Vail needs surgery for the soul as well
As Vail Resorts, various other private developers and the Town of Vail gear up to spend upwards of a billion dollars (what recession?) on remaking the body of Vail’s commercial core, let’s hope they pay some serious attention to preserving the town’s soul.The impending threat by arch-nemesis Intrawest, the very real need to beautify what can only be described as resort blight in Lionshead, and the ever-powerful pull of cashing in on new and remodeled real estate have all combined to drive a sweeping redevelopment plan. And that’s good, I guess.But what has me worried is that we’re holding up the Intrawest resort village model as the ideal for what Vail should become.I have nothing against the Canadian company. They run some very fun mountains such as Copper Mountain and Whistler but I’m not necessarily a fan of their villages. A bit too urban and monolithic, if you ask me.The kids seem to love it, though. With all the big-name retail chains like Banana Republic and the Gap, it’s like skiing (excuse me, snowriding) above a shopping mall, then doing aprs at the food court. Not my cup of tea, but then they’re not really targeting me.It’s a wise strategy that’s paying off in big ways for Intrawest, as they steadily grow a future clientele that will maintain brand loyalty for decades to come. But I wonder what those villages will look like then.My parent live near Winter Park, so I have more than just a passing interest in what Intrawest is planning for the longtime Front Range favorite. I fear the kind of cookie-cutter planning that makes Copper Mountain seem somewhat impersonal to me.Winter Park never had much atmosphere (aprs ski ala East Colfax, someone once called it), so I guess anything is an improvement, but Vail Village does have a certain charm.Call it plastic Bavaria all you want, but it works. Lionshead, obviously, needs to be nuked. But in doing all this, we should not bend to the almighty dollar and pack in as many units as we can, ignoring parks and village squares where humans can congregate and socialize.Nor should we build a village with no parking, where only tourists will come, plopping down their $20 to park and then walking around like zombies in a winter resort Disneyland.Most of the private entities involved could give a rat’s about keeping things in a human scale, warm and inviting for locals and guests alike. They’ll just try to cash in in the biggest way possible.It’s up to the public sector, our elected officials, to force atmosphere and charm down the developer’s throats. We can’t bend to short-term profiteering and ignore the long-term aesthetics of the new Vail. After all, we’re the ones who have to live with it for the next 40 years.
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