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Vail contingent takes a trip to St. Moritz to refresh a long friendship

Vail Town Manager Scott Robson, left, and Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid, second from right, were among a delegation from the town that traveled this week to St. Moritz, Switzerland, and St. Anton, Austria. St. Moritz Mayor Christian Jott Jenny, second from left, and town manager Ueli Rechsteiner, far right, presented a piece of art to Vail officials that will be taken back to Vail and will hang in the council chambers.
Town of Vail/courtesy photo

Vail has “friendship” agreements with three cities: St. Moritz, Switzerland, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and Yamanouchi, Japan. A contingent from Vail this week has visited St. Moritz, the town’s oldest international friend.

In a phone call from Switzerland, Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid said town officials have been talking about a trip to the town since she was first elected to the Town Council in 2017.

This trip is about “re-igniting” relationships and exploring future partnerships, Langmaid said. A contingent from Vail has visited San Miguel de Allende and Yamanouchi in the last several years.

Those trips include taking in skiing and other social and cultural activities, but there’s also a good bit of work, looking into how international friends handle issues common to all resort communities.

Langmaid said since Vail’s mission is to be a premier international resort, “It’s important to understand what’s going on in the rest of the world … It’s important to reach out and have these conversations.”

Pete Seibert, Barry Davis and Kim Langmaid of the Vail Town Council share a bobsled during a visit to St. Moritz, Switzerland, ealier this week. St. Moritz, known as the birthplace of winter tourism, is the town of Vail’s oldest international friend.
Town of Vail/Courtesy photo

That’s especially true these days, with war raging in Europe for the first time in decades and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still reverberating.

While Switzerland is relatively removed from Ukraine, Langmaid said the Russian invasion of that country is perhaps the top issue in Europe right now.

“They’re nervous about what the future holds for tourism, and hopeful the United States will play a stronger role moving forward,” she added.

Langmaid noted that St. Moritz is seen as the “birthplace” of winter tourism. But beyond the the centuries-old mineral water spring and ancient castles, Langmaid said the city, along with nearby St. Anton, Austria, can provide lessons for Vail.

Vail officials got to get out on the snow in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and St. Anton, Austria, during a recent trip to the two resorts. The trip helped Vail electeds gain insights into how both European resort towns have evolved and approached similar issues to those facing Vail and Eagle County.
Town of Vail/Courtesy photo

The resorts have figured out how to embrace history while innovating for the future. Landmaid said as Vail works on its Destination Stewardship projects for sustainable tourism, this was a “perfect” time to see how those old resorts have managed to stay fresh.

Langmaid said she’s been impressed by the transportation systems in St. Moritz and St. Anton, adding that those cities are also putting more money into electric buses.

There’s a strong focus on renewable energy in both communities, Langmaid said, adding that she’s seen a number of old mountain chalets with solar panels on the roof.

While the European resorts may be ahead of Vail in terms of sustainability efforts, there are some common problems.

Both St. Moritz and St. Anton have housing challenges similar to those in Vail and Eagle County, complicated by the fact that those resort economies are more seasonal. Those areas are also seeing an influx of well-off people deciding to live full-time and work remotely from places usually thought of as getaways. That’s resulted in serious increases in real estate prices.

Resorts everywhere have had to deal with rises and falls in COVID cases. While St. Moritz still hasn’t reimposed an indoor mask mandate, St Anton just this week again requires masks in those places.

Part of friendship is reciprocity. Langmaid said the St. Moritz council is expected to vote in coming weeks to formalize continuing the towns’ relationship. And, she added, Vail can expect a visit from its Swiss friends in the next year or two.

A full report on the trip will be delivered at the April 5 Vail Town Council meeting.

Vail Resorts launches Epic Pass for next season at $841

Dan Goldberg slashes powder in Beaver Creek on March 10. Vail Resorts unveiled pricing for its popular Epic Pass on Monday.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

Vail Resorts is raising the price of its Epic Pass by about 7 percent for next season, but its signature pass product is still around $200 less than the Ikon Pass.

Vail Resorts unveiled the prices for its Epic Pass products for the 2022/23 season Monday. The full Epic Pass will cost $841, while the Epic Local Pass launches at $626.

In the announcement, the company touted its investments in its employees, its mountain resorts and its pass holders. The company earlier this month announced an incremental $175 million investment in its employees, which includes increasing the minimum wage for employees to $20 per hour from $15 an hour across each of its 37 North American resorts, and raising hourly wages an average of 30 percent.

In January, Vail Resorts discounted next season’s Stevens Pass ski pass to $385 for customers who purchased one this season.

In September, the company also announced it will be investing $300 million in the mountain experience next season, with 21 new lifts across 14 resorts to reduce lift line wait times. That includes the installation of a new high-speed four-person chair from the base of Chair 5 (High Noon Express) to the Wildwood restaurant on Vail Mountain.

“We will not waiver in our commitment to continuously reinvest in the ski and ride experience with the goal of creating an Experience of a Lifetime for our Pass Holders,” said Ryan Bennett, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “We are making bold investments to ensure we have a fully staffed team of passionate, engaged employees and adding 21 new lifts across 14 of our resorts to help skiers and riders get up and around the mountains faster and easier. We are committed to providing an amazing value and experience to our Pass Holders.”

Vail Resorts slashed the price of its Epic Pass products by 20 percent for the current 2021/22 season, leading to a record 2.1 million passes being pre-sold for the season. The price of an Epic Pass dropped from $979 to $783 for the current season.

In an earnings call on March 15, CEO Kirsten Lynch described the 2021/22 season pass price slash as a “reset,” and said the move was part of a disciplined approach Vail Resorts has taken to “strategic price management” with regard to its season pass sales.

“Any pricing decisions that we make going forward will take into consideration the current macro-inflation dynamics,” Lynch said.

The Ikon Pass, offered by Denver-based Alterra Mountain Company, is also going up in price next season, with an adult pass priced at $1,079 — $80 more than the pre-sale pass price for the current season. The cost of an adult Ikon Base Pass will be $769, an increase of $40.

The Ikon Pass will be good at 50 destinations in 10 countries, and in Colorado, is good for unlimited visits at Steamboat, Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Eldora, and for seven days at Arapahoe Basin and Aspen Snowmass.

Eagle County airport passenger numbers saw 2021 increases

The Eagle County Regional Airport had a great 2021, with passenger numbers not seen since 2008.
Daily archive photo

The Eagle County Regional Airport was a busy place in 2021, with passenger counts not seen since 2008.

The airport in 2021 saw more than 206,000 “emplanements,” passengers getting on or off commercial flights. That puts the facility ahead of many of the nation’s other airports.

“Nationwide, traffic has really only recovered about 80 percent,” Eagle County Aviation Director David Reid said in a release. “At EGE, we’ve been consistently surprised with setting monthly records in 2021. We have seen strong recovery with our visitors but also with our local travelers choosing their hometown airport.”

Reid said factors driving the increased traffic through the airport include added summer service to Atlanta and Chicago, along with year-round service to Denver. Direct flights from Dallas also helped drive 2021 emplanements.

The big three U.S. carriers, American, United and Delta Airlines, each conduct operations at the airport. Here’s the 2021 market share breakdown:

  • American Airlines: 54.9%
  • United Airlines: 34.9%
  • Delta Airlines: 10%

Peter Dann is the chair of the EGE Air Alliance, a group of government and business people who work to build traffic at the airport.

In a phone interview, Dann said it’s been a long climb back from the big passenger numbers seen in the early to late 2000s. Dann said it’s taken time for the airport to recover from the sharp decline in passenger numbers that hit first during the early portion of the “Great Recession.”

“It’s taken this long to go through a whole other (economic) cycle,” Dann said. Dann noted that he and others feared that the airport’s passenger numbers would drop again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just the opposite happened, he said.

Given the shutdowns and restrictions, Dann said people apparently decided they’re “going to take that trip,” he said.

But no one with the EGE Air Alliance is satisfied.

In the release about the passenger counts, Vail Valley Patnership CEO Chris Romer noted that the Alliance offered $100 flight rebates to Eagle County residents in the summer of 2021. That program will be repeated this year.

And Dann, along with Reid and Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll traveled this week to an air travel conference in San Antonio.

“You always have to do that,” Dann said the county has great partnerships with its major airline partners. But, he added, “we’re always looking” for other airline partners.

That would probably be some kind of agreement with a lower-cost carrier. Southwest Airlines now has flights into the Routt County airport at Hayden, as well as the airport at Montrose.

More passengers will mean more guests, and Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr said that’s good from an economic perspective.

But, he added, “We should always be thinking in a more complete way.” That includes thinking about the carbon impacts of air travel, as well as the potential of more second-home owners coming to the valley by air.

All that “has to be part of our comprehensive planning,” Scherr said.

Go to flyvail.com for more information.

SpeakUp ReachOut presents film about suicide, veterans, and alternative ways to heal

Anthony Anderson and Tom Voss, two Iraqi War Veterans walked 2,700 miles across seven states over five-and-a-half months to heal themselves from suicide ideation and to raise awareness of the moral injury veterans face when they come home from a war zone. Their trek is documented in the Emmy-nominated documentary, “Almost Sunrise: Hope is on the Horizon.”
Special to the Daily

The next event in SpeakUp ReachOut’s suicide prevention educational series is the virtual screening of “Almost Sunrise: Hope is the Horizon.” The Emmy-nominated documentary created by Iraq veterans Anthony Anderson and Tom Voss is a feature-length movie about resilience and recovery.

Haunted by combat experiences, Anderson and Voss embark on a meditative pilgrimmage (a 2,700-mile walk) to help them deal with suicide ideation caused by moral injury. Moral injury is the damage done to a person’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses or fails to prevent acts that conflict with his or her own moral beliefs, values or ethical codes of conduct.

The goals of their trek are twofold: to learn to heal for themselves, but also to raise awareness about the staggering rates of suicide among veterans in the United States.

During their “Almost Sunrise” journey, Voss learns about mindfulness-breathing techniques at the Project Welcome Home Troops Power Breath Meditation Workshop. The new skills learned at the workshop help his overall mental health improve and gave him a renewed sense of connection and purpose.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there is a great deal of overlap between moral injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“PTSD is an invisible behavioral health issue that affects many people, not just veterans,” said Pat Hammon, an RN and Eagle County’s Veteran Service Officer. “It can result from any major trauma such as a severe car accident or a house fire. But, it is most commonly known for its frequent occurrence in combat veterans. ’Almost Sunrise’ is very informative about the effects of PTSD on veterans and their families. The information shared will be helpful for all citizens to be sensitive to, especially since we all need to be more aware of suicide prevention in our community.”

The 97-minute documentary will be screened virtually (via Zoom) on March 31, at 6 pm. SURO encourages veterans, family members and anyone interested in learning more about the effects of moral injury and alternative methods of healing to attend this free event.

After the movie, there will be a panel discussion moderated by SURO. Panelists include Voss and Anderson from “Almost Sunrise” as well as local veterans Commander Reed, Cory Diss and Toby Baldwin. There will also be an opportunity for questions from the audience.

SpeakUp ReachOut, founded in 2009, exists to prevent suicide prevention in the Eagle River Valley through training, awareness and hope. Visit speakupreachout.org to learn more. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call The Hope Center of the Eagle Valley at 970-306-HOPE (4673) or Colorado Crisis Services at 844-493-8255.

“Almost Sunrise: Hope Is on The Horizon“

Cost: Free virtual documentary screening

When: March 31 at 6:00-8:30 pm (veteran panel discussion to follow movie screening)

Who should attend: Veterans, those who support veterans, families of veterans and anyone interested in learning about resilience and hope as it relates to mental health issues

Register: Visit speakupreachout.org/educational-events/almost-sunrise to register, which is mandatory

Eagle County police agencies, Catholic Charities, partner on coat drive

Catholic Charities and the Eagle County Law Enforcement Immigrant Alliance are sponsoring their 10th Annual Fall Coat Drive. Over the last several years, this coat drive has distributed over 4,000 coats to local kids and families in need. 

This year, the coat drive will be for kids’ coats and outer winter gear only. Coats are being collected through Oct. 30 at the following locations:

  • Vail: Vail Police Department, 75 South Frontage Road.
  • Avon: Avon Police Department, 0001 Lake Street.
  • Edwards: Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Substation in the Mountain Recreation Edwards Field House, 450 Miller Ranch Road; UW Youth Closet, 439 Edwards Access Road, Edwards (behind Subway).
  • Eagle: Eagle Police Department, 200 Broadway.

The community is encouraged to donate clean coats in good condition. Families in need of kids’ coats can come to the Youth Closet beginning Nov. 2 during regular operating hours, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday, as well as Monday evenings from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

The Law Enforcement Immigrant Alliance, an initiative founded and facilitated by Catholic Charities, consists of representatives of the immigrant community who meet on a regular basis with the heads of law enforcement in Eagle County. They provide resources and information through education and outreach to build trust and collaboration with the immigrant community.  

Participating agencies include Catholic Charities, Vail Police Department, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Avon Police Department, Eagle Police Department, Salvation Army, Bright Future Foundation, YouthPower365, Eagle County School District and several community members.

Eagle County Paramedic Services names operations manager

Steve Vardaman has been promoted to Operations Manager at the Eagle County Paramedic Services. Vardaman previously served as a Paramedic Supervisor. 

“The operations manager is a critical role here,” Eagle County Paramedic Services CEO Jim Bradford said. “Not only does the ops manager work closely with all our field providers and supervisors, but he is also integral in helping us maintain our stellar customer service. (Vardaman) has been an invaluable asset to our organization for almost two decades; we’re thrilled to be able to promote him to this position.”

Vardaman started his career with the paramedic service in 2002 as an EMT, completed paramedic school in 2003 and has been a paramedic supervisor since 2013. In addition, he works as a paramedic ski patroller for Vail Resorts, is a certified Critical Care Paramedic, a BCCTPC Certified Flight Paramedic and a State of Colorado POST-Certified Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy. He’s also one of only 19 IBSC Certified Tactical Paramedics in the state. 

“I am so fortunate to work with such a talented, motivated and dedicated staff,” Vardaman said. “I look forward to serving with our many healthcare and public safety partners to continue providing high quality Emergency Medical Services to our community.”

For more information, go to eaglecountyparamedics.com or call 970-926-5270.

Avon opens first outdoor concert venue in Eagle County following COVID-19

AVON – Nottingham Park on Wednesday became the first outdoor venue in the county to take the leap back into hosting concerts.

With four sections that allow 175 people each, and 50-feet between each section, event organizers think they pulled off exactly what their job title describes, a well-organized event.

“Everybody is showing gratitude and practicing being responsible, so I feel good about going forward,” said town of Avon special events manager Danita Dempsey. “I’m super thankful for the community, how well behaved everyone is.”

On stage, the Burnsville Band also showed gratitude to the town of Avon for hosting them, asking the crowd to give it up for the town and thanking everyone for staying distanced from each other.

“We filled the park,” frontman Steve Burns joked.

624 allowed

In fact, attendees had not quite reached the calculated 624 people maximum capacity of the venue, which is based on the 89,900 square foot area in front of the stage.

The town of Avon had 16 people working the event, many of whom roved the event explaining to guests that there’s no gathering in the walkways, and encouraging people to wear their masks when they’re moving around in the walkways.

Police chief Greg Daly said he had a few cops making walk throughs and observed no issues.

A cleaning crew went through the venue once per hour cleaning all touch points in the venue.

Also, event workers were carrying surfboards, which was cool.

“We wanted a visual to let people know how far to stay apart,” Dempsey said.

John LaConte | jlaconte@vaildaily.com

‘Somebody had to be first’

Jake Wolf, a member of the Avon Town Council and a musician himself, walked to the event from his residence nearby, and said he was honored to be a resident of the first town in Eagle County to host an outdoor concert venue following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Somebody had to be the first one to do it,” he said. “I’m glad it was us.”

The Avon Live concert series will continue July 1 in Nottingham Park with Beau Thomas, a six piece ensemble from Summit County and Eagle County.

Guests may bring their own food and alcohol as there will not be any food or beverage concessions during events. Aluminum is preferred as glass is not allowed and single use plastic is discouraged.

Shows are free, but a maximum capacity of 624 will be enforced while Eagle County remains in the blue phase of pandemic restrictions.

For 4-H kids in Eagle County, the shows will go on

While the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo has been canceled, one of the fair’s premier events, the junior livestock auction has not.

“Agriculture is unpredictable. It can vary from year to year,” said Jenny Leonetti with CSU Extension in Eagle.

Like so much of the world, this year’s junior livestock auction will move online. An outfit called stockshowauctions.com will handle it. The company just did the massive Houston livestock show.

And while Eagle County’s junior livestock auction isn’t that size, it will feature 153 animals — more than ever, Leonetti said. It’s scheduled for July 25 and will run most of the day.

“We’re thankful we’re able to have it. Many counties are not,” Leonetti said.

‘The value of hard work’

4-H teaches life skills like adaptability, Leonetti said, especially when life takes some unique twists and turns as it has this year.

“They learn responsibility, dedication, the value of hard work and teamwork, caring for something besides themselves,” Leonetti said.

The kids usually leave their animals at the fairgrounds all week, washing and primping the animals for their shows. This year they won’t. They’ll arrive at the fairgrounds, show their animals, then load them in the trailers and take them home.

“The biggest difference is the camaraderie. The kids don’t get to be together and neither do the buyers,” Leonetti said.

The junior livestock auction will be live. That doesn’t change. But how the kids approach the buyers changes, said Trent Eichler, part of a multi-generational 4-H family.

The Eichlers head to shows almost every weekend, so their animals are used to traveling. The first couple times can be stressful for animals and people. After that, everyone gets used to it. Their pigs, for example, stroll over the back of the truck and appear to wonder why you’re taking so long to let them in the back, Eichler said.

The Eichlers competed in Weld County a couple weeks ago with 1,200 other kids. They were home this past weekend, then next weekend they’re in Eaton, then Loma, then Rawlins, Wyoming.

Eichler loves it because he gets to spend time with his children and grandchildren. His grandchildren love doing it, and they also win their share of events.

“They win a little money and work harder,” Eichler said smiling.

They’re already familiar with both ends of online auctions. They bought a couple pigs from Ohio and other animals from far-flung places.

They’re in it for the long haul. They’re starting to look for next year’s animals, Eichler said.

For the online Junior Livestock Auction the kids submit pictures, video and a short bio. Buyers scroll through all of that day’s animals and bid. If someone tops their bid they’re notified and, just like a live auction, you must decide what to do with that information.

You can also donate to 4-H if you want to support the program, Leonetti said.

Everything will be sent to Mountain Meat Packing in Craig. They’ll deliver the meat by mid-August, frozen and ready for your freezer.

Some animals were bought and registered online last month, some earlier in the spring. Kids with steers have had them since last fall.

“They were committed before the coronavirus. You just bow your neck and go on,” Eichler said.

Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail reopening Friday

VAIL — The Colorado Snowsports Museum will be reopening after months of COVID-19 induced closure.

Like many openings, the museum’s will be limited, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday.

“We’re thrilled to be reopening and welcoming people to town,” museum director Jen Mason said.

There will also be discounts in the gift shop and a few restrictions upon entering, Mason said.

Patrons will need to wear a mask and gloves — the museum can provide the gloves — because of the touch screens.

The museum will also be restarting its Vail History Tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, beginning May 16. The tours start at 11 a.m. and cost $5.

Because they’ll be limited to eight people, you’ll need to make a reservation, Mason said. You’ll also need a mask for the tour and they’ll be social distancing.

The Colorado Snowsports Museum is located at the north end of Vail’s Bridge Street in the Vail Village parking structure. It has been around since 1976.

The museum is a repository of not only Vail’s history but also the history of snowsports and its surrounding culture. Among the focal points are the famed 10th Mountain Division and the Snowsports Hall of Fame.

CMC kicks off virtual commencement season

EDWARDS — Commencement season is still Carrie Besnette Hauser’s favorite time of year, but like everyone else, the Colorado Mountain College president will celebrate from a distance.

CMC always kicks off commencement season, and like every other school, they’ll host virtual celebrations.

How that works

CMC students were mailed a package containing a mortarboard and tassel, a letter from Hauser, alumni swag and other items. Graduates are supposed to enter information and photos to CMC’s commencement website. That website goes live at noon Friday.

Once it’s live, it will be open to the public. The broadcast is scheduled to be available at least through the summer. CMC is asking graduates to pull together “watch parties” of friends and family members and to post photos on social media with #cmcgrad2020 or www.Colomtn.me/gradphotos.

The broadcasts are being tailored for the students’ home campuses, including their keynote speaker and a student speaker from their campus.

Then they’ll hear what they’ve been waiting and working for, reading their names and the degrees or credentials they’ve earned. A member of the elected CMC Board of Trustees will confer diplomas and certificates, and their campus student speaker will lead their classmates in turning their tassels.

The whole thing kicks off with speeches from Hauser and Angie Paccione, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

Spirit remains the same

The delivery shifted from in-person to online, but the occasion’s spirit has not, Hauser said.

“This is a time when everyone who has supported that student in reaching an important life goal — their families, their friends, the faculty who have taught them and counselors and other staff who have guided them on their journey — get to cheer and celebrate with them,” she said.

The 2020 academic year is different than anyone could have imagined, Hauser said. Every college and university in Colorado has been impacted by efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Classes moved online; some students moved back home while a handful of others stayed quarantined in their residence halls. And virtually every commencement ceremony in Colorado has been canceled outright or postponed.
“We have all found ourselves persevering through this unforgettable year,” Hauser said.

Celebrating Women’s Suffrage

Along with the graduates, CMC’s commencement celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Commencement speakers include a state Supreme Court justice, a lieutenant governor, the heads of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the Department of Agriculture, founder and CEO of a well-known outdoor products company, and directors of several powerful nonprofits.

Their recorded CMC commencement speeches will be incorporated into a video project for the “Bold Women. Change History.” initiative organized by History Colorado and the governor’s Women’s Vote Centennial Commission.

Lauren Y. Casteel, chief executive officer of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, will be the featured speaker for CMC’s Edwards/Vail Valley campus. When Casteel joined The Women’s Foundation of Colorado in February 2015, she became the first person in Colorado to lead three separate foundations.