventually took him to Jacksonville, Florida. He committed several more murders in Florida before his final arrest in 1978. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

1990: Horror hits home

VAIL – Julie Cunningham just wanted to help the man struggling with his crutches in Vail back in 1975. She looked like many of Ted Bundy’s 36 known murder victims – young, slender, pretty, and white with long brown hair. Bundy was driving a Volkswagen Beetle and stopped in Vail. He was pretending to have an injured knee and was using crutches, but poorly. It was spring and Cunningham, 26, worked in a Vail ski shop. She was walking to a local restaurant to meet a friend when she saw him. She walked over to Bundy’s car to offer to help, and he asked her to carry his ski boots. She had no idea who he was, how evil he was, or that she was about to die. No one did. It was still early in Bundy’s five-year string of murders. Bundy was charming, as the evil often are. As they exchanged pleasantries, Cunningham, her guard completely down, moved closer to help Bundy, who appeared to be struggling with his crutches. This was Vail, after all. Nothing bad ever happens in the Happy Valley. When she was within reach, Bundy snatched her to him, knocked her unconscious, handcuffed her and stuffed her in the trunk in the front of his Volkswagen. He got back on Interstate 70 and drove west to the desert, where he yanked her out of the trunk and strangled her to death. He dumped her body in the desert on March 15, 1975, but she was never found. A month after he killed her, he said he went back and buried her remains. “I don’t know why. I just sometimes do that,” Bundy told Vail police detective Matt Lindvall. 1990 confession During a three-hour hour session with Lindvall on Jan. 25, 1990, Bundy confessed to all that and more. Bundy was executed that night in a Florida electric chair. Bundy described Cunningham’s death in excruciating detail to Lindvall, who had traveled to Florida to question Bundy about three murders. Lindvall later said Bundy’s 11th-hour confessions were an attempt to prolong his life. Bundy said he wanted a “deal” before he’d confess to Cunningham’s murder. He wanted Lindvall to approach the governor on his behalf, asking him to postpone the execution. Lindvall wanted to talk to Bundy about three different cases, but Bundy insisted on starting with Cunningham because her body had not been found. Bundy was originally brought to trial in Garfield County for murdering a Snowmass woman, whom he had killed in January, before he killed Cunningham in March. On Jan. 12, 1975, a 23-year-old registered nurse named Caryn Campbell decided to retrieve a magazine from her room in the Wildwood Inn at Snowmass. Campbell and Cunningham could have been sisters, they looked so much alike. Campbell’s fiancee watched her enter the elevator in the hotel’s lobby; friends saw her emerge from it upstairs. She vanished somewhere along a well-lit hallway between the elevator and her room. Her nude body was found a month later next to a dirt road just outside Snowmass. Bundy had beaten her to death. Bundy escaped from the Garfield County jail before the trial concluded. He stole a car in Glenwood Springs, and when it broke down in Edwards he hitched a ride into Vail were he spent the night in a hotel lobby. The next day he got on a bus that eventually took him to Jacksonville, Fla. He committed several more murders in Florida before his final arrest in 1978. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Bone detectives dig on at Vail construction site

VAIL — About that skeleton found in a Lionshead construction site, we know what it isn't. "It's definitely not a Native American," said Kara Bettis, Eagle County coroner. What it is, though, takes much longer to determine. "It's never fast; it's not like CSI. It takes a long time," Bettis said. Bettis was among the team of searchers working in dirt Monday from a Lionshead construction site. They uncovered about 70 percent of a human skeleton, including a humerus bone, skull, ribs, extremities, small bones and some vertebrae. Recovery dogs joined the search on Saturday. The bones are on their way to a team of scientists led by Dr. Melissa Connor, a forensic archaeologists, archaeologist and associate professor of forensic science from Colorado Mesa University. They'll start by trying to determine gender and hopefully the age, they'll try to extract DNA from the bones and see if there's a match somewhere. "If they're a missing person and they're in a database, we might be able to make an identification. If there's a full set of teeth, we might be able to match dental records," Bettis said. Bundy's work? It's also too early to tell if there was foul play involved with the person's death, said District Attorney Bruce Brown. "We operate on the assumption that there could have been," Brown said. And that leads conjecture to Julie Cunningham, one of serial killer Ted Bundy's victims. Cunningham was a Vail ski instructor who Bundy kidnapped and killed on March 15, 1975, then buried her body near Rifle. Bundy made the confession to Vail police detective Matt Lindvall, on the day Bundy was to be executed in Florida's electric chair, Jan. 24, 1989. Bundy said he drove Cunningham to Rifle, but Cunningham's body was never found. "We can't tie any these remains to that; it's far too early. That would be pure guesswork," Brown said. The detective is doubtful Lindvall traveled to Florida to take Bundy's confession and said he doubts the body found in Lionshead is Cunningham. "My gut feeling? I don't know, but I don't think so," Lindvall said. According to Vail records, utilities were originally installed at the site in 1967. Since then, numerous permits for work within the easement have been processed. Cunningham disappeared in mid-March 1975, the wrong time of year to be able to dig a trench and bury a body in Vail. "In mid March, even in a bad snow year that ground is frozen and covered," Lindvall said. "Vail's building department didn't want open trenches in the winter, and they didn't allow digging that time of year." Besides the time of year and the location, the Lionshead discovery doesn't match Bundy's method of operation. Bundy's confessions don't line up either, Lindvall said. "He had a different agenda as he was confessing: to stay alive, get out of Florida and get to Colorado and get looking," Lindvall said. Anything is possible, Lindvall said, and it's also possible there's a Bundy victim no one knows about or something else happened. When Lindvall was in Florida taking Bundy's confession for killing Cunningham, a couple police officers from Idaho were also there, but they weren't entirely sure why. Bundy told them they were there because he had killed a couple people and dumped the bodies in their part of Idaho. Vail was also a much different place in 1975. "Vail was extremely transient in the 1970s, people coming and going and no one knew. We used to get calls all the time, 'My son moved to Vail last year, and we haven't heard from him,'" Lindvall said. "We'd run across the guy and tell him, 'Call your mother.'" Cunningham's killing Cunningham was 26 when Bundy brutally murdered her. She was walking from her apartment in Vail's Apollo Lodge to meet some friends in Vail Village, when she happened upon Bundy, struggling with some crutches. She walked over to Bundy's car, a tan 1968 Volkswagen Beetle, to offer to help, and he asked her to carry his ski boots. She had no idea who he was, how evil he was or that she was about to die. No one did. It was still early in Bundy's five-year string of murders. Bundy clubbed and handcuffed her, and threw her in the trunk of his Beetle. In his confession, he told Lindvall he drove her to a remote location near Rifle, 90 miles away, where he assaulted and strangled her. Weeks later, he made the six-hour drive from Salt Lake City to revisit her remains. Bundy's 1968 Volkswagen Beetle is now a tourist attraction at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. "If it does turn out to be Julie Cunningham, I hope it brings some peace to her family. It has always been a hope that she's remembered longer than him," Lindvall said. Bone detectives Dr. Melissa Connor is an archaeologist cross-trained in forensic anthropology. They study how bodies decay. Identifying these remains is a time-consuming, step-by-step process, she said. "You take your time, work the scene and get all the information from it," Connor said. "One of the worst things we can do is narrow a search based on incomplete data." Once they have everything, the remains go to a lab so everyone is working from the same data. They'll determine age, sex and anomalies in the bones — anything that should not be in the bone such as evidence of blunt force trauma and gun shot wounds. A huge number of identifications are made through dental records, Connor said. DNA goes last because it destroys the sample from which it's taken. However, once you have a DNA sample, you also need something to compare it to, Connor said. "If all you have is your unknown sample, it's still unknown," Connor said. That's where NaMus comes in, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. "When we have an unknown, we have to have knowns to compare it to," Connor said. Both missing persons and unidentified bodies go into the NaMus system. With a lot of work and a little luck, sometimes they match. Julie Cunningham, by the way, is missing person No. 12,084 in the NaMus database. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Vail skeletal remains presumed male

VAIL — The skeletal remains found in a Lionshead construction site are a Caucasian male, so they're not the missing victim of a serial killer. Juile Cunningham, therefore, remains Vail's only cold case. She was abducted and killed March 15, 1975, by serial killer Ted Bundy. Cunningham was a 26-year-old Vail ski instructor when Bundy kidnapped and killed her. In his execution-day confession, Jan. 24, 1989, he told Vail Police Detective Matt Lindvall that he had buried Cunningham's body in Rifle. Her body has never been found. This week, Lindvall said the chances were slim that the body was Cunningham's, pointing out that even in a bad snow year the ground in that area is frozen and snow covered. And so, the bone detectives examining the remains keep at their task, led by Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis and Dr. Melissa Connor with Colorado Mesa University. Connor is an archaeologist cross-trained in forensic anthropology, and forensic pathologist Dr. Rob Kurtzman is also assisting. They'll determine age, sex and anomalies in the bones — anything that should not appear in the bones such as evidence of blunt force trauma and gun shot wounds. Dental records and DNA are a big help. Among other tools, they'll use NaMus, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Missing persons and unidentified bodies both go into the NaMus system. How they determine it Approximately 70 percent of the skeletal structure has been recovered from the dirt collected from a Lionshead construction site. The initial discovery, a femur, was made June 26. That triggered an investigation that was joined Saturday by a team of recovery dogs. Bettis said the presumptive determination — that the bones are from a Caucasian male — is based on skeletal characteristics of the skull, pelvis and femoral head. The dirt originated from the excavation of a utility easement at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment site, 705 W. Lionshead Circle in Vail. Construction at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment project resumed Monday. According to town of Vail records, utilities were originally installed at the site in 1967. Since then, numerous permits for work within the easement have been processed. Investigators will continue their work to determine the age of the bones and positive identification, as well as cause and manner of death. The investigation is expected to take several weeks. A final search of the Edwards site is planned for next week, Bettis said. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Vail skeletal remains presumed male

VAIL — The skeletal remains found in a Lionshead construction site are a Caucasian male, so they're not the missing victim of a serial killer. Juile Cunningham, therefore, remains Vail's only cold case. She was abducted and killed March 15, 1975, by serial killer Ted Bundy. Cunningham was a 26-year-old Vail ski instructor when Bundy kidnapped and killed her. In his execution-day confession, Jan. 24, 1989, he told Vail Police Detective Matt Lindvall that he had buried Cunningham's body in Rifle. Her body has never been found. This week, Lindvall said the chances were slim that the body was Cunningham's, pointing out that even in a bad snow year the ground in that area is frozen and snow covered. And so, the bone detectives examining the remains keep at their task, led by Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis and Dr. Melissa Connor with Colorado Mesa University. Connor is an archaeologist cross-trained in forensic anthropology, and forensic pathologist Dr. Rob Kurtzman is also assisting. They'll determine age, sex and anomalies in the bones — anything that should not appear in the bones such as evidence of blunt force trauma and gun shot wounds. Dental records and DNA are a big help. Among other tools, they'll use NaMus, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Missing persons and unidentified bodies both go into the NaMus system. How they determine it Approximately 70 percent of the skeletal structure has been recovered from the dirt collected from a Lionshead construction site. The initial discovery, a femur, was made June 26. That triggered an investigation that was joined Saturday by a team of recovery dogs. Bettis said the presumptive determination — that the bones are from a Caucasian male — is based on skeletal characteristics of the skull, pelvis and femoral head. The dirt originated from the excavation of a utility easement at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment site, 705 W. Lionshead Circle in Vail. Construction at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment project resumed Monday. According to town of Vail records, utilities were originally installed at the site in 1967. Since then, numerous permits for work within the easement have been processed. Investigators will continue their work to determine the age of the bones and positive identification, as well as cause and manner of death. The investigation is expected to take several weeks. A final search of the Edwards site is planned for next week, Bettis said. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Bone detectives discuss construction site findings

VAIL — People lived and died in the Gore Creek Valley long before Vail, and one of them was likely homesteaders Alford or Charles Larzelere. A set of bones and other artifacts found on June 26 in a Vail construction site likely belonged to either Charles Larzelere or his son Alford, although investigators can't say for sure, said Kara Bettis, Eagle County Coroner, on Sept. 23. About the Larzeleres The Larzeleres ran sheep and a few horses on a ranch they homesteaded in 1893. They left the area in 1902, after either Charles or Alford died, Bettis said. When construction crews unearthed the bones this summer, speculation ran wild that it could have been a Vail woman who was one of serial killer Ted Bundy's victims, or perhaps a Native American grave site. But no. The remains are believed to be those of a white male approximately 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 5 inches tall, who was between 30 and 45 years old at the time of his death, Bettis said. Cunningham Mystery Bundy abducted Julie Cunningham from a Vail parking lot on March 15, 1975, while the ground was still too frozen to dig her grave. Just before his execution, Bundy told now-former Vail Police Detective Matt Lindvall that he had murdered Cunningham and that she was buried near Rifle. Her remains were never found. Almost as soon as crews found the skeletal remains last summer, forensic scientists determined it was not a Native American. Among other things, crews found nails, hinges and hardware from a coffin, as well as a silk bow tie. "It stands to reason that it was a ranch owner and not a ranch hand," said Ben Linscott, deputy coroner. "He was buried in a fairly expensive coffin with a viewing window. He was buried in a suit." Possibly Moved Gravesite An educated guess is that after either Charles or Alford Larzelere died, the body was buried on a corner of their ranch, the custom of the time. The survivor sold the ranch and left the area, Bettis said. When that Vail Hotel was originally built in the 1970s, the gravesite was likely disturbed and moved during that original excavation. That would account for the tumbled state of the remains when they were discovered in June, Bettis said. Near the site where the remains were discovered, they also found wrappers from a snack food popular in the 1970s. The remains will be re-interred in Eagle County, along with all the artifacts. "It's the respectful thing to do," Bettis said. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Last Vail murder was in 1979

VAIL, Colorado – Before the Sandbar shooting earlier this month, Vail hadn’t seen a homicide in nearly 30 years, according to police records compiled by the town of Vail. In December 1979, Steve Kirby, 28, was beaten to death with a claw hammer, and his roommate, James Heintze, was found guilty of second-degree murder a year later. The roommates met when Kirby solicited Heintze for prostitution in Denver, police said. Kirby invited Heintze, who needed a job and had a drug problem, to come live with him in Vail, police said. Heintze said he was uncomfortable with the arrangement, but went with Kirby to Vail out of desperation, according to police. They had been living together for two weeks when Heintze awoke from a nap to find Kirby making sexual advances toward him, police said. After pushing and punching Kirby, Heintze ran to the kitchen, grabbed a hammer and hit Kirby 10 to 20 times in the head, shoulders and chest with the hammer, police said. Heintze turned himself in in Denver three days later. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison and was granted parole in 1986. In April 1979, Peter Strohecker, 53, shot his estranged wife, Martha, 53, and her companion, Tom Green, 54, at the intersection of Vail and Willow roads. Martha Strohecker, who was shot twice, died, while Green, who was shot once in the stomach, survived. Peter Strohecker shot and killed himself moments after the shooting. The Stroheckers were from Evergreen, and Green was from Arvada. Martha Strohecker and Tom Green had come to Vail for a weekend of skiing. They were retuning to their hotel after dinner and an evening of dancing when they were confronted by Peter Strohecker. An argument ensued, and Peter Strohecker fired two shots into the pavement before turning the gun on his wife and then Green. Strohecker was under a restraining order to stay away from his wife, police said. The court required him to give up his gun, but he apparently bought another before coming to Vail, police said. In 1975, Julie Cunningham, 26, was reported missing after she didn’t show up for her job at ski school. According to police, she was seen the night before around town with a man she referred to as “Ted.” Seven months later, investigators learned of a man named Theodore “Ted” Bundy being held in Utah on charges of aggravated kidnapping and attempted murder. Bundy became the prime suspect in the Cunningham case. After escaping from jails in Aspen and Glenwood Springs, he went to Florida, where he was eventually captured, convicted and sentenced to death. Bundy is believed to have murdered many women across the country. Shortly before Bundy was executed in 1989, a Vail detective flew to Florida to interview him. Bundy confessed to the abduction and murder of Cunningham and said her body was in an area north of Rifle. Her remains have never been found. In 1971, James Webb, 23, and Ben McCartt, 52, got into an altercation at the intersection of Bridge Street and Gore Creek Drive, records show. McCartt noticed Webb picking a flower from a planter and said he shouldn’t pick flowers, police said. Webb hit McCartt in the face and then picked him up from the waist and dropped him on his head, according to police. McCartt was treated at the Vail Clinic and released. Shortly thereafter, McCartt suffered complications and died due to head trauma, police said. Webb was later charged with voluntary manslaughter, records show. The outcome of the case was not available from Eagle County Court, the town of Vail said. Earlier this month, Gary Bruce Kitching, 70, a Carbondale physician, was killed in a shooting at the Sandbar in West Vail. Three others were injured. Vail resident Richard “Rossi” Moreau is being held as a suspect, and prosecutors expect to charge him in the shooting Monday. Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

The last time the world came to town

As Feb. 2 approaches, the entire valley is preparing for its international close-up. From to-the-minute countdown signs in Vail Village to racks of logo-sporting merchandise in local stores, the harbingers are everywhere for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. The prestigious, international skiing event promises to be a crowd pleaser with local darlings Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin competing at the top for their respective games. As often noted, the ski championships are the valley's time to shine for the world. That is true — we know because we have been there before. It's been 16 years since the world came to Vail and Beaver Creek, so many local residents don't remember what its like to host the FIS championships. Here's what it was like the last time the world came to town. 1989 – Welcome back to the USA When the Vail Valley Foundation successfully lobbied for the 1989 event it marked the end of a 29-year drought. The alpine championships hadn't been contested on U.S. soil since the 1960 event in Squaw Valley. In 1989, 42 countries planned to send athletes to the event and hosting an international competition of this scope was new territory for the valley. Paula Palmateer of Vail was charged with the task of finding and organizing 1,200 volunteers for the championships. Those volunteers were assigned to work on one of 14 separate committees that covered everything from ceremonies to education. "I think we are going to have a ball. I think its going to be a whole lot of fun," said Palmateer. In the weeks leading up to the championships, the downvalley communities of Eagle and Gypsum were naturally affected by the buzz. However, the big local story was the collapse of the Eagle Recreation Center roof and the subsequent demolition of that building and the adjacent McDonald Building. Formerly the Eagle School, the building housed Eagle County administration offices. County workers were moved to modular buildings and vacant office space around town and planning began for the new Eagle County Building that now extends across Broadway. The other big local headline during the championships period was the execution of confessed serial killer Ted Bundy. While that event happened in Florida, Colorado investigators interviewed Bundy just days before his death, trying to glean information about a number of unsolved homicides. Before his execution, Bundy confessed to murdering Vail ski instructor Julie Cunningham in March 1975 and Michigan nurse Caryn Campbell, who was visiting Aspen at the time of her January 1975 death. Matt Lindvall of the Vail Police Department was convinced Bundy confessed to the 1975 murders in hopes of delaying his execution. Dreams and nightmares Just as it will this year, the 1989 championships began Feb. 2. "A Night of Dreams" was the theme for the event opening ceremonies held at Golden Peak. Former President Gerald R. Ford accidently welcomed the crowd to "California" before correcting himself. Tragedy struck on the second day of competition when Spanish duke Alfonso de Borbon y de Dampierre, a member of the International Ski Federation, died in a freak accident. He was skiing the downhill course in Beaver Creek after the day's races were complete when he slammed into a cable at the finish line. His death was instantaneous after he suffered a skull fracture and severed brain stem. On the ski hill, Tamara McKinney's gold medal in the combined and bronze medal in the slalom were the only U.S victories in competition dominated by Swiss skiers. Overall, organizers were disappointed by smaller-than-anticipated crowds. "We've got the crowds, but they're spread out over 4,000 acres of ski terrain. They come over, watch the first 15 races and then they ski off again," said George Gillett, then owner of Vail Associates. The championships were marked by a two-week school holiday for up valley students. Naturally that didn't sit well with downvalley students and teachers and the eventual compromise was to allow excused absences for all Eagle County students. Some locals volunteered at events while others trekked up to watch the races. There were a number of downvalley local interest tales during the event. As part of the dream theme, the Vail Valley Foundation solicited local teachers to share a wish. Gus Wallace of Eagle Valley Middle School was one of 15 lucky winners and she and student Bobbie Newby got to spend a day on the hill at Beaver Creek during the competition. Newby was one of four EVHS students who competed and eventually won the Denver Post Stock Market Game in 1988. The grand prize was a trip to tour the Chicago Board of Trade, but Newby was seriously burned in a kitchen accident and unable to make the trip. "Bobby missed the Chicago trip and I thought a day up there at the championships might make up for it a little bit," said Wallace. The duo also attended the opening ceremonies. During the opening ceremonies event, as a surprise everyone in the audience was instructed to let loose a helium balloon attached to a small slip of paper. Those papers outlined a local child's dream. Edwards resident Bobby Hawks found the balloon let loose by Dalene Barton of Gypsum. Dalene's dream was to "be a world professional ice skater" and Hawks arranged for the entire Barton family to attend Brian Orser's Wold of Championships ice show performance in Vail. Dalene got to meet several of the professional skaters during the event. 1999 — Seasoned host After waiting nearly three decades to host a world championships, it only took one decade to bring back the event. In 1999, organizers had a better notion of what they were in for. While Eagle lodges reported they saw no significant increases in business on the eve of the championships, spectator crowds were larger than reported in '89. Austrian skiers dominated the competition, winning 13 medals at the championships. The breakout stars were crowd favorite Hermann Maier of Austria and Norway's Lasse Kjus, who won a record five medals. The U.S. Ski Team was shut out of the medals. "What a difference a decade makes. Ten year ago the men's downhill was postponed at least twice due to weather. This year it started on time, with the precision of a Swiss watch," wrote reporter Madeleine Osberger. "And one of the favorites — the Herminator — won the event. Best of all, the Birds of Prey downhill was a thriller." Off the hill, Dobson Arena was transformed into a rodeo arena for two days when the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association came to town as an entertainment option for the event. As was the case in 1989, a huge national story broke during the championships week when the U.S. Attorney's offfice issued subpoenas to environmental groups related to the $12 million arson attack that gutted Two Elk Lodge atop Vail Mountain during the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 1998. Locally, the news centered around the Eagle Town Board's review of both the Eagle Ranch and Adam's Rib proposals. The other big news in Colorado was when the Denver Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bow XXXIII. In a full page ad following the event, Vail Valley Foundation President John Garnsey and Vail Resorts President Andy Daly noted that the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships reached the largest TV audience in the history of ski racing and that more than 25,000 articles about the event had been published by print media world wide. There were 1,000 athletes representing 55 countries at the competition and 1,600 volunteers contributed more than 80,000 hours of their time. "Our mission as the organizing committee was to place Vail and Beaver Creek and Eagle County as the premiere destination ski communities for the next millennium," the ad stated. That new millennium is now 15 year old and the world is coming back to the valley for ski adventures and off-mountain stories. Get ready for an adventure.

The last time the world came to town

As Feb. 2 approaches, the entire valley is preparing for its international close-up. From to-the-minute countdown signs in Vail Village to racks of logo-sporting merchandise in local stores, the harbingers are everywhere for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. The prestigious, international skiing event promises to be a crowd pleaser with local darlings Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin competing at the top for their respective games. As often noted, the ski championships are the valley's time to shine for the world. That is true — we know because we have been there before. It's been 16 years since the world came to Vail and Beaver Creek, so many local residents don't remember what its like to host the FIS championships. Here's what it was like the last time the world came to town. 1989 – Welcome back to the USA When the Vail Valley Foundation successfully lobbied for the 1989 event it marked the end of a 29-year drought. The alpine championships hadn't been contested on U.S. soil since the 1960 event in Squaw Valley. In 1989, 42 countries planned to send athletes to the event and hosting an international competition of this scope was new territory for the valley. Paula Palmateer of Vail was charged with the task of finding and organizing 1,200 volunteers for the championships. Those volunteers were assigned to work on one of 14 separate committees that covered everything from ceremonies to education. "I think we are going to have a ball. I think its going to be a whole lot of fun," said Palmateer. In the weeks leading up to the championships, the downvalley communities of Eagle and Gypsum were naturally affected by the buzz. However, the big local story was the collapse of the Eagle Recreation Center roof and the subsequent demolition of that building and the adjacent McDonald Building. Formerly the Eagle School, the building housed Eagle County administration offices. County workers were moved to modular buildings and vacant office space around town and planning began for the new Eagle County Building that now extends across Broadway. The other big local headline during the championships period was the execution of confessed serial killer Ted Bundy. While that event happened in Florida, Colorado investigators interviewed Bundy just days before his death, trying to glean information about a number of unsolved homicides. Before his execution, Bundy confessed to murdering Vail ski instructor Julie Cunningham in March 1975 and Michigan nurse Caryn Campbell, who was visiting Aspen at the time of her January 1975 death. Matt Lindvall of the Vail Police Department was convinced Bundy confessed to the 1975 murders in hopes of delaying his execution. Dreams and nightmares Just as it will this year, the 1989 championships began Feb. 2. "A Night of Dreams" was the theme for the event opening ceremonies held at Golden Peak. Former President Gerald R. Ford accidently welcomed the crowd to "California" before correcting himself. Tragedy struck on the second day of competition when Spanish duke Alfonso de Borbon y de Dampierre, a member of the International Ski Federation, died in a freak accident. He was skiing the downhill course in Beaver Creek after the day's races were complete when he slammed into a cable at the finish line. His death was instantaneous after he suffered a skull fracture and severed brain stem. On the ski hill, Tamara McKinney's gold medal in the combined and bronze medal in the slalom were the only U.S victories in competition dominated by Swiss skiers. Overall, organizers were disappointed by smaller-than-anticipated crowds. "We've got the crowds, but they're spread out over 4,000 acres of ski terrain. They come over, watch the first 15 races and then they ski off again," said George Gillett, then owner of Vail Associates. The championships were marked by a two-week school holiday for up valley students. Naturally that didn't sit well with downvalley students and teachers and the eventual compromise was to allow excused absences for all Eagle County students. Some locals volunteered at events while others trekked up to watch the races. There were a number of downvalley local interest tales during the event. As part of the dream theme, the Vail Valley Foundation solicited local teachers to share a wish. Gus Wallace of Eagle Valley Middle School was one of 15 lucky winners and she and student Bobbie Newby got to spend a day on the hill at Beaver Creek during the competition. Newby was one of four EVHS students who competed and eventually won the Denver Post Stock Market Game in 1988. The grand prize was a trip to tour the Chicago Board of Trade, but Newby was seriously burned in a kitchen accident and unable to make the trip. "Bobby missed the Chicago trip and I thought a day up there at the championships might make up for it a little bit," said Wallace. The duo also attended the opening ceremonies. During the opening ceremonies event, as a surprise everyone in the audience was instructed to let loose a helium balloon attached to a small slip of paper. Those papers outlined a local child's dream. Edwards resident Bobby Hawks found the balloon let loose by Dalene Barton of Gypsum. Dalene's dream was to "be a world professional ice skater" and Hawks arranged for the entire Barton family to attend Brian Orser's Wold of Championships ice show performance in Vail. Dalene got to meet several of the professional skaters during the event. 1999 — Seasoned host After waiting nearly three decades to host a world championships, it only took one decade to bring back the event. In 1999, organizers had a better notion of what they were in for. While Eagle lodges reported they saw no significant increases in business on the eve of the championships, spectator crowds were larger than reported in '89. Austrian skiers dominated the competition, winning 13 medals at the championships. The breakout stars were crowd favorite Hermann Maier of Austria and Norway's Lasse Kjus, who won a record five medals. The U.S. Ski Team was shut out of the medals. "What a difference a decade makes. Ten year ago the men's downhill was postponed at least twice due to weather. This year it started on time, with the precision of a Swiss watch," wrote reporter Madeleine Osberger. "And one of the favorites — the Herminator — won the event. Best of all, the Birds of Prey downhill was a thriller." Off the hill, Dobson Arena was transformed into a rodeo arena for two days when the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association came to town as an entertainment option for the event. As was the case in 1989, a huge national story broke during the championships week when the U.S. Attorney's offfice issued subpoenas to environmental groups related to the $12 million arson attack that gutted Two Elk Lodge atop Vail Mountain during the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 1998. Locally, the news centered around the Eagle Town Board's review of both the Eagle Ranch and Adam's Rib proposals. The other big news in Colorado was when the Denver Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bow XXXIII. In a full page ad following the event, Vail Valley Foundation President John Garnsey and Vail Resorts President Andy Daly noted that the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships reached the largest TV audience in the history of ski racing and that more than 25,000 articles about the event had been published by print media world wide. There were 1,000 athletes representing 55 countries at the competition and 1,600 volunteers contributed more than 80,000 hours of their time. "Our mission as the organizing committee was to place Vail and Beaver Creek and Eagle County as the premiere destination ski communities for the next millennium," the ad stated. That new millennium is now 15 year old and the world is coming back to the valley for ski adventures and off-mountain stories. Get ready for an adventure.

In the national spotlight

Ski instructor Julie Cunningham disappears from Vail on March 15, 1975. Just before his execution on Jan. 24, 1989 in Florida’s electric chair, mass murderer Ted Bundy confesses to a Vail police officer that he lured Cunningham to his car with the ploy of needing help as he fumbled with his ski boots while struggling on crutches. Bundy says he buried her body near Rifle but it has never been found.Four people die and eight are injured when two gondola cars derail because of a frayed cable and fall to the ground on Vail Mountain on Friday, March 26, 1976. The threat of lawsuits forces Vail founder Pete Seibert to sell to a Texas oilman who ultimately forces Seibert out as president.Spanish Prince Alfonso de Bourbon is nearly beheaded Jan. 30, 1989 after skiing into a cable used to suspend finish-line banners at the bottom of the men’s downhill course during the World Alpine Ski Championships at Beaver Creek. He dies instantly, and the tragedy is covered globally by media in town for the ski races.Stabbed by deranged Steffi Graf fan Gunther Parche in Hamburg, Germany on April 30, 1993, tennis star Monica Seles decides to rehab at the famed Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail. Her visit brings hordes of slavering tabloid reporters from both coasts and beyond.While on a routine training flight in Arizona on April 2, 1997, U.S. Air Force Capt. Craig Button breaks out of formation, flies 495 miles without any communication and slams his A-10 Warthog into the side of Gold Dust Peak south of Edwards. The Air Force calls the crash a suicide and Button’s mother accuses them of a cover-up. The plane’s four, 500-pound bombs have never been found.On the April, 20, 1997, the final day of the ski season on Vail Mountain, Vail Resorts employee Nathan Hall skis down Riva Ridge at a high rate of speed, loses control and slams into Allen Cobb of Denver. Cobb is killed by the edge of Hall’s ski, which sails through the air like a missile. An Eagle County jury on Nov. 16, 2000 finds Hall guilty of criminally negligent homicide in a case that went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court and set a ski industry precedent. Hall is sentenced to 90 days in jail.Still thought to be the worst act of eco-terror in the history of the United States (perpetrated in the name of tuft-eared wildcat called a Canada lynx), seven separate arson fires rip through structures and chairlifts on Vail Mountain in the early morning hours of Oct. 19, 1998. The fires do $12 million in damage, including leveling Two Elk Lodge, but no suspects have ever been named and no arrests have been made.– compiled by David O. Williams