2008: Is this year through with Vail Valley yet?
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado” Well, 2008 is almost all the way in the rear-view mirror, Vail Valley, and it’s about darn time.
The last 12 months have been some of the weirdest in our nation and valley’s recent history. First the price of oil takes us all on a rocket ride to Don’t-Drive-Unless-Somebody’s-Gonna-Die-Ville, then banks started failing at a rate that made the buy-gold-and-stuff-cash-in-the-mattress gang look like economic sages.
The stock market is more than than 40 percent down from the all-time high it set in October of 2007. And no one is sure when the national housing market is going to bottom out, or if anyone will ever buy an American car again.
Our Fair Valley was insulated from all this, for a while, but in the last few months has finally been hit by some of the tsunami of weirdness battering much of the rest of the country. And, while we continue to live in the most free, most economically resilient county on earth, that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to have some bumps in the road. And some of those bumps will be the size of a Peterbilt big rig.
So, with an optimistic but wary eye aimed at 2009, here’s the first part of a look back on the twists and turns we’ve navigated in Happy Valley for the last 12 months.
The chance to have the Olympics at one of your ski mountains doesn’t come around very often.
The prospect of Olympic skiing at Whistler may not be the only reason that local legend and really nice guy Bill Jensen left Vail Resorts, where he was vice president of the company’s mountain division for the CEO’s job at Intrawest, but you can bet it played a role.
Jensen is regarded as a pioneer in slope-grooming, safety and customer service.
“Vail Resorts’ loss is Intrawest’s gain,” Avon-based ski industry consultant Jerry Jones said at the time.
Actually, the headline should read, “Happy promotions, Chris and John.”
Chris Jarnot was named chief operating officer at Vail Mountain in the wake of Jensen’s resignation. He’s an Eagle County native and graduate of Eagle Valley High School.
After starting on the bottom rungs of the ski company’s corporate ladder, Jarnot said his new job might be the best in the company, “if not the world.”
Garnsey, a Vail Valley fixture for years, was named co-president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division after Jensen left for the Great Northwest.
In January, the owners of Sweet Basil in Vail Village announced they were cutting back their lunch schedule because they couldn’t find enough employees.
After a brown-sloped Thanksgiving in 2007, the clouds opened up in December and brought snow until what only seemed like the Fourth of July. The Colorado Department of Transportation announced in April it had already burned through its snowplowing budget for the season, and roofing companies were turning down potential customers for roof-shoveling services. Towns started running out of places to put plowed snow.
Lindsey (Kildow) Vonn grew up training with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. She had the best racing season of her life in 2007-08, winning both the World Cup downhill championship and the World Cup overall title.
After a summer of training ” and, hopefully, a honeymoon with husband Thomas ” Vonn hit the slopes again for the current season. At this writing, she’s leading the World Cup standings again.
Admit it: In March, you thought Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz was out of his mind. After a season when Vail broke records for the number of days people parked on the frontage roads, when employees were hard to come by and harder to house, and when the resort seemed to be able to shrug off economic bad news afflicting the rest of the country ” subprime borrowers don’t usually book expensive ski vacations, after all ” the idea of a discount ski pass seemed flat-out loopy.
But here was Vail Resorts, the king of the $90-plus single-day lift ticket, offering unrestricted skiing on any of the company’s five mountains for the low, low, buy-it-early price of $579. For those of you who remember the pre-Epic days, the old unrestricted ski pass was $1,879.
A lot of people cheered. A lot of people thought the resort company had gone ’round the bend.
Who’s crazy now?
Mary Brake and her family were visiting Beaver Creek from their home in Nebraska in June. The family took a horseback trip for dinner at Beano’s Cabin, but when Brake’s horse slipped crossing the creek, Brake fell into the fast-moving water and was swept away.
A four-day search was called off because of the danger to search and rescue crews.
Three weeks later, Brake’s body was spotted not far downstream from where she’d fallen into the creek.
This one took some doing.
When Bobby Ginn first came to Minturn with an idea to develop a private ski resort on Battle Mountain, some people cringed. They continue to cringe. Most folks, though, think Ginn’s plan is all right.
Ginn and the Minturn Town Council negotiated for months over an annexation agreement for about 5,000 acres of Battle Mountain. The plan would include 1,700 homes, various upgrades to the Minturn’s water system and a recreation center for the town.
After the town council and Ginn hammered out an agreement, a group of opponents led by resident Frank Lorenti forced a special election in May.
Turnout was heavy, and in the end, 87 percent of voters approved the annexation agreement.
That left only final approvals from the town before the bulldozers started.
The town and Ginn are still working on those approvals, but it’s anyone’s guess when the bulldozers will move.
Some of Ginn’s other projects in Florida and North Carolina are in various stages of trouble. People in Florida are suing Ginn because of alleged improprieties there ” Ginn says his company’s done nothing wrong ” and the North Carolina resort is still subject to foreclosure, which hasn’t yet been settled.
Then, of course, the world’s financial markets went into the Dumpster.
So Ginn has his first hurdle cleared with Minturn, and company officials say they’ll be ready whenever the markets turn around.