Ceil Folz is the face of the 2015 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships, a testament to her artistic and athletic family. | VailDaily.com

Ceil Folz is the face of the 2015 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships, a testament to her artistic and athletic family.

Brenda Himelfarb
Ceil Folz is the president of the Vail Valley Foundation.
Anthony Thornton |

The VVF

The Vail Valley Foundation is charged with enhancing and sustaining the spirit of the Vail Valley by providing leadership in athletic, cultural and educational endeavors. Annual programs and venues such as the Vail International Dance Festival, Vilar Performing Arts Center, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Audi Birds of Prey World Cup, GoPro Mountain Games and major international events such as the upcoming 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships collectively allows the VVF to help keep the community vital and exciting. Because vitality begins with the younger generations, the Vail Valley Foundation’s Youth Foundation supports a variety of year round-programming, from early childhood enrichment to scholarship support.

Ceil Folz’s life is non-stop. From morning ‘til night she is on call, on one mission or another. Once her feet hit the ground, it’s hours before she can actually stop for a moment and take a breath. It’s as though she’s battery operated — flitting from one thing to another. It’s never-ending. Folz just keeps on going. And it’s been that way since Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation, and her husband, Steve, moved to Vail 28 years ago.

Born in Washington, DC, Folz grew up in Libertyville, Illinois after her father, who had been in the military, retired and became an architect. “I would say, growing up in a large family absolutely defines me,” admits Folz with a laugh. “I use that as a story all the time at the foundation, which I describe as ‘one large dysfunctional family,’ which all large families probably are. But, in a good way. I kind of relish that and think that almost every single thing that I say about myself, that I like or don’t like, really is a product of having eight brothers and sisters.

“I was number three — and out of eight, that’s considered the middle child. So I probably have some of those middle-child things. My family is a great collection of artistic and athletic. Out of eight brothers and sisters, I have a brother who has a theater company, another who’s a musician, another who received a football scholarship, a sister who’s a classical pianist and a sister who was one of the best gymnasts in the United States, at one time. So it really is an odd mix between those two worlds. I had none of those attributes.”

Folz received her bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from the University of Wisconsin — LaCrosse. “My father would always ask, ‘Really? A recreational degree? Where are my doctors?’” jokes Folz. “Everyone was out getting music degrees and recreation degrees. But, I loved it. It was a natural for me as I always thought that that was a world that I wanted to be in, which is sort of sports, but more about that average person participating in sports, not professional sports. It was a good path for me.”

Because the LaCrosse campus specializes in health, recreation and physical therapy, the students are mostly very athletic. “I liked attending a school where so many of the other students were like me,” says Folz. “Everybody ran, everybody rode a bike, everybody was always in workout clothes — and that’s kind of a comfort zone for me. I think that way. And I feel that way. I could be in sweat pants all day long!”

At one time, Folz competed in gymnastics as a beam expert before injuring her knee while at college. In her junior year of college she was asked to coach the local high school’s gymnastics coach and did so for two years.

Becoming a Coloradoan

After graduating from college, Folz met Steve. “Steve was very ‘outdoorsy,’ and I dreamed of being ‘outdoorsy,’” Folz reveals. “My mom had made a rule for all the kids, that once they graduated, they had to move far away from home. She did it for two reasons. One, she thought it would really force an independence in us and, two, it gave her a reason to get out of the house to visit all of us and travel around the country.

“So, Steve announced that he was moving to Vail. He used to come hunting out here with his family. I moved here a couple of months later and, almost right away, got a job with the Town of Vail in the recreation department.”

Within months of moving to Vail, Folz volunteered for the VVF and began working on the ’89 Championships. “I always loved that I had that path of starting with the foundation as a volunteer to where I am today, ” Folz admits.

Steve is a woodworker and works on construction projects. On most days his world is quiet and contemplative — in total opposition to Folz’s hectic world of meetings, travel and more meetings.

“When Steve first met me, I was in college and had a pretty full load,” explains Folz. “I was taking 18 credits, coaching gymnastics and working at a pizza place, which was a normal life for me. Steve thought everybody works crazy like that, and he’s never known anything different. Because I work and travel so much, people will say to him, ‘Wow, she’s never home.’ And his response is, ‘Isn’t that how it always works?’ So it’s probably good that that’s how it was when we met. He has zero expectations, so he’s very tolerant that way.”

Because everything in Folz’s life is about planning and structure, when she does have free time, she doesn’t have a plan. “We literally will load up our car with a tent and sleeping bags, just in case we can’t find a place to stay. When we get out of our driveway, we decide to go left or right and then just drive,” she says. “It’s very freeing that way because I don’t think that way naturally. I’m very strategic and planned, so to change it up is fun.”

And even in her travels, say, to Europe, it’s the same thing. Folz is up for an adventure, if she gets the chance. She thinks nothing of renting a car in a foreign country, grabbing a road map and taking off to explore. At times she’ll take a sightseeing bus just to get the lay of the land and check out the attractions, so that if she gets to return at another time, she’ll have everything in place — which is so Ceil. “I do a lot of double-deckers,” she admits.

Folz is a “big” hiker, as she likes to put it, and just heads up the mountain in her bits of free time. “I don’t do anything one should do as a hiker,” she admits apologetically. “I don’t take my cell phone. I don’t hike with another person, so I’m cautious about where I go. In the winter I’m a big snowshoer. It’s great. I can put on a headlamp and just walk out the door and go. It’s a great cardio and strength workout.”

Now, in charge of the 2015 Championships, Folz reflects on her beginnings with the foundation. “I remember how rewarding it was to work as a volunteer for the ’89 Championship and soon after, the foundation offered me a job,” Folz says, thoughtfully. “For the ’99 championships, I was in charge of the operations. I loved it. I loved the staff we had working for us. I was working more internally and not with the community. And now, here we are in 2015 and, man, it’s been such a pleasure to be so involved with the community. The community is so ramped up, more than I’ve ever seen and that’s so rewarding.

“We’re doing big stuff. It’s so much bigger than ‘99. And everything’s hard. Everything’s more complicated. And so, as much as we all walked in thinking, ‘We’ve done this before,’ we haven’t done this before! This is a whole new ballgame for us. It’s been a huge learning curve for all of us, me included. But one that’s been exciting. Every turn around the corner has been different. I feel blessed and fortunate to be part of it.”