Maldy’s last climb: Vail remembers Maldy Zang, one of its most colorful characters
Friends and family of Maldwyn “Maldy” Zang will start at Bart & Yeti’s in Lionshead Village and ski Vail Mountain all day Sunday, Jan. 21. Around 3 p.m., people will gather at Bart & Yeti’s in Lionshead for a time to remember and raise a glass for Maldy.
VAIL — Maldwyn “Maldy” George Zang was not a complicated man. He loved to climb. He loved to ski. He loved his friends and cooking for them. He was not a fan of technology. He owned a flip phone and had no email address.
He didn’t need much money. He lived to feel alive. As long as he could hike, that was enough, said his friends at Bart & Yeti’s.
Maldy ran Bart & Yeti’s kitchen for decades. If you were paying attention, you might also find him at The Point on Vail Mountain, where he would stash grills for mountain picnics that usually turned out to be feasts.
Good friend, good man
Maldy took his last climb this week. The 60-year-old died in Vail, where he lived for so long and so well. He is survived by two sisters, two brothers and multitudes of friends.
The Vail Police Department does not suspect any foul play in Maldy’s death, and he was not involved in an altercation prior to his death, said Vail Police Detective Luke Causey. The final cause of death will be announced by Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis.
Stroll into Bart & Yeti’s this weekend, and you’ll see bouquets of flowers all around the bar, as well as arrangements outside on the deck. If you’re mourning Maldy, and his friends are, where else would you send flowers?
The stories flow along with the drinks, the laughter and the tears.
If you called down to central casting for a good friend, they’d send back Maldy.
“Maldy was a good friend and good man to people,” said Dennis Foley, with Bart & Yeti’s.
The world is Maldyland
Maldy and James Moran share a birthday, Dec. 12, 1957. They met in 1979 when Moran was getting on Chair 11 as a single.
Maldy said, “You look like you’re in a good mood. Can I ride with you?” Moran was, and Maldy did. The friendship stuck. Every year, Maldy and Moran met on 12/12 at 12:12 a.m. for a birthday drink.
We’re not sure who keeps track of this sort of thing, but Maldy likely had more first chairs than anyone. He must have had. The Lionshead gondola was a short stroll from his place in Matterhorn and just outside Bart & Yeti’s front door. That’s what he meant when he said he’d meet you early for skiing. As much as he loved his friends, “meet me early” also meant that he was not waiting for you.
In the late 1980s, Maldy’s Master Bakers usually finished second to the Snow Pigs (Vail ski patrol) in Vail’s town race series. Then there was what he called his Polish Ski team — two guys on one pair of skis, one backwards. The two would alternate, so they’d see the world from different perspectives.
“I will always remember him for was his zest for living life to the fullest, and what a great friend he always was,” said Brad Hasley.
Maldy was inspirational, dependable … all the things a good friend always is.
You could trust him with your life. Hasley did.
Maldy led Hasley’s wife, Liz, through some of the toughest climbing pitches.
“I trust Maldy in this situation to get me through alive!” Liz would say.
Maldy hauled the Hasley’s son, Eric, to the top of Red Peak in a baby backpack. Maldy and Eric laughed all the way to the top.
14ers before it was fashionable
Maldy had bagged all of Colorado’s 14ers by 1991, before it became a fad. He also summited most of the state’s second hundred highest peaks. He did not post his accomplishments with the Colorado Mountain Club, saying it seemed pretentious to boast about something he loved so much.
He climbed five of the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each of the seven continents: Denali, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus and Koziusko. There was an expedition to the 8,000-meter peak, Cho Oyu, in Tibet, the sixth highest mountain in the world, and every peak in the Gore Range above 13,000 feet.
But there’s this thing about all of that. Maldy was always with friends, because Maldy was always a friend … almost always.
There was that time in the Kathmandu airport.
Maldy’s dad imported shoes from India, and Maldy had accompanied him there several times when he was younger. That gave him great insight into life there.
A group of wealthy businessmen from India were arrogantly cutting the line in front of Maldy, Hasley and others at the ticketing counter. Maldy called them out for it.
When they complained to a nearby policeman, complete with slung assault rifle, Maldy, eyebrows down, still wasn’t going to have any of it.
“They ultimately gave up the quest and walked away in disappointment,” Hasley recalled.
So, yeah, Maldy faced down locals and armed cops in a Third World country.
He told his friends, “You just have to know how things work in this culture.” Then he laughed, and they laughed with him.
The laughter continues Sunday on Vail Mountain and at Bart & Yeti’s. Then again, the laughter will continue every time someone tells a Maldy story.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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