Snow polar bears bring smiles to Vail |

Snow polar bears bring smiles to Vail

Caramie Schnell
VAIL CO, Colorado
HL polar bear carving 2 KA 1-10-12

There’s a good chance that a fair number of next year’s Christmas cards will include one of the life-sized snow polar bears afoot in Vail Village this winter. Especially considering the queue was upwards of 30 or 40 people deep this past weekend to take a photograph with one of the bears by the Covered Bridge.

“A friend of mine who was in the village said people were literally lining up to have their photos taken with the bear by the Slifer tree,” said Molly Eppard of Vail’s Art in Public Places program. When Krueger was installing the bears before Christmas, “he couldn’t get out of the way fast enough for people to take their photos with the bears,” Eppard said.

Bill Hanlon, owner of Wild Bill’s Emporium near the Children’s Fountain on Gore Creek Drive, is one of the exhibit’s biggest fans.

“People love them, especially foreign visitors from Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela; we’re having an awful lot of them this year,” he said. “It’s a photo op they’d never have otherwise … every night, people line up.”

Hanlon’s store has been in the same location on Gore Creek Drive for 43 years now, so when he says “this is the attraction that draws more happy smiles than anything we’ve seen before,” that’s saying something.

There are eight life-sized polar bears and a cub spread around town, from the Covered Bridge to the Gore Creek Promenade, which local artist and architect Karl Krueger sculpted for the fifth annual Triumph Winterfest exhibit entitled “Arctic Wanderings.”

The bears have been on display since before Christmas, but tonight marks the official opening reception and lighting ceremony. Pink Monkey Solutions designed the lighting that illuminates the bears on Gore Creek Promenade, and they’ll flip the switch at 5 p.m. A costumed polar bear will join in the festivities from 4 to 6 p.m. and free hot cocoa will be served compliments of Up the Creek.

“It’s a festive occasion to celebrate the exhibit and acknowledge Triumph Development’s generosity to the community,” Eppard said.

A charitable financial commitment from Triumph Development enabled the popular outdoor snow and ice sculpture exhibition to continue in Vail for an additional three years past the initial commitment, until 2015.

“While their financial donation comes to Art in Public Places, it’s a charitable donation to the whole community because of what we’re able to bring to the community as a direct result of their charitable contribution.”

That’s something that visitors from around the world, along with Eppard, Hanlon, and likely other Vail shop owners, are thankful for.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Hanlon said. “I talk to the people and they think it’s wonderful, too. Many times if there’s a mother and father and two children, I’ll volunteer to take pictures of all four of them, so they can all be in the photo. These are the memories that are so important. We know we have the finest ski area in the world, but it’s these small little frills we have that people love, and it sets us apart because no one else does it.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

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