Those next 40

Otto Wiest

How different is Vail today – 40 years have changed a lot. Pete intended to build a ski mountain, but I guess that he did not have in mind to create a real estate area together with weekend skiing.

If we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Vail, we can also celebrate the 40th anniversary of chairlift 1. Besides, the chairs 9 and 10 and 14 and 17 are not much younger! It’s amazing how well they have been built – can you imagine that you would drive a 40-year-old car? Even painfully slow, but still running!

Will we ever hear the word revival also at the ski mountain? And even if Pete seems to have been a genius, the redesign and upgrading of some ski trails would give the area kind of a face lifting. For example, to connect the entrance of Bear Tree in a better manner with the upper part of the mountain, or to think about the narrow run-outs for the 20,000 day skiers and so on. Also the global warmth seems to stay for good and will create the usual problems – so what about improving Northwoods, because of its perfect location, to an early and late season facility – just in case there is not enough snow for the guests.

Would be nice to hear not only about the memories of Pete Seibert, but to think a little more about his intentions. Let his spirit work in Vail again. He had in mind to create a skier’s place. He thought about where to put the stores, so that their businesses are running well. He understood that this was important for his mountain village.

For non-skiers or non-boarders it might be difficult to understand what he had in mind. But without the ski mountain, the Vail Valley would probably be still kind of an empty valley. No soccer fields or pavilions will help to increase the slow business of the Vail stores. No weekend skiing will help to fill up Maire Ludwig’s need for money to realize the plans of the town. And higher taxes or other ways to get more money from the local people are not the things we want.

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Destination skiers seem to be forgotten in the calculation of Vail today. But all over Europe the battle for the destination skiers is big – they stay for weeks, they shop in the village, they book in advance, and they don’t need huge parking spaces.

A high-speed quad is no special attraction for skiers anymore like it used to be years ago. Blue Sky is now the big attraction of Vail. But isn’t there constantly a need to do more? For example to build an underground transportation from Vail Village into the China Bowl or more gondolas to keep Vail on the highest level above Whistler and other competitors? Too expensive, too futuristic? And how about environmental problems?

If I understand right, within 10 or 20 years the U.S. population is expected to be twice as big. So where will the 30,000 or 40,000 day skiers ski? Is it better to have them on snowshoes, snowmobiles or cross country skis all over the wilderness?

If you are really interested in the environment it seems to be much smarter to have them all fenced up in a huge ski resort like Vail. And if I were a lynx, I would strongly support the further development of Vail to have peace in the back country. Or do you really expect the growing population of U.S. has to stay at home in front of their TVs and watch the commercials?

Yes, I know, all those big projects at European ski resorts are built by the town, the government and the ski mountain together. In Vail the ski mountain has to do it all alone. At least the town and the mountain could go together again, like they did in Vail at the very beginning. And to build the Vail Mountain like Pete Seibert did seemed to be much more risk and difficulty as, for example, today’s Vail to build an underground connection.

But at the beginning, there was the spirit, the determination and the friendship – and there was the same goal. That’s what is missing today. So if you talk again and again about revival. It’s not only the money and the big projects. It is the goal and the ability to work together and the desire to recognize what the Vail guests really need and want.

It is the skiing and boarding why they come to Vail. Pete Seibert wanted to build a paradise for skiers (and boarders), nothing more and nothing less. And if you do not believe in this idea, well, then close the ski mountain or get a winter without snow – and you will see what is happening.

A famous political leader once said that if somebody comes to him and says he has visions, he will send him to an eye doctor. Vail doesn’t need visions. Vail needs a very realistic and down-to-earth view for the needs of the area. If you spend money for the right things, it helps everybody. And if you spend it for the wrong things, it makes Vail an even more expensive place and drives the destination skiers out of town.

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