Vail Valley Character: David Viele
VAIL, Colorado ” David Viele was a homegrown Vail, Colorado kid who developed into one of the best ski racers in the country. After four years on the U.S. Ski Team, he raced for Dartmouth, where he won back-to-back NCAA titles in giant slalom, in 1998 and 1999. After a stint living in Denver, he returned to Vail, eventually becoming a leader in business and civic life. He’s now president of J.L. Viele Construction, the company his father founded, and serves on Vail’s planning commission.
Vail Daily: How was a childhood in the Vail Valley unique, and how did it shape you as an adult?
David Viele: I think it made me very independent. There just weren’t a lot of normal suburbia-type things to do. In the afternoon, I’d go fishing out our back door or go hiking or go build a slalom hill out of our back door.
VD: What did you like about ski racing?
DV: I liked that I was in control of my destiny, to as much of a degree as possible. I couldn’t blame anybody else for a bad day, and it was all on my shoulders. And that was also what I didn’t like about it. And being outside. When you grow up in a town like Vail and you grow up in an environment like I did, you like being outside, being the first guy on the lift in the morning. There’s a freedom that comes with being a ski racer and a skier.
VD: You won a couple of ski championships at Dartmouth. What was that experience like, especially after some serious injuries (blew out left knee, broke right kneecap) and having left the U.S. Ski Team?
DV: I think it was, at some level, redemptive. But I always loved to ski. I grew up knowing that ski racing was a means to an end, and I probably didn’t have the skills and talent to be a Bode Miller. I knew I was good, but I think once you make the national team, you figure out very quickly that there’s only going to be one guy in the room ” or maybe not anybody in the room ” who is going to be the best. I mostly just enjoyed it. It was fun. It was what I did. It was a huge part of how I saw myself, as a ski racer.
VD: Why did you return to the Vail Valley after living in Denver?
DV: My dad was thinking about slowing down the company and wanted to get out, and I didn’t really take to corporate America very well. And I wanted to live in Vail. I wanted to live in the mountains. I spent three years in the city and realized I was not cut out for the city.
VD: What’s in store for the local construction industry over the next couple of years?
DV: I think we’re going to see a massive contraction, probably on the scale that we haven’t seen in 20 years. I would be surprised if the bounce-back happens within the next 16 or 18 months. I would be very surprised. I think some people are going to go out of business. Some people are going to leave. But I think you’re going to see a real flight to quality, a flight to people who have their financial house in order. I think the market will eventually be better off locally.
VD: You’re on Vail’s planning commission. Is that job as boring as it sounds?
DV: (Laughs.) I’m on the planning commission for a lot of reasons. I think it’s an important position in the town because I think that board has the ability to shape what Vail’s going to look like moving forward. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t boring at times, but i think it’s also very exciting at times.
VD: Would you run for Town Council?
DV: I think I’d consider running for council. I think it’s a huge time commitment. I don’t know that I have either the temperment or time to do that yet, but, yeah, I would like to and I think that’s probably in the cards at some point.
VD: Your wife, Rachel, is an elite marathoner. So who has the better athletic cred in your family, you or her?
DV: She does. I never got to race a World Cup. She got 35th in the New York Marathon. I don’t think there’s any comparison.
VD: You’ve lived here your whole life, but do you still ever have moments when you think to yourself, ‘This is a really cool place to live’?
DV: I had some friends from New York out ” I was a finance guy, so a lot of my friends from college and grad school are in New York or London doing finance ” and they were out in Vail for three days, and we went to Aspen for three days, and they were remarking that they are going to spend the rest of their lives trying to afford, on the weekends and holidays, the lifestyle that I have. I’m fully aware of how wonderful I have it.