Vail honors Australian national holiday |

Vail honors Australian national holiday

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
CVR Aussie Day DT 1-26-11

VAIL, Colorado – Harriet Hooke didn’t think anyone in Vail would know what Australia Day even is, let alone celebrate it.

Vail Mountain rolled out the red carpet for Australians Wednesday in honor of Australia Day, which celebrates the anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip unfurling the British flag and proclaiming British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia in 1788.

The warm welcome in Vail didn’t go unappreciated or unnoticed.

“It’s awesome – it’s better than Australia does it,” said Hooke, who is vacationing in Vail with her family.

Her father, Mitch Hooke, said the Australia Day festivities are “such a compliment.”

Vail Mountain celebrated with balloons, boxing kangaroo blow-up animals, Australian flag temporary tattoos, stickers and miniature flags on toothpicks. Vail Mountain’s restaurants also served up specialties from down under, including meat pies, Australian lamb stew and sausage rolls.

Claire Graham, an Australian Vail Mountain marketing department employee, helped plan the festivities and tried to make it feel as authentic as she could. She was passing out Australia Day stickers and tattoos at the Two Elk Lodge Wednesday afternoon, as a playlist of all Australian music played loudly throughout the room.

“We’re trying to acknowledge our Australian guests,” Graham said. “We want to let them know we’re glad that they’re here and that we hope they’ll come back.”

Graham said she’s noticed a lot of Australians in town over the last couple of weeks, more so than she thinks have come to Vail in previous years.

Tina Hartin and John O’Brien, who came over from Australia for six weeks, were taking pictures with Australian flags tattooed on their faces so they could post them on Facebook and show everyone back home they were celebrating in Vail.

“This is great,” Hartin said.

A strong Australian dollar has made the trip to Colorado easier on the wallets for many travelers. While Hartin and O’Brien said they didn’t come specifically because of the strong dollar, they did extend their trip because of it.

The exchange rate Wednesday was almost a dollar for a dollar. Australians who have traveled to the United States in years past said they feel like they’re getting a great deal this year.

“It’s awesome, everything is so cheap,” said Tom Mathers, who said his family does a ski trip every Christmas. “This year it’s so cheap because the dollar is pretty much the same.”

Mathers is spending his Colorado ski holiday in both Vail and Steamboat this year. The Australia Day celebration at Two Elk Wednesday afternoon was an added bonus, he said.

“It’s so cool. We weren’t expecting this,” Mathers said.

The balloons, music and flags made Cail Edwards feel a bit homesick, but he was happy to see a bit of home while in Vail for his ski holiday.

Edwards’ holiday isn’t just a couple of weeks, though – his is a couple of months.

“I’ve been saving up and just sort of left my job to become a ski bum,” Edwards said.

The exchange rate for the dollar has made the trip even better, he said.

For Australians who haven’t skied in Vail before, like Alan Bird, the warm welcome goes above and beyond expectations.

Bird skied Vail with an Australian flag draped around him all day Wednesday, and the response was nothing but friendly, he said.

“I think the Americans are being wonderful,” Bird said. “Every one of them. Even the lifties have come out of their warm huts to say “Happy Australia Day,” and that’s great. Some of them might not know quite where Australia is, but it’s great that they recognize that it’s our day.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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