D.R.: All caught up in Vail | VailDaily.com

D.R.: All caught up in Vail

Don Rogers

What is it with Vail that every resort town is supposed to loath us? Not a real town. Faux Bavarian. Rich folks. Blah, blah. On and on.

Aspen has the worst case of Vail of all. As if that place weren’t 10 times more guilty of whatever sins they ascribe to evil Vail.

And Jackson Hole, are you kidding? Toss in Breck, Whistler, Steamboat Springs, Lake Tahoe, Sundance. Even Crested Butte these days. Et al. These are the “real towns,” the “good guys”? Please.

Truckee can still talk, though its days as a reasonably “normal” community are numbered. Durango’s still good. But then it’s not a ski town.

So an Aspen paper is all atwitter about a documentary film that builds up Aspen as some kind leader in community character and being good for the environment. And Vail plays Hades.

In a word, huh?

We’re talking the pot and the kettle here. If anything, Aspen has less character, more wealth and certainly a lot more pious hot air about environmental and social values. That is to say, a lot of talk and very little to back any of it up.

Aspen is the epitome of a hypocrite. Lots of BS and loud patting of themselves on their collective back. Vail does the same little half-measures but doesn’t puff up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy about it. Vail manages not to go completely over the top congratulating itself for things it has notbusiness congratulating itself about, other than providing great mountain vacations and second-home opportunities for those who can afford them.

Both places are fabulously wealthy heat sinks. Period. They are high-end vacation meccas in precisely the same way. Neither can be examples for environmental or social anything.

Aspen is that obese lady making a show of ordering a Diet Coke. Vail at least has just enough sense to be at least a little embarrassed about it.

But enjoy the movie. All those “real” ski towns can munch on their buttered popcorn and console themselves with the fiction that they are somehow different than evil Vail ” while they try like hell to become the next Vail. Talk about confilcted.

Here’s the story:

Documentary lauds Aspen, ranks down on Vail

Sarah Gilman – Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Sat 02/10/2007 07:00PM MST

Folks often apply the term “Aspenization” to a glut of trophy homes, ritzy development, big-city attitudes and upscale snobbery that affects some rural Western communities. But the new documentary “Resorting to Madness,” which explores the ramifications of resort development and skyrocketing property values in ski towns, portrays the Aspen area and Aspen Skiing Co. as leaders in protecting community character and the environment.

Sorry, Vail.

In this film, “Vailization” would be an apt term for unmitigated growth, with its widespread faux-Bavarian village model of ski-related development.

“Resorting to Madness” is the first film from ski-industry veterans Hunter Sykes and Darren Campbell (who co-wrote and co-directed the piece) and their California-based production company, Coldstream Creative.

The documentary surveys the struggles of mountain communities around the country, attempting to determine their present and future character in the face of the homogenizing, gentrifying force of big skiing corporations and private developers.

With a limited supply of skiers to go around, the film argues that many ski companies and associated businesses are focusing more on amenities and upscale development to out-compete one another and bring in fat profits above and beyond comparatively measly lift-ticket revenues. Affordable housing, wildlife habitat, and clean air and water are all casualties of the ensuing growth.

The film features interviews with planners, thinkers, politicians, ski industry officials, and citizens who are tackling growth-related problems in resort towns.

Vail appears onscreen as the prime example of a ski resort with the worst kind of development. The resort buys up or pushes out local businesses, influences public lands policy decisions and the reversal of scientific opinions about wildlife habitat at a federal level, and links up sub-par terrain (now only an amenity to the main attraction of luxury hotels and McMansions) at Bachelor Gulch with upscale real-estate development on land set aside as wildlife habitat by the resort itself.

“We really hammer Vail,” laughed Sykes, who taught skiing and snowboarding in the Vail area for 12 years.

But Vail is certainly not alone, he added. Growing resort communities all have similar problems, some just handle them better and more proactively.

Aspen and SkiCo appear prominently in the list of resort areas acting aggressively to protect the environment and community character. SkiCo environmental director Auden Schendler discusses the company’s purchase of wind power to offset 100 percent of its associated electricity use. He also talks about SkiCo’s efficient building program, and its employee supported environmental foundation, which funds environmental projects around the valley.

The film also lauds the local affordable housing program, which is among the best in the country, and the extensive public transit system.

The rest of the list of ski-area good guys includes Sundance in Utah, and nonprofits, citizens, and officials in Whistler, B. C., Jackson, Wyo., Truckee, Calif., and the Mad River Valley in Vermont.

The bottom-line take is that communities have the power to determine their present and future character through zoning and other measures. The film implores citizens to get involved.

“This was something that needed to be said,” Sykes explained. “We’ve lived in these places, complained about the problems, but never did anything.”

Sykes hopes the film will make it to Aspen in March, and is currently seeking venues in the Roaring Fork Valley. The film will also appear in Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Boulder, Golden, Durango, Steamboat Springs, Alamosa and other communities around Colorado


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