Bigger is better at Crossroads |

Bigger is better at Crossroads

Geraldine Haldner

Call me crazy, but during the three years I reported on Vail, I learned that you can trust the instincts of only one man in this many-visions town – Johannes Faessler.Though I’ve only met the unassuming owner of the Sonnenalp Resorts two or maybe three times for interviews and maybe quoted him another dozen times for stories related to Vail, I – with all the hindsight of a cynical veteran journalist – have come to know him as a thoughtful private man and an exceedingly smart business owner.And above all, how can you not admire someone who still wears the same type of traditional Austrian outfit he makes all his employees at his hotels wear?It is that unwavering loyalty to old-fashioned standards that Herr Faessler balances so well with an unerring instinct for each season’s new demands by the tourist industry.In other words, Faessler, as quiet spoken as he is, actually cares about Vail and its place in a world full of first-class vacation destinations and ever-more discriminating tourists.And unlike too many business owners in Vail, he cares beyond his own lobby doors.So I was much relieved, but not really surprised Tuesday night, when Faessler stepped up to the podium at the Vail Town Council meeting in his green Loden suit and followed several emotional outbursts about Crossroads being “just too big” with a calm endorsement for the project, which features condominiums, movie theaters, shops, restaurants and – drum roll – a bowling alley and ice rink.I don’t have any business instincts to speak of. I balance my checkbook and pay my bills on time . But I join Faessler and several other business and community leaders, along with the majority of the Town Council, in saying enough of the past, let’s move Vail forward with this “mammoth” of a development.Yes, you read right.It’s huge. Massive. Bigger than most anything associated with Vail now.Even after it’s been whittled and chiseled at by a former Town Council, the project is still almost 100 feet tall at its highest point and covers almost 70 percent of the current site perimeters. Whatever you want to call the new Crossroads (though that name may stick considering the change in council it brought about), it is not cute, not faux-Bavarian, not pseudo-Austrian, not quaint and almost-Swiss.It’s a Texas-style ski lodge on steroids. A mini-Manhattan interpretation of mountain chic, or whatever they call the architectural style that dominates the still-competitive ski resorts of this world.As I see it, it takes a big building to pay for the semi-public amenities, such as an ice rink and a bowling alley along with shops big enough to attract national retailers. Just take a look at Beaver Creek. That ice rink is overshadowed by towers of hotel rooms and condominiums. Yet visitors love it. Beaver Creek is grand and charming, still.Vail, on the other hand, has inched its way into the 21st century by average-sizing everything and along the way, losing any space for exciting proposals – public or private.And yes, those semi-public amenities in the proposed Crossroads are viable businesses, as some opponents are quick to point out. But if the town can’t build them for its residents and visitors, then someone may as well try to make a buck offering them in Vail – hats off to a free market – by piling condos on top of it. Never mind the small, quaint stuff that many of the opponents seem to love so much about Vail. It’s not paying for much new stuff in Vail’s public amenities inventory. On the upside of tall walls, I believe this council has the smarts to handle developer Peter Knobel, who is a smart business man, too. It appears to me that he will try his hardest to be a good neighbor within reason. In other words, he will give unless the demand is do not build.Knobel is not here to make Vail a better place for all, just a more exciting place for many, while making a profit. And yes, a few of us will have to deal with obstructed views.But do not despair, Jonathan Staufer and company. As you said yourself, you still have a front-row seat in Vail. If all else fails, you are just a short walk from the Vista Bahn or Eagle Bahn gondola to ride to the lofty heights of 2,000-plus feet above the feared “concrete jungle.”Personally, I don’t think Crossroads is going to Manhattanize Vail, as long as that stunning ski mountain towers over it all.In order to be a beloved home and a world-class vacation spot, Vail needs to be alive, not merely quaint.Quaint after all – in modernday America – is just an optical illusion.Daily Business Editor Geraldine Haldner can be reached at or 949-0555, ext. 14613.Vail, Colorado

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