Vail Daily’s parent company buys Vail Trail

Randy Wyrick

The Vail Daily ended what was left of Eagle County’s newspaper wars Friday when it closed a deal to buy the Vail Trail.

The Trail will abandon its Eagle offices, and the four staff members who accepted job offers with Colorado Mountain News Media – the parent company of the Vail Daily – moved the Trail’s operations to the Daily’s Eagle-Vail office building Friday afternoon. Colorado Mountain News Media will continue publishing the Trail each week.

Colorado Mountain News Media Director Bob Brown named the Vail Daily’s Laura Chiapetta as the Trail’s new publisher. Chiapetta will add the Trail to her duties as Colorado Mountain News Media’s Internet and New Media director. Chiapetta was the first advertising salesperson hired by the Daily in the early 1980s.

“It’s another mountain to climb, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Chiapetta.

Editorial voices

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The Trail has a 39-year history with Vail, a tradition Vail Daily publisher Steve Pope says will continue under the family-owned, Reno-based Swift Newspapers, which owns Colorado Mountain News Media and the Vail Daily.

“From a philosophical standpoint, Swift has a long history of supporting community newspapers,” said Pope. “We believe it’s unfortunate to allow a newspaper to go out of a market. With the kind of energy and resources we plan to apply to this project, the Trail will grow and prosper.”

Pope said that at least for now, the ad rates will not change. The Trail is scheduled to be distributed Thursday mornings.

The Daily, Pope said, has established itself as a moderately conservative editorial voice. The Trail, he said, will carry a more left-leaning political perspective. But neither publication will stray far from the center, he said.

“Philosophically, it’s important for disparate editorial voices to be present in a community. It makes a more healthy community,” said Pope. “All points of view should have a voice in their community, and a medium that allows that voice to be heard.”

“Strong history’

Former Trail owners Allen Knox and Bobby Knox could not be reached for comment. And former Trail editor David O. Williams said he would not issue any statements to any newspapers that were not independent.

“I’m only talking to independents, because that’s who I work for,” Williams said. He did make statements to the Aspen Daily News and the Summit Independent.

The Vail Daily has been down this road before when it acquired the Vail Valley Times. That weekly publication operated out of the same room the Vail Trail will occupy. The Vail Valley Times was shut down shortly after it was acquired, a fate Pope said can be avoided with the Trail.

“The difference is in the vigor with which the Trail as a product has been pushed,” said Pope. “The Trail has a strong history and revenue stream.”

It’s fairly common for dominant daily newspapers to own alternative weeklies, Pope said. The Chicago Tribune owns an alternative weekly, as do several others, including the Aspen Times, also owned by Swift.

The Vail Trail was launched by George Knox Sr., October 1965, with the slogan “Vail’s Greatest Newspaper!” The paper has carried that slogan in its flag since then, and will continue to carry it as part of Colorado Mountain News Media.

“The unexpected is expected in Vail, and now … Vail has a newspaper – to be published weekly during the ski season, and with monthly issues in the summer and fall,” said that inaugural issue.

Newspaper pioneer

In a front page story in that first Vail Trail, Knox was described as, “a one-time newspaper man and long-time advertising agency guy from the mid-west, bitten by the Vail bug, who decided that here was an opportunity a-begging not only to create a little business for himself but a chance to render a muchly needed service.

“The Vail Trail was born, and “a-way we go!'” the article said.

Sheika Gramshammer, one of Vail’s pioneers, recalled those early Trail days. She said she watched the Trail transform itself from largely a public relations organ to a legitimate newspaper, reporting the kinds of difficulties and growing pains the thriving resort community was dealing with.

“They’ve been around since the beginning. This is great. The Vail Trail has been part of our community since the very early days, and I’m glad to know it will continue,” said Gramshammer.

The Daily and Trail staff will have little interaction, at least at first, creating a healthy in-house competition.

“Competition is a good thing,” said Gramshammer, who, along with husband Pepi, launched Gasthof Gramshammer in 1963. “If we didn’t have the Alpenrose, Sweet Basil or the Sonnenalp, we would probably not have made the kinds of improvements we’ve made over the years.

“A little competition makes you look up, not just down and at yourself all the time,” she said.

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