Summer events kept the Vail Valley buzzing |

Summer events kept the Vail Valley buzzing

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – It’s been a great summer for tourism in the valley. But can this year’s momentum last?

In addition to the valley’s host of signature events – including the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, the Vail Lacrosse Shootout and Avon’s Salute to the USA – new events, particularly cycling, brought even more people to the valley.

Thousands of spectators were in the valley for last week’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge events in Vail and Avon, and thousands more participants came in June, when the annual Ride the Rockies cycling tour made its first overnight stop in the valley in more than a decade.

Those events may be hard to match. Ride the Rockies spreads its overnight stops around the mountains and rarely returns to the same places in consecutive years. The USA Pro Cycling Tour will probably have several communities vying for events next year, so it’s uncertain whether the Vail Valley will become a fixture on that tour.

But other big events remain in the mix. Beaver Creek Resort Co. is working to bring the Xterra Tough Mudder event back, and that brought 10,000 participants to the valley.

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But one thing that’s certain about summer events is that if one event leaves, another seems to take its place.

“We used to have the Thunderbird Artists and the Healthy Home Tour – now we have Dock Dogs and the Xterra events,” Avon events coordinator Danita Chirichillo. “It seems pretty cyclical.”

While Avon is getting ready for the annual IronKids Triathlon, Chirichillo said she’s also just starting work on a new 2012 event, but wasn’t ready to talk about the specifics.

And bringing new events is a year ’round job, with proposals going out months, or more, before the events actually show up.

Vail Valley Partnership Executive Director Chris Romer wrote in an email that the Vail Local Marketing District is recruiting a Memorial Day adventure race, and the Partnership is involved with recruiting the Ranger Relay, a running event, an adventure race called the Primal Challenge and a cheerleading event.

Romer wrote that the Partnership is also trying to land a return visit from Ride the Rockies, as well as another amateur bicycle event.

“It’s important to continue to fine tune our efforts related to events, and have a good mix of participatory, music, culture and community events,” Romer wrote.

The work is worthwhile, because those events can pay big dividends, for both communites’ bottom lines and in more intangible ways.

“I think we get back more than we put in,” Chirichillo said. “That can be exposure – national and international attention is just hard to measure.”

While TV coverage can be hard to quantify, town of Vail Economic Development Kelli McDonald measures as much as she can.

“We’ve done studies at 12 different events this summer, and every one is seeing increased attendance over last year,” McDonald said.

But, McDonald said, Vail’s efforts go beyond events, from new mountain features to the buzz created by Solaris, the Four Seasons Resort and other new properties in town.

But the events give people something to do when they come to the valley, both winter and summer.

The Vail Valley Foundation is well known for sponsoring everything from Hot Summer Nights concerts to the American Ski Classic and the World Alpine Ski Championships. The Foundation was also deeply involved in the Pro Cycling Challenge.

“We’ve had a busy couple of years,” Foundation vice president of communications John Dakin said. And the Foundation staff is going to get progressively more busy as the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships draw closer.

Dakin said the Foundation can move quickly, and would consider at least helping put together another event, if the right one came along.

Meanwhile, the search for events – and paying customers – continues, mostly behind the scenes.

McDonald said Vail has been actively pitching the valley’s summer events to Mexico, one of the resort’s most important winter markets. And, while it’s hard to tell what might come next summer, McDonald said there’s a giant celebration looming: Dec. 15, 2012 is Vail Mountain’s 50th anniversary.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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