Random acts can lead to lasting friendships
Vail, CO, Colorado
A long time ago there was this middle-aged guy (back then, 30 was middle-aged) who moved to Colorado from back east. He went to work for a big ad agency in Denver and since ad agencies are pretty much a haven for sharp, attractive young ladies, he met a hot chick there who loved to ski. He loved to ski too, but to him skiing meant being towed about 40 feet or so behind a 75-horse Evinrude, on a lake, in the summer.
Something had to give. He wasn’t going to be alone on the weekends and she wasn’t about to water ski in February. Besides, he loved the mountains and really dug her, so up the hill they went. He put on some scratchy longies under his jeans, put three layers of T-shirts under his cable-knit cotton sweater, stood in line at SNIAGRAB for some warm mittens and fancy red gaiters, grabbed his Ray-Bans and pointed his MGB toward the rent-a-ski on the highway. He was going to get his Rocky Mountain high.
You can imagine the rest. He mostly fell through the morning of his first lesson and, wet and cold as he was in the “killer cotton,” he was more miserable because of the tree ornament-sized snowballs clinging to his sweater and the looks he got from the real skiers shushing by him at light speed. Lunch was fun, though.
The views up top were stunning, his girl was smiling (actually trying not to laugh out loud at him), she was skiing single and having a ball, and after the snowballs melted and his bandana dried out, he thought he pretty much looked like he belonged up there.
Being a good athlete, our hero felt he’d had enough of pizza and French fries and decided, against his companion’s good advice, to ski without the second half of the lesson. After all, it was time to impress his ski bunny with a few turns on a blue trail.
The afternoon didn’t last long, thanks to a knee injury.
Cut to the next season. This time it was serious. Snappy hat. Down jacket. Polyester bib overalls. His own boots, skis, bindings (set real low), poles, gloves, goggles and hot chem-packs for cold days.
I still skied like a dork. But she had some patience and I know now what unbounded love really is. Who else but a soul mate would endure this amount of humiliation? But, year after year I got better.
Then, one brave day, we came to Vail. Dork time again. Better skiers. Better dressed skiers, many speaking foreign languages and looking like movie stars. The little kids’ clothes alone cost more than all my gear, and my car. But we were here and it was wonderful.
We gawked and gaped, and then something really weird happened. We met some people working at a restaurant who didn’t care we were poor working stiffs from the Front Range. They just saw that we were really having fun and it must have been infectious. They laughed along. We kept coming back. They remembered our names.
Once in while, they bought us a round or gave us a free dessert on our birthdays, or saved our favorite table for us. They sat and chatted when we came by and made us feel like we belonged here and we came back more often. Again and again and again…and a few years later we bought a second home here. Then we got lucky. My wife (yes the ski bunny with the patience of a saint) accepted a job offer here.
Computers were at a stage where my consulting practice could locate anywhere, so we said goodbye to Denver, moved into our second home, made it a first home and started to meet more and more people just like the ones who made us first feel welcome. Now, a lot of years have gone by, Vail is more deeply than ever in our hearts, and it all started with the kindness of a few, lovely locals who were nice to a goofy flatlander and his pretty girlfriend.
Thank you forever to our Russell’s and Los Amigos friends Mick Warth, Ron Reilly, Dave Sundberg, Pam Thiesfeldt, Kristen Olsen, Amelia Neat, DK, Heidi Ham, John Donovan, Mikey Swearingen, Tim Curran and so many others who have become so dear to us over the years. You are the reason this place works and you and everybody here who has ever gone out of their way to be kind to a visitor deserve to be recognized as the heart and soul of this place. When care turns to caring, some amazing things can happen.
Michael Kurz is President and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.
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