Vail Daily’s decade in review, part 1
Daily staff writers
Vail, CO Colorado
Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series in which we look back at the Oughts, the first decade of the 21st century. We’re covering 2000-2002 today. We’ll get the rest later.
EAGLE COUNTY – Decades are a unit of time that breaks life down to a size where you can buy it a beer and reminisce.
Albert Einstein, who topped Hugh Hefner as the Person of the Century (the last century, not the one we’re in), insisted that time is abstract and does not actually exist. Which might explain the 84-year-old Hef and his 24-year-old fiance, Crystal Harris.
But the Vail Daily acts as if time exists, since we put out a newspaper every single day of the year. Time also exists for the purpose of tracking where we were and where we are now.
With that in mind, here’s a somewhat fractured look at the past decade in the Vail Valley, as reported by the Vail Daily and, in large part, the two imperfect authors of this roundup.
Here we go:
• In 2000, there was no Facebook, no YouTube and no iPods.
• Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a planette.
• The Dow Jones Industrial average was fluctuating around 11,000, like it is now.
• Financial scammer Bernie Madoff opened the decade as a high roller salesman. He ended it in prison after absconding with lots of money from lots of valley locals and others. Bernie sold a bunch of his stuff in 2010 at a pair of auctions in the Sonnenalp, where you could buy a Picasso for less than $500. Honest, it’s real. You can trust Bernie, can’t you?
Y2K, or Why Two, Kay?
The End of the World Glee Club sang that the year 2000, or Y2K, would be the end of the civilization that was soon to bring us reality television.
A few of us made actual Y2K preparations, learning to render lard and stockpiling the ingredients for duck-billed platypus l’orange. The rest of us stuffed the cupboard with a couple cases of Hostess Twinkies – food with a half-life, not an expiration date – and called it good.
As usual, the Twinkie-stockers had it right and the “we’re all gonna die” crowd was more wrong than wearing white after Labor Day.
Vail Resorts probably came up with the best Why Too, Kay scheme. The ski company collected $4.4 million from an insurance policy covering declining paid-skier days in the wake of Y2K. After Y2K, tourism and the stock market fell like membership in the Taliban Chamber of Commerce.
The insurance company that offered the policy, MDM Group Associates, decided it was no longer in its best interests to actually pay claims. So it stopped selling that particular policy.
Blue skies and Blue Sky
Vail’s Blue Sky Basin was still Category III and protestors rolled in from Boulder, shrieking that it was the last possible natural habitat for Canadian lynx, which hadn’t actually lived in Colorado for decades before the Colorado Division of Wildlife imported a bunch.
The area’s last naturally occurring lynx is stuffed and mounted in some guy’s office in the area. We’re not saying which guy, and we’re not saying which town, but we’ve seen it with our own eyes.
A woman from Boulder calling herself Moon Blossom chained herself high into a tree. It took more than 12 hours to bring Moon Blossom back to earth.
In early January 2000, Category III finally became Blue Sky Basin and opened 900 additional acres of new terrain in January 2000. Earl Eaton and Pete Seibert were on hand to cut the ribbon. Moon Blossom and her fellow travelers took a bus back to Boulder and we all skied happily ever after.
Hanging chads, etc.
Florida gave us hanging chads, butterfly ballots, and people who claimed they really wanted to vote for somebody else after they’d gone and done the deed. Gee Dubya Bush eventually won the presidential race after innumerable court hearings and appearances in front of backdrops filled with ever-increasing numbers of flags. Al Gore won an Academy Award.
We had a similarly disputed election locally, when Arn Menconi was elected county commissioner, topping Steve Morris by 39 votes.
• Three inmates escaped from the Eagle County Crossbar Hotel, but were rounded up quicker than you can say, “Stripes don’t match that plaid snowboard coat, son.” Sheriff A.J. Johnson reprimanded 13 sheriff’s office employees, including himself.
• As local Rotarians held a soiree in the Vail Marriott’s lower level ballroom, a pipe in a fireplace malfunctioned and set part of the hotel on fire. No one was injured and Eddie Blender continued his speech.
• The calendar rolled over to 2001 and Nathan Hall was the year’s first big story. He was 19 when he was skiing down Vail Mountain after working the last day of the season. He collided with Alan Cobb, who was killed instantly. After two years of legal maneuvering, Hall stood trial on felony charges brought by District Attorney Mike Goodbee, and convicted of criminally negligent homicide. Among those who testified that Hall was skiing out of control was Judge Buck Allen. Cobb’s death left two small children without a father.
• Vail Police Officer Ryan Cunningham became the first Vail cop to die in the line of duty, leaving a wife and daughter behind. Support and money poured in. One of Cunningham’s duties was putting together a volunteer corps to help with fundraising and special events. Ironically, the volunteer corps’ first event was the fundraiser for Cunningham’s family.
Terrorists crashed airliners into the World Trade Center’s twin towers and the Pentagon. Over Shanksville, Pa., passengers on a third airliner overpowered their hijackers as their plane crashed into an open field, and not into the White House as the terrorists had planned. It’s one of those watershed days when everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
The day of the attacks, local churches held services. One, at the Methodist Church in Eagle, was probably typical. People sang “God Bless America,” prayed for the country and the world, and mostly came out just to have someone else to talk to.
Security measures sprang up everywhere. Concrete barriers were placed in front of the Eagle County Regional Airport, and security of all sorts became the norm as the newly formed Department of Homeland Security flexed its muscle.
Soon after, Menconi was absent when the commissioners were signing a resolution supporting President Bush. Some locals were upset enough with Menconi that they launched a recall effort. The signature drive fell short.
•The Olympic Torch came through Eagle County in early 2002, just ahead of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. It was a bitter-cold early morning, but people still packed Broadway to cheer the torch runners on their way.
After running, those participating in the event got to keep their torches, which were turned off with a “special key” so they might never carry flame again.
A local business owner who had a torch of his own commented later that the “special key” looked a lot like a common allen wrench, and he vowed to re-light his torch, possibly to light his grill.
• A lot of people made Vail’s ski area a reality, but the lead dog on that team was Pete Seibert. Seibert died in July of 2002.
• Skylar Hootman, Travis Hansbarger and Laura Sandoval were on their way to Eagle Valley High School’s 2002 homecoming when their vehicle flipped. Hansbarger and Sandoval were critically injured. Hootman died. Eagle Valley’s baseball field is named in his honor. That same ill-fated evening, former Eagle Valley High School student Chelsea Gaetke died in a traffic accident in Denver.
• And finally, someone double-dog dared Vail firefighting stud Ryan Sutter to enter ABC’s “Bachelorette,” so that he, along with a dozen other suitors, might woo the fair Trista Rehn. When she eliminated all others, Ryan fell to his bended knee and on national television asked, “Wilt thou?” She agreed, but she did not wilt. The fair Trista is certainly a flower, but no shrinking violet. Ryan and Trista became a growth industry as magazines, television and newspapers made them international celebrities, falling in love as the nation watched. ABC, Vail Resorts and a few others trying to capitalize on them ponied up around $1 million for their wedding.
Kobeland, along with stories that failed to draw any attention from the national media.
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