Vail to host ‘Magic of Lights’ outdoor displays this season |

Vail to host ‘Magic of Lights’ outdoor displays this season

Vail Valley Foundation pitches project to Vail Town Council as a driver of early-season business

Many Magic of Lights installations are drive-through. The one for Vail will be pedestrian only at Ford Park.The display is expected to have a six-week run in December and January.
By the numbers
  • $250,000: Town of Vail contribution to the Vail Valley Foundation’s “Magic of Lights” event.
  • 6: Weeks of the display.
  • $TBD: Price for an adult ticket.
  • 500,000: Number of lights in the overall display.

The Vail Valley Foundation is working to inject some magic into the first weeks of the resort’s winter season. That magic comes from a display of up to 500,000 individual lights.

Foundation representative Dave Dressman on Tuesday described the still-developing plan to the Vail Town Council. The council agreed to put $250,000 into funding the project. The idea is for an attraction that would draw people to town, or provide another activity for those already in Vail.

“Magic of Lights” is a brand owned by Grant Reeves, who also operates Dock Dogs, one of the most popular events at the annual Mountain Games in the summer.

As planned, the Magic of Lights display will be a ticketed event, although ticket prices haven’t been finalized. A ticket buys a one-way walk through the Ford Park in and around the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. As currently envisioned, the roughly half-mile path will begin near Manor Vail Lodge and end with participants walking toward the Ford Park parking lot and bus stop. It should take less than 30 minutes to walk through the exhibit.

The exhibit will last about six weeks from mid-December to late January. That run could be extended, depending on the exhibit’s popularity.

Dressman said the idea for the display “has been on our radar for a couple of years.”

Perfect for social distancing

This season, the Magic of Lights display will be part of the Revely Vail early-season events.

Dressman said the display will use Reeves’ existing displays and his know-how to create an event that lends itself well to social distancing. Magic of Lights also has an existing database of visitors, Dressman added.

This season’s display will use items from Magic of Lights’ existing inventory, including a guitar-playing snowman, a “Candy Cane Lane” and a selfie area.

Dressman said that future years — a three-season run is planned — will provide time to create more Vail-specific displays.

The next years will also require less funding from the town. Dressman said the idea is that the town will be expected to contribute no more than $50,000 per season in the second and third years.

Councilmember Kim Langmaid asked about any potential harm to the sensitive plants that are in the gardens through the winter.

Sarah Franke of the foundation said no displays will be placed where either lights or visitors can harm the plants.

The council Tuesday voted to provide the funding, using money that isn’t being spent this year on Snow Days events. Councilmembers Travis Coggin and Jenn Bruno voted against the request. Coggin said he’d be more comfortable with allocating less town money to the project. Bruno said she’d prefer to act with more information than was provided in Tuesday’s presentation.

In search of events funding

The Magic of Lights exhibit is perhaps the biggest addition to Vail’s efforts to boost winter-season business.

Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said the Vail Commission on Special Events has been flooded with applications for funding to support a number of special events through the coming season. Vlaar said many of those requests are for music through the coming ski season.

The commission will review the applications at its Oct. 14 and 21 meetings, and will make decisions by the end of this month.

Vlaar added that Revely Vail — a town-wide après ski effort — will return this season. In addition, Vlaar said town officials met recently with about 30 restaurateurs, tent and heating vendors to nail down requests for outdoor dining tents for the winter.

Vlaar said between 15 and 20 restaurants will participate in the winter program. Those deals are being finalized now.

In addition, town officials are looking into four different locations for outdoor fire stations. Other areas for people to congregate are also being evaluated. Some of those warming areas may be transparent igloo strutures.

“We’re trying to get those ordered before everyone else (orders),” Vlaar said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at

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