Vail Daily 30th anniversary look back: 1998 |

Vail Daily 30th anniversary look back: 1998

Earth First burned down Vail's Two Elk Lodge, ski patrol headquarters and damaged four lifts because they were mad about the lynx, not the links.

The Earth Liberation Front wants to liberate the earth. It’s not clear what they want to liberate it from, but they’re very serious.

So serious that they firebombed Two Elk Lodge, ski patrol headquarters and four ski lifts high atop Vail Mountain, Oct. 19, 1998. They would have torched it a day sooner, but their truck got stuck in the mud.

When investigators asked who might have done such a thing, a bunch Earth Firstoids calling themselves The Family threw their smoke-stained hands into the air and volunteered their guilt on federal arson charges. It appears that the heads of the The Family were Chelsea Dawn “Mama Mayhem” Gerlach and William C. “Destructo Dad” Rodgers, and not in a Brady Bunch/Father Knows Best kind of way.

They say they did it because of their undying love and devotion to the lynx, although devotion to the links (as in golf) would likely be more productive.

Apparently no one told them that the last lynx was spotted in the area in the mid-1970s, and that it is now a classic example of the taxidermist’s art, and displayed on a shelf in this area. We’re not saying which town or which shelf, but we’ve seen it with our own eyes.

Turns out The Family was a busy bunch. They firebombed $24 million worth of stuff on Vail Mountain, and more stuff across five western states. Vail Resorts had all kinds of insurance, and the crimes created what no PR campaign could – warm fuzzy feelings and support for the company in our company town.

To start the fires, Rodgers ran across the top of Vail Mountain setting the fires, while Chelsea waited in the truck.

The rest of The Family had returned to Oregon, where most of them were eventually caught. They failed to follow Rodgers’ sterling example and kill themselves in jail.

When they were caught, Chelsea and William were hiding the same way Osama bin Laden was hiding – in plain sight. She was a DJ in a radio station and he had moved to Prescott, Ariz., and owned a bookstore.

They were finally caught when an old friend ratted them out. Their friend was packing a hidden tape recorder while he was asking them about it.

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


July 10, 1998: Vail lost local legend Lyndon Ellefson when he died after falling into a crevasse in the Swiss Alps. The athlete’s death came just days before he was scheduled to compete in the Skyrunning World Championship in Cervinia, Italy

Oct 19, 1998: Team Vail rallied for a dramatic win in the 1998 Eco-Challenge in Morocco. The haggard quartet, consisting of Sara Ballantyne, Mike Kloser, Billy Mattison and Andreas Boesel, crossed the finish line at Marakech after six days, 22 hours and 15 minutes of racing.

Nov. 17, 1998: Eagle County voters gave the local school district a $48 million bond package and a property tax increase.

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