Reindeers for hire
EAGLE COUNTY – Santa Claus used to come to my family’s Christmas Eve party every year. You would think that would be more than enough to satisfy a kid, but I wasn’t so much a kid as I was a skeptical, 6-year-old punk. While Santa and Mrs. Claus were handing out gifts, I was defiantly sneaking outside to find the flying reindeer and make sure this big man in the red suit was the genuine article. Instead of eight flying reindeer, I learned that our Santa Claus arrived in a rather humble Buick LeSabre. The myth was over. I never saw a real live reindeer – until just a few days ago.Jared Liguori and Kristin Mahony of Edwards have opened Rocky Mountain Reindeer, the area’s first and only reindeer farm. With a flock of seven reindeer and a half acre of land near Cordillera, the pair is bringing part of the Christmas story to life for residents and guests of the Vail Valley.Just a month-and-a-half old, Liguori and Mahony have big plans for their seven antlered attractions.
“The excitement they create in kids and adults alike, they bring a smile to everyone’s face,” Liguori said. Liguori is already meeting with two of the area’s major hotels to discuss regular showings throughout the winter, and Mahony is planning to market private bookings, particularly around the Christmas holiday. Jingle and Holly, the youngest and tamest of the herd, recently appeared in the Dec. 3 edition of NBC’s “Three Wishes,” which filmed in Breckenridge.Liguori, a former dogsled driver for Nova Guides, said the idea for the business came on one of countless trips over Battle Mountain Pass last January. He vigorously researched the animals, wrote his business plan in the concrete truck he was driving this summer, and acquired the herd in October. The original concept was to offer sleigh rides, but Liguori now says that is a year or more away. “If I could eventually get reindeer sled rides, got the perfect venue, got the hang of the harnesses – because they’re pretty difficult – that would be my ideal goal,” he said. Because he did not expect to get the business off the ground this winter, though, he is more than happy with the progress he and Mahony have made. “The reindeer are the attraction, not the ride,” Liguori said.
The reindeer – Woody 2, Willow, Queeny, Punkie, Mukluk, Jingle and Holly – came to Liguori from a man in Ohio who was closing his Christmas tree farm. All but Woody 2 are female, and at least five of the six will give birth this spring, an event that Liguori is happily anticipating. “I’ll bottle feed all the babies, get them nice and used to people,” he said. Liguori camped out with the reindeer during their first five nights in the valley and is spending every day with the animals to tame and domesticate them. He has help from Rory, a St. Bernard-border collie mix that he picked up at the pound to help with herding. Rory is learning quickly, and his interactions with the reindeer are interesting enough that Liguori and Mahony are considering penning a children’s book chronicling the adventures of the animals.”One day I said to Kristin, ‘OK, I’m off to see Rory and the Reindeer,’ and it just kind of stuck,” Liguori said.”This all came together inside this 10 months, and it’s been a great ride. Hopefully it continues,” said Liguori, who has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Rhode Island College. “Imagine if I had become a cop in Rhode Island instead of having reindeer out here. I think I made some good choices.”
Vail, ColoradoRent-a-reindeerRocky Mountain Reindeer can be contacted at 376-4150 or email@example.com.