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The headwaters of our lives

Don Rogers

There was good reason our little ones called themselves “Vail” locals even though we’d just moved to Eagle.Vail has cachet, international recognition. Eagle was still years away from notoriety as that hick town in Colorado where the NBA’s “squeaky clean” citizen Kobe Bryant was exposed as a fraud, and maybe even a sexual criminal. Back then, Eagle was just a polite “where?”So it remains with every other Eagle County community west of Dowd Junction. Minturn, Avon, Beaver Creek, Edwards … . All flecks of reflected glory, all requiring the follow-up explanation, “near Vail.” It’s all Vail to the outside world. Hence, “Vail Valley.”Even though there seems to be less and less reason for locals to actually spend any time in Vail, mythically at least it remains the headwaters from which our High Country mana flows. No Vail, and the rest of all this dries up. Back to lettuce farms and cattle ranches, maybe a motel, diner and bar or two with orange tarps declaring “Hunters Welcome!” And lots and lots of open space.Nothing wrong with any of that, of course. And nothing keeping any of us from moving to Meeker, Kremmling, Oak Creek, Fairplay if that’s really our bent.Just don’t expect the New York Philharmonic, Steadman Hawkins or Sweet Basil at your fingertips. Never mind the skiing, the luminary visitors and residents who enrichen the culture, the shopping and other choices that grow with thriving communities. What happens with Vail does matter to the rest of us, no question. Even far downvalley folk who want nothing to do with the place have a piece of their fortunes tied to it nonetheless.All this occurred to me a sunny, icy Sunday ago when I never quite broke out of warm-up runs on the front side and still had to wait for my now teenage snowboarder son forced into his first ski lesson. This wasn’t merely delicious parental torture, though I admit I savored it. We thought a few alpine lessons might help our high school Nordic racer who can’t ever complete a race without a big ol’ tumble on account of being, well, just a really lousy skier. He’s athlete enough to make state anyway, which impresses me since I could never do that. But maybe a little skier’s balance would help with those deadly downhill legs. Hey, dreams are free, or at least inexpensive with this three-lesson deal.I wandered the village first, dropping off my board at Buzz’s for wax and tuning. I love the low-key vibe in the place, and taking in the conversations between the renters and the workers. Buzz Schleper represents a part of core Vail to me, no pretension but great pride in World Cup star daughter Sarah and up and coming Hunter. My sense is that it’s all about the mountain with Buzz.There was clearly something here, too, for the lady swaddled in fur and taking a carriage ride up Bridge Street, even if I don’t get any of that. Not the fur, not the horse ride up a short street, not the failure to hit the hill. She seemed to be having a good time, though. The street was busy, eateries full. I was struck by how small the village really is. A bit more size will not make it less quaint. It would have to get a lot bigger for that. But maybe I was still too fresh from my latest Denver trip. Crossroads shopping center just looked small and tired, and stupid with the surface parking taking up so much space. A six-story complex at the location would not be such a big deal there. I thought it might even help extend the village, make it more contiguous in a place where I see a gulf on my way from the village to tucked-away Verbatim, always a must in visits here. In addition to providing the sheer pleasure of browsing titles, Verbatim and Bookworm in Edwards have a habit of helping bring famous and also merely talented authors to the valley. Tuesday, it’s best-seller Mitch Albom, one of my heroes for his sports columns. All the proceeds from the event at 7 p.m. at the Marriott will go to the Women’s Cancer Coalition of Vail Valley Medical Center.Right outside Verbatim, the renaissance is laid bare where Village Inn once stood. We’ll see a lot of this before it’s all over in a few years. On to Lionshead, and a beer in the old gondola building, which soon enough will get knocked down in favor of a Bavarian upgrade of the whole area. Given the highfalutin’ new name of the place to be, “Arabelle at Vail Square,” it occurred to me that someone wants to make the very name Lionshead history.Skiers and boarders were flowing off the hill now, ants on sugar. The bartender expressed regret at the new wide skiers bridge. Used to be so much fun to watch the collisions this time of day. At least the Philadelphia Eagles were having their way on TV with the Atlanta Falcons. And the beer tasted great.Ah, there’s the kid, that “Vail” local who has long since grown out of pride in the appelation and thoroughly into the role. At least that’s how the vacationers in his ski class saw him. Turned out he was a little further along than beginner and helped pick up his classmates’ bunny hill yard sales when the instructor couldn’t find a more advanced class for him.They liked him so much they invited him out for a beer afterward. For a 16-year-old, that’s quite a compliment, almost transcending the indignity of a true blue snowboarder forced to put on planks.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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