100 percent genuine
If somebody didn’t know any better, and maybe just happened to see Kent Rose out of the corner of their eye, they might think they’d seen the ol’ cowboy movie star, Sam Elliott. Kent’s got those same slim features, narrow eyes, and white moustache which flares to either side. He has a way of speaking clear and patient and he releases phrases in a voice that perfectly fits his no-nonsense demeanor. It’s pretty clear, after just a bit of talking to him, that every bit of Kent Rose is 100 percent genuine, no B.S. whatsoever.Which is probably one of the reasons why a young lady from the small town of Moor Croft, Wyo., fell in love with him in the early 1960s. Rayma Rose was the daughter of one of Wyoming’s hardest-working men (Rayma’s father was sheriff, mayor, public worksman, ambulance driver, and fireman, among many other positions). Rayma grew up appreciating life in the Wild West. To this day Rayma seems at her best when she’s out in wide-open spaces, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and generally enjoying the outdoors. Like Kent, she is in terrific shape, looks half her age, and embodies the kind of vitality which gives this town its healthy reputation.When they’re together, the two of them have a rhythm that only comes with decades of living under the same roof. On a recent Sunday morning, gathered around the breakfast table and recounting old memories, the duo flowed in and out of each other’s sentences as if they were one person, or one mind operating through two different people. One person spoke and the other would finish the thought, yet somehow there was no hurrying and no interruption, just a couple of people who have clearly been in love for a long time.Kent would start with something like this: “The first time we saw Vail we got a plane ride up here (from Denver) in the summer of 1962, and they were just cutting the lines for lifts one, two, three, four, and all the trees were laying down “And then Rayma would finish: ” and we said, ‘Well, nobody will ever ski here.’ It was too far away, it wasn’t Aspen “Then Kent would laugh, they’d toss a few jokes around, and he’d pick it up again: “Then in ’65 I was stationed at Ft. Carson, and I had two weeks of leave, so we came up here and rented a little room at the We Ask You Inn”And Rayma: “I don’t know who will remember that place, the We Ask You Inn. It was only $8 a night, they were little log cabins, and there was a filling station lift tickets were something like $5.”They both clearly remember that vacation: lounging in a massive snowbank, having dinner at the Red Lion, and skiing the Back Bowls before returning to the Front Range, where Kent finished his time in the military and moved to Denver with Rayma.By that time, their love affair with each other was well under way, but their love of Vail was just beginning.Dial 476Like many of the people who populate the upper valley, Kent and Rayma came to Vail expecting to stay a few years and ended up staying for the long haul. In 1972 there was an advertisement in a Denver newspaper looking for a town engineer for the Town of Vail. Kent, freshly finished with his degree in engineering from the University of Colorado, took the job and he, Rayma, and their young son Damon, moved from Denver into a little A-frame house on Alpine Drive.Their name and address are still marked in an old copy of a 1974 phonebook (kindly dropped by The Vail Trail offices by Vi Brown). Small and fragile, there are only 14 pages set aside for Vail, and every number starts with 476. A few more pages list the numbers in Minturn, Leadville, and all of Summit County, but even all those areas together (white and yellow pages) don’t add up to a full inch.In those days Eagle-Vail and Beaver Creek were just a sparkle in some developer’s eye, and Eagle was a far-away town.”You knew everybody in town,” Rayma said. “I don’t think anybody had any vision it would become what it is now.”Life was fairly Spartan during that time all but the essential groceries had to be purchased in Denver or Glenwood and brought back over Vail Pass and Loveland Pass Eisenhower Tunnel wasn’t complete yet.Among their many friends (the Morters, the Browns, the Kruegers, the Bernsteins and the Boyds) was Gladys Kenney, whose daughter Kristen was friends with Damon. In Vail’s early days, she said, there was a strong feeling that everyone was helping watch out for each other’s children.”Certainly the kids grew up with that feeling, that it takes a village,” Kenney said. “And the Rose’s were very family-oriented.”Kent said he and Rayma wanted to make sure at least one parent was raising the children full-time.”Rayma always supported everything I did in the community,” Kent remembers, “and we always felt that her place was at home.”Now Rayma is an accomplished closing coordinator for Slifer Smith and Frampton, a career she’s flourished in since 1985. But she was a full-time mom during the ’70s and early ’80s.Vail was the ideal place to raise the children, she said, which was one of the main reasons they stuck around. Their youngest son, Derek, was born in 1976, which helped secure their convictions to stay put.In the meantime, they were making plenty of friends in a young, family-filled Vail. There were some memorable picnics out on the golf course island, and plenty of creative efforts at entertainment lighthearted rabble rousing, it seems, was a favorite cure for boredom.Kent remembers a time when he and Packy Walker (see “Packy rides again,” at vailtrail.com, April 28 edition), took one of their friends, a young lady, out for lunch and a few beers for her birthday. They were at the restaurant above Cyrano’s (located where the Tap Room is now). Lunch and a few beers became a few more beers, and eventually Packy, Kent, and the others decided their young friend needed a “rescue.”A few minutes later, much to the amusement of local shop-owners and visitors, the Vail Fire Department was on the scene. They climbed one of their big ladders and brought the girl down in a stretcher creating a fair amount of entertainment in the process.”If you did that nowadays,” Kent said, “just about everybody’d get fired.”The BergermeisterBy the time 1989 came around, Vail had grown from a small hamlet to an internationally-acclaimed destination resort. The Packy-Walker-style stunts which defined early Vail had subsided (or, more accurately, taken on a different form).As Vail’s first town engineer, and later the public works director, Kent played a large role in the towns inner workings. He left the town to begin his own company in the early ’80s, but couldn’t stay away long. In 1983 he rejoined the town, this time as a town-council member. He remained on the council until 1991, and was voted mayor in 1987. He contributed many long hours of work to growing the town and bringing the Championships here.Vail underwent tremendous growth in those years. Today, the town is working to renovate itself after having reached a point of build-out. But there was still much to do in those days to transform the relatively unknown Vail of 1979 into the Vail of 1989, host of the World Alpine Ski Championships.Kent was known as a strong-willed councilman in a time when the town was looking to attain world-class status. He frequently quelled the frantic attacks of a certain local gadfly (whom everyone knew well) and earned himself a reputation as a stable, dispassionate leader.”(Kent) wasn’t afraid to pursue a thought or idea, or say something just because it may not be the most popular thing to do,” Rayma said. “He never went out for the popularity of his position.”Kent still carries a strong voice in local politics. He recently encouraged the Town of Vail to dissolve the Recreation Board and make it part of Town operations.The move ruffled some feathers on the Rec District Board, but Kent doesn’t seem to mind.After all, he took plenty of heat when he was on council though not so much as modern council men and women have to put up with.”In those days the town was growing in a very positive way,” Kent said. “There was some controversy, but people put positivity into the place.”These days, Kent says, there are still positive things being done, but there’s a lot more negativism that goes along with it.While Kent was always playing a part in all the accomplishments of the town, he refuses to take credit for any one of them. He points to former mayor John A. Dobson, town manager Terry Minger, Vail Valley Medical Center benefactor Gordon Britton, and Minturn legend Pete Burnett as some of the many people whom he deeply respects.”I’ve never done anything,” he said. “But WE did a lot.”The pinnacle of Kent’s governmental involvement came during the Championships, when the past decade of hard work was on display for the skiing world to see.”(The Ski Championships were) just such a kick,” Rayma said. “There would be huge events during the day, then all these parties, and all these wonderful people from all over the world who all wanted to meet ‘The Bergermeister.'”‘Bergermeister’ is a German term for mayor, a position which holds high esteem in European culture. After many years quietly and calmly hashing through town council affairs, Kent had been thrust into the spotlight.But that didn’t stop him from doing his part on the hillside. Every morning at 5 a.m., Kent would get up and prepare the speed testing course for the ski techs. He then balanced his business life with his role as Bergermiester, doing what he could during the day and hosting celebrations during the evening.It was a whirlwind two weeks, Rayma said, that they’ll remember forever.Pedal powerOn a recent blustery day in Moab, Kent and Rayma went out for yet another outdoor adventure. Kent hopped on his bike and rode the Klondike Bluffs with a group of friends, and Rayma hiked the same trail with another friend.The uphill hike ‘n bike was just another day for the couple, in their 60s, which suits their friend Lee Rimel just fine.”It’s great to have a friend my age who still enjoys the thrill and excitement of mountain biking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing and hut trips,” Rimel said, adding, “And he can still do it all.”Rimel and Kent are part of a group which rides bikes or snowshoes every Wednesday of the year. Kent and Rayma’s son, Derek, still lives in town and rides with the crew. The youngest member of the group is 13 the oldest, Kent, is 65.Riding bikes and skiing with his parents is one of the reasons Derek still loves living in the valley.”It means a lot to me to be able to drive 10 minutes from my house to their house to see them instead of having to hop on a plane,” said Derek, now 29, who is the superintendent of the Eagle Ranch Golf Course. “This is just a great place to grow up, for sure.”When Derek and friends his age ride in the Wednesday Night group, it doesn’t mean the young guys are waiting around all the time.”Kent’s an extraordinarily strong hill-climber,” Rimel said. “It’s tough for even the young guys to keep up with him.”Kent’s dedication to biking has helped keep Vail on the mountain biking map. Quietly, as is his style, Kent helped build and maintain paved and dirt bike trails all through the valley work he continues today with Eco Trails and other groups. He is currently helping build a new trail in Eagle for the town race series.Rayma’s right alongside him when mountain bikes first came out in the early 1980s, the two of them bought new bikes and found a whole new way to get into the backcountry and in the winter they hit the same trails, only on snowshoes.”I guess we don’t mind the snow so much,” Rayma said, followed by Kent: “We’d never live in a place that didn’t have four seasons. There’s something we like about four seasons.”If there is one thing that Kent feels OK taking a bit of credit for (and he would only do that under a bit of pressure), he said it would be the bike path that follows I-70 up Vail Pass. He and Forest Service snow ranger Jim Greg insisted that the Highway Department, which was building I-70 over Vail Pass, build a bike path at the same time. It took months of convincing, but he and Greg finally won out, and the Vail Pass ride became one of the most popular rides in the valley.And that’s typical of Kent. He’s quiet about all his accomplishments at public works, and all the trails he’s helped build in the valley, or the infrastructure he designed at Bachelor Gulch. He barely mentioned his many years on the Water and Sanitation District Board (“It’s not very romantic but it has to be done,” he said), and even of his mayorship, Kent’s most strident remark was: “I made some good decisions and probably made some bad ones, but, you know, the town moved on.”Kent and Rayma Rose may not be the most flashy people in town, and they may not be mentioned too often in the books which glorify Vail’s history, but they have always been right there in the heart of things. They never cared too much for the glitz and glamour which sprinkles the town’s outward appearance. Instead they represent the core of what this town really was and what it strives to become. As one neighbor said, “They’re just good people, doing what it takes to make this town a better place to be.” VT– Tom Boyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.