Vail Daily column: The audacity of it all
In the mid-1980s, a group of Vail movers and shakers proposed Vail host the World Alpine Ski Championships in 1989 — audacious as these sort of things are really only done in Europe and how would it ever get funded? Well, it did get funded, it was a success and, most importantly, it did recognize on-mountain venues alone would not have been enough without world class support from the workforce in general, small business in particular, coupled with resident and guest volunteers. In fact, it went so well that the feat was repeated in 1999 and 2015 — spearheaded by the Vail Valley Foundation.
Not too many years ago, the Vail Town Council proposed that 30 percent of our workforce should live in Vail — again audacious as how to get it funded and where located. But in this case it didn’t happen, with significant, but ultimately inadequate, mix of rental and purchase units. These include: Timber Ridge, The Commons, Middle Creek, Vail Resorts’ First Chair, the new Lions Ridge complex, small clusters and single units spread around town — coupled with a diminishing number of privately owned rental units. All this is compounded with the seldom discussed diminishing return phenomenon, where employed workers eventually become retired workers as they rightly want to stay in any subsidized housing. Hence if you are not moving forward housing-wise, then you are moving backward by definition.
What has been missing is bold action to match bold vision. This has to begin with a greater recognition that Vail to our destination guests is one entity, encompassing on-mountain and everything off-mountain. In short, if Vail is indeed world class, then Vail must do as well as Disney does for workforce housing and must put additional substance to the slogan “Vail, like nothing on earth” — where Vail Resort’s motto would be hollow except for what happens off-mountain.
The recent brainstorming session in the Vail chambers brought out two important points:
• Be bold: With notions of: one, building 3,000 beds in a structure over I-70; two, building ski-in, ski-out dormitories on Forest Service land on the mountain and; three, taking advantage of new ways to acquire Forest Service land — in this case land that is nearby, consistent with planning and accessible by foot and/or public transportation.
• Vision: We need a roadmap as a rallying point, else just never-ending talk the same as 30 years ago.
Vision has to include specifics — including location options.
So what to do? First, as said at the meeting, a bold vision is needed. Second, the need for a champion — and I don’t think that can be seven council members around the horseshoe. Needed is a champion with clout, consistency and strong vested interest, who can be the prime mover — the jump-starter to get things going, but certainly not the only financial contributor. Then a rallying label, such as “beds serving Vail” that can catch the imagination of organizations (who might desire naming rights), individuals with a passion for Vail to contribute in funding, coupled with, yes, some form of ongoing funding mechanism. The candidates for such a champion clearly include Vail Resorts, the Vail Valley Foundation with a new type role and others yet to be identified.
So what happens next? I’m just reporting what I have heard recently, coupled with observations of what has been possible since 1960, when my wife and I drove by a nondescript place off U.S. Highway 6, where it was rumored with audacity that a ski area was to be developed in the middle of nowhere. Note: Vail opened in December 1962.
Paul Rondeau lives in Vail.
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