Move over, or out, middle class |

Move over, or out, middle class

Matt Zalaznick

One of the popular groups to fret about in the Vail Valley these days is middle-class families. Even in Vail, where the middle class is hanging on by a thread – or hanging on until some would-be second-home owner makes an unsolicited and irresistable offer on their townhouse – politicians and other civic observers like to say they must save “regular folks” from being chased downvalley by soaring home prices. One Vail town councilman likes to say tourists won’t want to come to a resort that’s all forbidding mansions and security gates, where there are no regular people with kids hanging out in parks. Where, god forbid, there is not a single bowling league or neigbhorhood softball team. But Disneyworld does pretty well without locals crowding the glow around Cinderella’s Castle. Think about it. Do the second-home owners and vacationing corporate titans in the suites in the village really care whether there’s a basketball game going on way over in Donovan Park? They’re too busy wine-and-cheesing to hit that distant part of town anyhow. Will the Europeans sitting on Pepi’s patio have less fun if there aren’t any families in Intermountain playing with their pooches in the neighbhorhood dog park? Hey, that riverfront dog park is a fine place for a upscale condos and another gondola. Will New Yorkers or Texans refuse to ski the Back Bowls on a powder day if there are no townies cranking their boomboxes and playing dice under the Covered Bridge? Well, it certainly won’t prevent our always boisterous friends from the Lone Star and Empire states from squeezing every second out of their 10-days passes. What purpose do locals serve in Vail Village anyway? I suppose they occasionally give directions to tourists who can’t figure out Vail Village’s maddeningly complex three-street grid, but the town doesn’t need locals for this public service. Vail could buy some very inexpensive robots to roll up and down Bridge Street and blurt out information. The town could train some monkeys – who even if they fling the occasional pile of feces might be more polite than the locals – to show lost tourists how to get back to their hotels. The resort will probably be OK without a group of locals huddled at the corner tables of every bar sneering and snickering at all the out-of-town buffoonery. The resort can prosper without locals huddled at the bus stop glaring at the horders who’ve invaded their pristine ski town. So what if Vail turns into a second-home ghost town? The poeple cozy in their mansions won’t notice the hulking, cold, empty shadows their mansions cast as they have their wine and food delivered from out of town. They won’t notice a thing. They ski in, and ski out – which means they never see the “street,” let alone care who’s there. And if there does seems to be a nagging emptiness, all the town and the ski company have to do to fill the local-less void is find a marketing agency or just a well-adjusted high school student to create some fun, lovable cartoon characters to waddle around the village and Lionshead, and distract the tourists from the nagging sense of amusement park fabrication. Mommy, why aren’t there any regular people in Vail like there are at home? Oh don’t worry honey – look! A giant furry marmot is dressed leiderhosen! Let’s take his picture. Vail could hire college students to put on elk and moose customes and sign autographs. In the cool winters of Colorado they’d be a lot more comfortable than the poor schleps who have to put on their Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck suits and sweat to half to death in the Florida heat. Creating a cast of adorable, memorable characters isn’t hard. Vail’s already got Pork Chop the Safety Pig. But if the town and resort are too focused on building more second homes and luxury townhouses, I have some ideas – which they can have free of charge (because I’ve already been chased out of Vail) – for when they’re ready to give Pork Chop some pals. They even come with slogans. Salty the Sand Flea: “He loves Gore Creek (Well, it used to be a creek).” Pesto the Pine Beetle: “He’s hungry enough to eat a whole forest!” Romper the Real Estate Racoon: “No mortgage is too high for him, he’s a good climber.”Elmo the Invisible Elk: “He went extinct that same time as the families!” City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14620, or

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