Aaahhh … off-season!
VAIL – Manager of the Red Lion Kevin Sullivan chills by the pool at the Antlers Lodge in Vail, soaking in the warm late-April weather during the first few days of his extended vacation. It’s the off-season, and until May 26 – when The Red Lion reopens for summer – Sullivan’s only concern is his golf swing and who’s going to win the first-ever “Buddha Beach Blanket Bingo Surf-off” in Costa Rica.Like a lot of other locals and seasonal workers, Sullivan is taking full advantage of Vail’s downtime, which begins when the mountain closes and lasts until about Memorial Day, when tourists return to hike, bike and raft swollen rivers.”One of the real perks of living here is the down-season,” said Sullivan, who since November has worked 50-65 hours a week managing the Vail Village bar and restaurant. “People in cities work 12 months straight without any breaks. Here, we have that opportunity to take a vacation, to come up for air after a long, hard season. It’s a very liberating feeling to know that you can take a month off with nothing to worry about.”Sullivan’s holiday begins in New Hampshire to check in on mom and dad. Then he flies to Scottsdale, Ariz., to improve his golf game at the Jeff Symmonds Golf School.”I’m working with a lefty pro for four days, morning and afternoon sessions,” Sullivan said. “I was a hack, and all my friends play. Plus, there are so many great courses out here, I figured I want to get better.”After Arizona, Sullivan jets over to Nosara, Costa Rica, to meet up with some other Vail locals for a friendly surf competition he’s calling “Buddha Beach Blanket Bingo Surf-off.”Stu Bucy, co-owner of Bagali’s Italian Kitchen in West Vail, will be there, after attending the Witches Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. He’ll drive up and down the country’s Nicoya Peninsula for 28 days.”Whenever I see a wave, I’m going to stop,” Bucy said.Unlike The Red Lion, Bagali’s, which does a lot of local business, stays open through the off-season. Bucy’s brother Scott will run the restaurant solo while he’s gone. During the height of the ski season, Bucy takes one day off a week, working from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. Bucy said because he’s one of the owners, he’s “never really off,” which makes this vacation well-needed. “There’s no communication where I’m going in Costa Rica, which is exactly what I want,” Bucy said. “It keeps you focused when you get back.”
John Brennen, aka Popeye, owner of Vendetta’s Pizzeria in Vail Village, closes shop for a week every mud season to take his employees on a trip to Lake Powell in Utah. “It’s his way of saying thanks for a great season and working hard,” said Dawn Nichols, manager of eight years. “We took care of him during the season, and now he’s taking care of us.”The group will spend five to seven days on a houseboat, wake-boarding, water-skiing and drinking plenty of beer. Nichols said it’s great to experience play-time with co-workers.”You get to know people a little bit better or differently,” Nichols said.Other businesses, like the Evergreen Lodge in Vail and Gashouse in Edwards, offer similar end-of-season vacation bonuses to show appreciation for a successful winter.
Before returning to the mountain next November, ski and snowboard instructors use the inherent seasonality of their jobs to pursue other adventures during the shoulder and summer seasons.Second-year snowboard instructor Juliana Broste of Denver, for example, is teaching English in Korea starting in June.”Teaching snowboarding gives you something productive to do for a whole season, and then it gives you a free card,” Broste said. “You get to choose – teach, travel, backpack through Europe. It gives you an open door to have some new experiences.”This will be Broste’s second summer teaching in Korea. The program finds a house for her to stay in and pays pretty well, she said. The job also gives her time to explore other parts of Asia. Last summer, she visited Thailand and Japan.”I know a lot of snowboard instructors who have really dynamic lives,” Broste said. “The job is not only a way to make money, it’s something they like to do. And since it’s just during the winter, they can explore another avenue of their personality and their skills.”
Some ski and snowboard instructors can’t get enough of a good thing. Some opt to continue teaching in another part of the world, where winter is just beginning.Snowboard instructor Kat Clayton is headed to New Zealand in June to continue teaching.”I am so excited about the opportunity of being in a brand-new place and having a secure job,” Clayton said. “Ski school provides a lot of opportunity for that, because you meet so many international people.”Clayton said she’s not worried about never seeing summer.”I plan on going to Costa Rica on the way home,” she said. “Take a few weeks soaking in the sun.”
The valley’s slow period spills into the “real job” market, as well, allowing people who work in office jobs to take extended vacations.Hank Sender, who works for Gateway Land and Development in Edwards, is renting a house in Costa Rica for four weeks. Sullivan and Bucy will be just a few of the other locals popping through the vacation home’s revolving door during their trips to South America.”Most of us in the office are still here. A lot of us are leaving next week,” Sender said. “Almost everybody takes a vacation some time during the offseason.”Sender said real estate isn’t necessarily slow, but it does die down quite a bit because everybody is out of town. He will still check his business e-mail while in Costa Rica.”It’s a 365-day-a-year job,” Sender said. “We end up working a lot of holidays. But I needed to recharge for the busy time.”Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14640, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado