Christiania hotel celebrates 40th anniversary with season-long deals |

Christiania hotel celebrates 40th anniversary with season-long deals

VAIL — The Christiania at Vail, part of the Destination Hotels collection, is holding a season-long 40th anniversary celebration of ownership by the Johnston family. Beginning in December, the lodge will feature celebratory offerings, enhanced apres ski options in Sarah’s Lounge and of course, Helmut Fricker performing each Friday afternoon.

“Through the years, we have hosted celebrities and dignitaries, world leaders and some of the greatest winter sports competitors of our time,” Christiania owner Sally Johnston said. “We never dreamed that when we purchased the lodge in the 1970’s, we would be here 40 years later. Blessed be!”

Unlike many of the other newly formed ski resorts in the Colorado Rockies, Vail was established due to the caliber of the mountain rather than for the town that already existed. What once had been a sheep ranch was on its way to becoming a world class ski resort. Ted and Nancy Kindel moved to Vail in 1962 from Grand Rapids, Michigan. With a population of less than 100 and with no school, doctor or grocery store, some wondered what they were doing. But the Kindels could see the potential and wanted to be part of building the Vail dream, building the Christiania Lodge in 1963.

As Vail began to emerge as a world-class ski resort, the Christiania continued on its journey, with the addition of the Chateau Christian condos to the lodge. In 1976, Paul and Sally Johnston purchased the Christiania. Paul had lived in Vail in the 1960’s and opened the Nu Gnu, a bar in the basement of the Gorsuch building. He manned the door every night with a handlebar mustache accompanied by a fishnet shirt, feather boa or painted head, but he left Vail to marry Sally and raise his family. The itch to return was taken care of with the purchase of the Christiania and the family moved into room 300 in the lodge.

Chance Encounter

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A chance encounter with President Gerald Ford’s Secret Service staff in 1976 saved their first season when officers and the White House communications team stayed for four weeks. One of Sally’s fondest memories of this time is when the Secret Service would play midnight volleyball games on the lawn out back, since there was no snow early on that season.

A trip to Europe introduced Paul and Sally to the Menzel family, makers of Bavarian furniture. Upon their return to Vail they decided to style the lodge with the furniture they found in honor of the Bavarian atmosphere in Vail Village.

Vail continued to gain worldwide recognition, and the Johnstons were a part of bringing the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships to Vail, a first for the United States.

In 1985, John Everly became the General Manager of The Christiania, a position he still holds today.

A Vail Icon

While the Christiania has retained its family-owned, Bavarian atmosphere, the lodge has been renovated multiple times and new condos have been added to the rental program.

Paul, Sally and their sons, John and Michael, continued to run the lodge. John and Michael would always assist with the hotel operation after school with their friends. They would help with laundry and even took out the trash. As a reward they could go across the street for cookies and ice cream. The Christiania still serves cookies during the ski season, since chocolate chip cookies are a family favorite.

Paul peacefully hung up his boots on March 16, 2015. Paul was a soldier and peace activist, a painter and an author, an art dealer and a Realtor, a cowboy and a bartender, a pilot and a motocross rider, a hospice volunteer and an ecumenical minister. While his passing left a hole in the hearts of many, all you need to do is walk through the town of Vail and you can see his spirit come to life. The Christiania remains family owned and Sally and the boys play an active role in the management of the property. In October 2015, they hired Destination Hotels to manage the property, thus starting the next chapter for this Vail icon.

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