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Endings and renewals

Don Rogers

Even with all the symbolism of spring and renewal, Easter also heralds an ending in the Vail Valley. For close on the heels of the holiday each year follows the shuttering of the ski season.True enough, many locals are good and ready for the mud season, a chance to flee to Moab. Seasonals pack up, preparing for their migration and periodic emptying of the rentals. Visitors, still coming by the droves for spring break and delightfully warmish days of skiing or boarding, very soon will taper off, rendering the resort villages to ghost town status for the time being.The establishment will cluck at the traditional and barely tolerated blowout party on Vail Mountain known as BB&B. The lifts will finally stop for the season. And we1ll all take a deep breath before throwing ourselves into the budding summer season, favorite of many who live here year-round but still too much of a secret for would-be visitors who wouldn1t find a better summer refuge than our own High Country, if they only knew about it.The skis will switch out with the golf clubs; the snowboards in favor of kayaks, rafts and mountain bikes; snowmobiles for four-wheelers; snowshoes for hiking boots. We cope as we can.And for those of us who just can1t let go<who can1t afford Argentina or who go home to Australia<there1s always A-Basin. Roll the dice, or pray if it1s not too trivial, for a miracle that keeps the place open this year till the Fourth of July. Let the spouses content themselves with gardening and such.There are other hopes afoot, other signs of renewal. The nation1s recession seems to be receding, vacation appetites need whetting, and effective marketing may yet deliver our economy a strong summer. We can use it.To that end, we1re encouraged with consumer confidence hitting a post-Sept. 11 peak this month. That bodes well for us, in a place so sensitive to nationwide trends.Vail Resorts, with its agreement this week to purchase a classy ski resort at Lake Tahoe for a bargain, provides some more confidence, though the ever-present naysayers surely will find something in the deal to quibble with. The company will also gain some valuable exposure to a ski market that truly surges in the summer, with the hordes fleeing that central valley heat in California and those desert-weary Nevadans.The purchase of Heavenly<apt name for an Easter week deal<also signals Vail Resorts1 affirmation that it1s indeed a ski company, rather than a cover for a real estate operation with a few amenities like golf courses and ski slopes tossed in for atmosphere, or a budding hotel empire.Heavenly is not a real estate kind of place. Vail Resorts1 ability to improve the resort and 3experience on the mountain will be what makes the difference. There1s reason for confidence in this quarter. Vail Resorts and the current owner of Heavenly, American Ski Company, went public in the same year, 1997. Vail Resorts in the time since has remained stable on the stock market, trading in the $21 a share range today. American Ski, in full retreat now, is trading at under a dollar a share. There are fates worse than Vail being saddled with the apostles from Apollo.So while Easter signals the end of the high season here, this year it also bears the portend of hope in the secular sense, as well as in the timeless Christian sense. The religious meaning of Easter of course transcends our petty human day-to-day ups and downs, though it too bears even more meaning with the war on terrorism and proximity to our Twin Tower tragedy.Still, praise the heavens that life yet goes on, and we can turn to the secular and find reason for hope as well. Whatever woes we can dream up for ourselves, we1re a long, long way from Afghanistan.D.R.


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