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Dawn or downfall of Vail?

Otto Wiest
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

After all these years, I know quite a lot of people in Vail. No, not the new ones; I know those who have skied and lived in Vail from the beginning. We know each other and we like each other because we share the same fun: nature, outdoors, blue Colorado sky and the smell of trees.

Did we ever dream of a Vail like we are getting it now? None, really none of my friends likes the new “Dawn of Concrete” in Vail.

Some talk about “Mt. Solaris” and some are simply astonished how high and bulky those new building grow up in the sky. I guess the deal to get some bowling and a movie theater as a compensation for the extra height of Solaris was a pretty bad deal.

Today I walked through Vail and after reading that our worldwide economy doesn’t look great, I wondered who will buy all the empty places which are now still under construction? All of this seems to me like the car industry building their big vans until they couldn’t sell them anymore.

Now they will get Mr. Obama’s help. Will Vail also get “Obama money” some day?

Of course, we hear and read that all the new condos and houses will be sold easily. Don’t tell me such jokes. All this big buildings that have been put into Vail are half ready and also half unfinished. A lot of new places beside a lot of old ones have to get sold, but who wants them?

Tell me, what is the town of Vail doing when one of their beloved developers runs out of money? Who will build the rest of those castles? It would probably need an atomic bomb to take all this concrete out of Vail again. So wouldn’t it be wise to slow down for the next five or 10 years and wait how things are going before some new plans get done?

If I hear about the parking structure in Lionshead and the plans over there, I get pretty bad feelings. Walk up and down the Bridge Street at the center of old Vail and you will experience the happy life of a real ski town.

But when I go to Arabelle there is the strange beauty of downtown Denver. Where would you prefer to sit after skiing? At the Red Lion? On Pepi’s Deck? Or in “Arabelle Canyon”?

At least visitor numbers seem to show clearly what customers prefer. All those guys who tried for years to get their urbanization of Vail done should be happy now. They have their Vail City over there. Instead of mountains and sun, they can see high walls all around. But isn’t that finally enough?

About a year ago I had to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. It looked to me pretty similar to how Lionshead looks today. One or two buildings of this kind would have been tolerable. But now we have five.

Who takes the responsibility for this kind of architecture? The developers who take the money and leave? The architects who try to create as much saleable space as possible? Or the town of Vail, who seems to use the word “No!” only for or against normal people? Isn’t the real goal of this “Dawn of Vail” to squeeze as much money as possible out of our town?

Where is the focus for the future? Isn’t it a big loss for all of us if Vail is not a charming ski town any longer?

Are there no better architects in the United States who understand what a mountain town should look like? And if you don’t find them here, simply go to the Alps, places like Gstaad, Chateaux d’ Ooex, Kitzbuhl, Interlaaken, Grindelwald, Klosters, Zurs-Lech, Cortina, Engelberg and so many others can show how nice an alpine style ski village looks.

OK, Vail doesn’t have to look like Europe, but couldn’t we at least pick up over there what is good and what is wrong? Do we have to make the same faults as they did over there years ago? A top resort like Vail is simply too valuable to get downgraded by this kind of buildings.

I really worry together with many others that Vail might get ruined forever. Pete Seibert had planned a quite different kind of Vail, and he was right.

To make a Seibert Circle is simply not enough. We also should keep his heritage like it was meant to be. I really have the impression that his goals have been more helpful for all of us than the intentions of our leaders of today.

Otto Wiest Vail


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