Age of maturity sidles up |

Age of maturity sidles up

Don Rogers

As Vail confronts the end of its 39th year, there looms the big 4-0. In human terms, it1s the last vestige of youth, gone. Middle age is arriving. No denying this anymore, though of course some stalwarts will do so anyway.So what now? Well, for starters, might as well have a big party to celebrate. The biggest and greatest ski mountain and town never lacked excuses for a bit of fun.But all that is months away. There1s a mud season or two, with glorious summer sandwiched in there, first. And some serious contemplation, befitting an age of maturity foisted upon the one-time sheep ranch a few elders yet remember. We1ve come a long way. There1s yet a long way to go.And there are some issues of a bit more import than what to put on Donovan Park, country cabin or exquisite architectural feat, though we approve of the council1s direction with that of late.But relative huts pale in comparison to the decisions to come shortly on the proposed phoenix at Lionshead and polishing of Vail Village where it meets the mountain. Adolescent construction next to the gondola would give way to something more refined, in Vail Resorts1 vision.The company proposals sweeping changes on the 16 or so acres it owns in and around Lionshead, some $500 million worth. And, horror of horrors, the company proposes to make a profit to pay for it all: truly world-class lodging, which does not exist at present; an environment for a more lively retail 3experience; time-share village and high-end townhomes connected to the Marriott; housing and offices across the Frontage Road; homesites in place of those crumbling tennis courts under the gondola. Maybe even a conference center could become part of the mix, if the town and voters commit to such an amenity.On the Vail Village side, the Dumpsters and pickups parked on dirt and gravel near the Vista Bahn would go underground and the area would be landscaped, along with a bunch of other improvements at this 3front door to Vail Mountain. Another dirt and gravel lot would also become mostly underground parking with a park on the surface. To pay for this, the company would build a 3residence club of fractional housing in the front door area.Again there1s the specter of that ugly word 3profit, at least for some who believe the ski company exists to step on the community at large and therefore is beneath trust. It1s an immature view, one that Vail will have to more fully grow out of if the community and resort are to progress into a robust middle age.Aside from the bricks and mortar, down in the more ineffable regions of heart and soul, the always uneasy relationships between worker and management, town and company likewise must continue to evolve<for the product of these unions is that all-important 3guest experience. Pleasing ambiance from the surroundings is only part of the puzzle. Along with that bit of make-up, there1s still some soul searching involved in bringing service to the gold standard.Even with all of Vail1s challenges with crow1s feet and such, 40 is a fine place to be<successful, consistently at or near the top of ski resort communities everywhere. As the cliche goes, it sure beats the alternative.There1s plenty of room for optimism, for the company and the community that has sprung up around the resort. The skico is strong, even through a downtime for the nation, and the community remains as vibrant and full of character as anywhere in the world. Don1t let the woeful yearnings for yesterday fool you; the old days everywhere and forever have attained a rosy luster as the tough times dim and happy days grow ever larger in memory.Vail remains great, and there1s plenty of life left. Let1s be sure to go grab it while we can. It1s not quite time to break out the rocking chair.D.R.

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