Vail Daily 30th anniversary look back: 1997 |

Vail Daily 30th anniversary look back: 1997

The good stuff never changes. Parking was a problem in Vail in 1997, and it still is.

U.S. Air Force pilot Captain Craig Button: Just saying the name raises interesting questions.

Such as:

• Why on God’s green earth would he crash his A-10 Thunderbolt into God’s green earth? (Actually, he crashed it into the side of New York Mountain, 12,467 feet, which is not at all green).

• Why is it called a Thunderbolt?

• Is it because it sounded like a thunderbolt when it hit the side of New York Mountain?

• Whatever became of the four 500-pound bombs the plane was carrying?

• Are they hidden somewhere between here and the Barry Goldwater Memorial Bombing Range in Arizona, from whence Capt. Craig was flying when he broke formation and disappeared?

• Has a bombing range ever been better named than the Barry Goldwater Memorial Bombing Range?

Here’s the abridged version.

Captain Craig Button, USAF, 33, went missing with his A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane. He broke out of his three-plane formation on the way to bombing practice in southwestern Arizona. They lost track of him near Telluride for three days, although it’s not uncommon to lose track of life for a few days while visiting Telluride.

A massive search ensued. While we appreciate Capt. Button, we really wanted to know what had happened to that incredibly expensive aircraft and the four 500-poind bombs it was carrying. A U-2 spy plane even joined the search.

Anyway, after about three days Capt. Button reappeared – not unlike the Baby Jesus, only Craig ascended into the heavens with a military aircraft. He flew in our direction – Capt. Button, not the Baby Jesus. He circled New York Mountain a few times and eventually crashed.

Vail Mountain Rescue and a big bunch of military searchers found some fingernail-sized Button bits, but not the bombs.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

February: Vail Resorts initial public offering of stocks offers a detailed look into the company’s inner workings, much of which has long been kept from the public eye. The company will sell $150 million worth of stock in its IPO, at between $19 and $21 a share.

March 14: United Airlines announces summer service into the Eagle County Regional Airport. The flight between Denver International Airport and Eagle County will take 25 minutes.

April 5: The notorious Panty Tree above Vail’s Chair 5 area was cut down by vandals who apparently hiked into the Back Bowls with a bow saw. The infamous aspen, for years the chronicler of the steamier side of the area’s local mountain life, was felled without permission from either Vail Resorts or the U.S. Forest Service. Also cut down were four other trees that had caught stray lingerie from those whose aim was not so true. The trees were left on the ground, with their “fruits” still in them. Ski company personnel cleaned it all up, and as a gesture of community goodwill they redepositied the lacy undergarments into a nearby tree.

October 14: Eagle County Commissioner James Johnson uses the “M” word, moratorium, suggesting it may be time to apply some brakes to the county’s growth. The other commissioners said they’d go along, but only if the towns do the same. The towns balked and it was business as usual.

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