New to the Vail Valley: Early errands, famous spots and an opening day party | VailDaily.com

New to the Vail Valley: Early errands, famous spots and an opening day party

As I've said a few times now, I don't come from a small town. I grew up in a community that isn't huge and then moved to a college town that not only has to cater to college kids, but also families and major businesses — in fact, Fort Collins kind of serves as an unofficial capital of Northern Colorado.

For reference, Littleton has a population of 47,000 and Fort Collins has roughly 165,000 people running around. Vail has 5,000.

Because of this difference, there's a few ways that Vail and the surrounding cities operate.

Closing time

In college, I was a full-time student, and for a decent chuck of my time there, I worked four jobs and freelanced, so a 9-to-5 wasn't a new concept to me when I landed this job. What was a new concept to me was the need to immediately run errands because there isn't much time after 5 p.m. to get things done around town.

For example, the UPS stores in the valley close at 6:30 p.m. Some liquor stores close up by 7 p.m. The Riverwalk at Edwards even lists 5 p.m. as it's closing time online.

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Walmart and City Market certainly stay open long enough, but everyone knows that after a day at work, running to the store to make sure you get there before it closes isn't easy. In Fort Collins, most stores were open until at least 10 p.m. The mall stayed open as late as they needed to accommodate the stores and restaurants. That would give me plenty of time to get home, wrap up homework, make dinner and then head to the store.

I will say this: Early closing times give me motivation to get out and run my errands, because in the past, I'd put it off because I didn't want to go back out if it got to be too late (and by "too late," I mean a time that's absolutely reasonable to leave the house and run errands).

Iconic locations

Every town or city has its locations that everyone knows — restaurants, malls, stores and more. The valley, however has more than just popular locations, they've got iconic ones.

As I'm sure you've heard by now, a Vail-themed Monopoly game has been produced and will be available for sale in early December and features iconic locations from around Vail. You'll find resorts, restaurants and more that are not only known by everyone around, but are rich with history and tales of woe.

I can't even fathom a game being based on Fort Collins … the board would feature the slightly-more-expensive-than-average movie theater and some of the party bars downtown.

Littleton's would probably feature a place called Fat City, which was basically an activity center with go-karts and a ball pit that closed down several years ago. Better yet, they might have to feature it more than once.

People love the community up here, which is totally admirable and totally different than what I've ever seen before.

Opening Day

For one of my jobs in college, I planned events pretty frequently. I helped to plan three 5K events, two military balls, four award ceremonies and a handful of smaller events such as movie nights for an office on campus. I was pretty proud of these events, but I've never seen anything like Opening Day on the mountain.

I didn't make it out to Beaver Creek, but I was reporting on Vail's Opening Day by 5:30 a.m. that morning. People were already lined up at the lifts (I don't think one person ever waited outside the door at one of my events), there was music playing, free food and drink, trivia being played, booths for vendors and so much more.

However, the most interesting and engaging part of Opening Day was the atmosphere.

People were so happy to be there and so excited to get on the mountain that Opening Day would have been an event in and of itself without the extras. That's not to say that people weren't excited for my events or that they weren't high quality, but on the mountain, it was like the air itself was buzzing, and not one single person wasn't smiling constantly — I didn't ski that day, but I feel like just seeing people's reactions to skiing that day (and a free burrito, of course) gave me a great taster of what to expect in the future.

Nate Day is the Arts & Entertainment editor at the Vail Daily, and moved to the Vail Valley in early August. He can be reached at nday@vaildaily.com.