‘Tis the offseason in Vail
Brent Toepper pushes his hair inside a “skull cap” made out of fuzzy rubber. The water temperature in the Eagle River is about 38 degrees and Toepper, 32, of Edwards is getting ready to go kayaking.
It’s Sunday afternoon, a couple weeks into the offseason in the Vail Valley, a quiet time. Still, despite the 50-degree, windy weather, half a dozen cars are parked off Highway 6 below the Dowd Chute, a popular place for kayaking. And several tourists visit the shops and restaurants open in Vail.
“We “Park and Play’,” says Curtis Burge, another kayaker who’s enjoying the valley offseason. When he’s not kayaking, Burge, 32, of Edwards, sells real estate.
“I like the offseason, but my favourite time of the year is peak runoff, when the river gets up to eight feet high.”
Tim Kennedy, 30, just rented an apartment in Vail. He plans to be a raft guide.
“Offseason is my vacation time,” says Kennedy, who just got back from Queenstown, New Zealand, where he’s a raft guide in the summer (our winter).
These days, between kayaking practices, Kennedy is getting ready for rafting season. The raft trips will start mid-May, he says.
Meantime, the Specks, of Arvada, are cruising around a silent Vail, two weeks after the end of ski season. Parents Julie and Mike walk with some shopping bags; their children, Andy, 10, and Rachel, 7, ride their scooters. The Specks, who ski in Vail during the winter, are visiting for the weekend. They stayed at Sonnenalp, where they say they enjoy the swimming pool.
“It’s been a lovely weekend. Coming during the offseason is a fun change. We found quite a bit of choices, too,” Julie Speck says brandishing a few shopping bags. “We’ll be back in June.”
At the Cogswell Gallery, some tourists wander around paintings, sculptures and antique jewelry. The gallery is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the offseason.
“It’s been slow. One sale every two or three days,” says one of the gallery’s art consultants. “There are still some people walking around on the weekends.”
Some sales in the offseason are accomplished over the phone.
“We’re different than other stores. Sometimes, we work with a client for a year, we have some pieces of art for $30,000, so it doesn’t happen overnight,” she says.
For firefighters Adam Casner, 20, Dan Grant, 25, Steve Griffin, 21 and Bill Murray, 23, all from Chicago, this was their first visit to the valley.
The four came for job interviews with the Vail Fire Department.
“There aren’t a lot of people around, but it was a surprise to find everything open,” Murray says. “The first day we got here (Thursday), we thought everything would be closed.”
It’s lunchtime and the tables at Vendetta’s back deck are full.
“We use our noses to find a place to eat,” Elaine Calzolari, an artist from Denver, says mockingly.
Calzolari, who came as a consultant for Donovan Park, is having lunch with Leslie Fickling, coordinator for arts and public places for the town of Vail.
“It’s offseason, but there are still plenty of people milling around,” Fickling says.
This is the first year that Vendetta’s, one in a handful of restaurants still open in Vail, will stay open during the offseason. John Brennen, the owner, says he decided last year to give it a try.
“Everybody (retail and restaurants) loses money in the offseason, but this way you keep your staff working,” Brennen says.
“May is the worst month, but today we were full for lunch.”
Mud, stones and grass have replaced the snow on Head First and Pepi’s Face. The ground is growing greener at the base of the Vista Bahn. Narcissus and tulipans shine under the afternoon sun, along with clothes on the sale racks outside several stores.
“We’re impressed there’s so much open,” says Molly Towns, 29, of Chicago. She and her husband, Hale, came for a family reunion.
“There are enough shops and restaurants open to keep us interested,” they say. Two little girls wearing shorts and T-shirts are running and playing outside Gore Range Mountain Works, the store their father manages in Vail.
“It’s quiet now but we stay open,” John Hsu says. “Saturday was busy, and today there were quite a few people at lunchtime.”
At John Galt, a casual wear store in Vail, everything is marked down 15 to 70 percent.
“It is slow now,” says Diane Hanfling. “But what really messed up our sales in April was that Easter this year fell on the last week of March. So we missed a lot of sales in the last weeks of ski season.”
At Starbucks in Avon, backgammon players, like Thomas Raui, of Lake Creek, have replaced skiers.
“This is the time of the year when we come and play,” says Raui between moves. “The offseason.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.