Vail ’07: Big snow, and ‘no means no’
Vail CO, Colorado
As 2007 staggers out the door, it’s time to take a look back at how fresh-faced baby ’07 came to be the hobbling old year that’s leaving to the strains of Auld Lang Syne.
It took 365 issues of the paper to get us to this point, so there will be holes in this review. The valley loses its share of residents in any year, and we try to mark the most notable of those who have passed. We apologize in advance for anyone we missed.
– As the year began, the local and national tributes to President Gerald Ford were winding down. We’d asked readers to share their memories of Ford, and they responded with a lot of photos and a lot more personal stories.
Those who knew Ford, even a little, all painted the same picture of a friendly, humble man who nonetheless kept a keen, perceptive eye on national and international events.
– A massive blizzard hit Baca County in Colorado’s southeast corner. A nine-person crew from northwest Colorado went to help, including Eagle firefighter Bill Kennedy and Barry Smith, Eagle County’s emergency manager. The crew helped distribute food to stranded ranchers and drop hay to cattle stuck in snowy rangeland.
– We said good-bye to Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone, who left after two terms in office, and welcomed his replacement, Sara Fisher. The tone at the county building, which had hovered between “coolly cordial” and “downright tense” for the six years Stone and fellow commissioner Arn Menconi were on the board, eased quite a bit. While the atmosphere relaxed quite a bit with a three-Democrat board, that doesn’t mean county government was free of controversy.
More on that later.
– In addition to the Stone-for-Fisher switch, new Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin took his oath of office. Chapin had the privilege of leading the office while property values jumped an average of 40 percent across the county.
– Small stories sometimes jump out during the annual search through the archives.
In Avon, a man was mooning an Avon town bus that happened to have one of the town’s police officers as a passenger. The mooning man was ticketed for public drinking and disorderly conduct.
– Even as most of the eastern half of the state was still digging out from a pair of massive snowstorms came a report that the mountain snowpack was still lagging behind its historic averages. The irony, you may recall, is that while the flatlands were buried, the mountains had just OK snow to start the year. We remain in a long drought cycle, friends.
– Larkburger in Edwards was quickly establishing itself as home of one of the best darned burgers in the Valley. The new restaurant was also trying something new in the fast-food biz by using biodegradable or recyclable packaging, plates, cups and cutlery.
– Bob Reed, the head of Avon’s transportation department, told Daily reporter Matt Terrell that the relatively new bus stop at the Buffalo Ridge apartments was bustling. It wouldn’t last.
– A new state law that prohibits government agencies from spending money on those who can’t prove they’re legal residents hit the local Catholic Charities office hard. Because of the law, the local office of the charity didn’t get a $25,000 grant it had received from the county for several years. Charity director Tom Ziemann said losing the grant wouldn’t change his group’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding clients.
– Builders in Vail weren’t happy with a proposed town regulation that would require developers to dedicate 30 percent of all new residential construction to affordable housing.
– After several months of preliminaries, the Minturn Planning and Zoning Commission started public hearings about developer Bobby Ginn’s proposal for a private ski area and 1,700 homes scattered over about 5,000 acres of private land on Battle Mountain south of town.
– While ski slopes in the eastern part of the country were struggling to open, resorts in the Rockies, including Vail and Beaver Creek, were booming. Local businesses were swamped over the Martin Luther King holiday.
– Vail Resorts unveiled a program that offered free lift tickets to people flying into the Eagle County Airport on the day they arrived. What’s a little jet lag when it’s a powder day?
On the other end of the demographic spectrum, the resort company rolled out a program that provided 50 local minority kids with a season ski pass, 15 days of lessons, equipment rental and lunches.
– County officials started talking about hiring a lobbyist to try to wrangle federal money for an Interstate 70 interchange to serve the Eagle County Airport. The interchange, which would have to cross the Eagle River and go about a mile to link the airport and highway, is packing a price tag of roughly $70 million these days.
– Beaver Creek opened some new terrain in the Stone Creek chutes that had been off-limits for years.
– Russell Forrest, Vail’s longtime director of community development, accepted the town manager’s job in Snowmass Village.
– A report from the Eagle County Department of Health and Human Services indicated that as many as one in five county residents who could use some sort of public assistance can’t qualify because they make too much money under state and federal guidelines.
– “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” was a quote that turned up early and often in the Vail Daily’s opinion pages and some news stories.
The Eagle County Home Rule Charter Commission had the legal right to ask voters again to approve a “home rule” government reform charter for the county. More than 53 percent of voters had said “no” to the proposed new charter in November of 2006.
The charter commission spent $4,500 on a phone survey to determine what voters didn’t like about the first charter, with the idea of making changes and perhaps asking voters a second time.
– There was a lot of talk about the valley’s housing crisis in 2007. The general consensus of all that talk was that the valley needs the equivalent of three more Eagle-Vails to keep up. So far, all the talk has so far resulted in, er, more talk.
– Rebuilding the Lionshead parking structure is a big part of “Vail’s New Dawn,” and the Vail Town Council spent a lot of time trying to decide how that new structure would look and, more importantly, what private developer would do the job.
While those decisions were being made, some small business owners in Lionshead started to show signs of redevelopment fatigue after two years of work on the Arrabelle at Vail Square project.
“Get some other projects done,” said Craig Arford, owner of Vail Ski Tech, who had tried to keep his doors open in the shadow of the Arrabelle project.
– Here’s another from the “unintended consequences” file. Avon Police Chief Brian Kozak said a law requiring police to report known illegal immigrants to federal officials had put the brakes on a kidnapping investigation because neighbors didn’t want to talk to police out of fear of deportation.
Kozak and other police chiefs accused the feds of not doing their jobs. Anti-illegal-immigration activists, meanwhile, accused the local cops of being “unwilling to obey the law.”
– Caroline Bradford, who essentially invented the Eagle River Watershed Council, left her job as director of that group. In her seven years running the council, Bradford led efforts to improve local water-quality standards, clean up mining pollution, and pushed state transportation officials to clean up sand from Vail Pass that’s been clogging Gore Creek.
Bradford is something of a freelancer these days, but is still working on water-related problems around the area. She remains one of our very favorite people, too.
– Stone Creek Elementary School, a new charter school now in its second academic year, got off to a rocky start, particularly on the financial side. To help ease the money crunch, parents launched fund-raising campaigns, one of which raised $100,000 in a week. The town of Avon also gave the school a few breaks on its water-tap fees.
That break from the town prompted Avon Elementary School Principal Melisa Rewald-Thuon to wonder if the charter school was getting preferential treatment from the town.
The parents voted with their pocketbooks for a school where kids learned about medieval knights, memorized poems by Carl Sandberg and read “Don Quixote.”
– Lots of drugs move along I-70. A few of the drug-runners get caught. One of those drug-runners was pulled over for weaving down the road east of Wolcott. When officers searched the car, they found 16 pounds of marijuana. The driver of the car also claimed he’d been arrested in Kansas for carrying 64 pounds of weed.
Remember, folks, possession of anything more than an ounce of wacky tobacky is a felony in Colorado.
– Vail’s not usually the place for celebrity sightings, and most folks are happy to leave that distinction to Aspen.
But when Olympic snowboard hero Shaun White came to town to ride Vail’s slopes with a bevy of Playboy bunnies from the reality show “The Girls Next Door,” the village was abuzz.
People seemed either not to care or believe that White landed himself a pretty nice bonus for Olympic gold. One Web commenter was even less than impressed, though, writing “So much for Vail Resorts’ ‘family image’. I guess soon we’ll see the Bunnies zipping down the alpine slide in Beaver Creek.”
– Erich Windisch, a pioneer in the sport of ski-jumping and longtime Vail resident, died at the age of 89.
– Vail and Beaver Creek named a couple of ski runs in honor of President Gerald Ford.
At Vail, the last pitch of the Giant Steps run was named “38,” since Ford was, yep, the 38th president. At the Beav’ the black-diamond Pitchfork trail was named “President Ford’s.” That run passed Ford’s former home at the resort.
– Another refrain of “no means no” began when the county commissioners started talking about finding money for early-childhood programs. Voters had decisively rejected a plan to raise taxes by $3 million per year to pay for those programs. Looking around under sofa cushions and other departmental budgets, Commissioner Arn Menconi determined that the county could find $1.6 million to help at-risk kids and try to ease the valley’s chronic child-care shortage.