Vail Yeti new owner very pleased with team, town after wrapping up successful first season |

Vail Yeti new owner very pleased with team, town after wrapping up successful first season

Vail Yeti won their final home game of the season 8-3 against the Breckenridge Vipers at Dobson Arena.
Madison Rahhal/Special to the Daily

The Vail Yeti hockey team went 15-3-1 at home this season, packing Dobson arena with several sell-out events and raising nearly $15,000 for local nonprofits.

For new owner Kyle Forte, who took over the team in October, the season was everything he was hoping for.

“The biggest part for us was just having a deep impact with the community, and I think we did that at a pretty good scale,” he said.

Forte has dedicated much of his life to the sport of hockey; before becoming the owner of the Yeti, he was the coach of the Kalamazoo Wings, a minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, and prior to that he was a hockey director for the Vail Mountaineers youth hockey program. He came back to Vail to help with Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy’s hockey program, and found himself in a position to own the Yeti just before the 2022-23 season started.

He said it was a whirlwind season, with lots of decisions made on the fly, but is very pleased with the way it turned out. The season culminated on Friday with a win at Dobson Arena for the final match of the season in Vail.

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“We had great support from the town of Vail, the Steadman Clinic, Howard Head, which really made the season a success,” Forte said.

The win brought the Vail Yeti’s at-home record to 15-3-1, a success by any measure. But aside from the gameplay, Forte said he measured some of the season’s successes in other ways, like selling out all of the “chuck a puck for charity” promotions, where fans purchase a puck and throw it out onto the ice in between periods in an effort to raise money for local nonprofits.

More than $14,000 was raised for local groups including Vail International Hockey, Buddy Mentors, Able Light, Limbs of Liberty, Steadman-Philippon Research Institute, Eagle County Emergency Responders Fund, Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Continental Divide, Mountain Rec, Advancement Via Individual Determination, Girls Scouts of Colorado, Women’s and Children’s Shelter, the Rotary Club, My Future Pathways, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and Runs of ALS.

While the regular season is now complete, the Yeti will host one more charity game at Dobson, an April 8 matchup with the Colorado Warriors, a group of veterans who play in hockey tournaments in an effort to foster camaraderie and fellowship after serving in the military.

“It would be great if we could pack the stands once again for that one,” Forte said.

Packing the stands at Dobson was the Yeti’s hallmark this season, something Forte attributes to the low ticket price ($10 in advance, $15 at the door) and the passion of the local community.

“We also offered kids free entry, so for $20, a family of four could have a nice night out,” he said.

Heading into next season, Forte said he doesn’t plan on raising ticket prices.

“That’s something we really pride ourselves on, we want to keep those prices low so money is never a barrier for people to come out in our own community,” he said. “We want to use this platform to enable and empower the community, and provide an amenity.”

The Yeti’s final home game on Friday saw packed stands. The team ended the season with a record of 15-3-1.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

The players attribute their strong play at home to the massive crowds, and the excitement that brings to the games. And Forte said the big-game atmosphere at Dobson also helps attract other teams who bring a high level of competition. Several games this season came right down to the wire.

“When those crowds show up, you do feel a little bit more pressure to perform — the pressure is on to put on a good show, and when we win we are winning for our town, and our community,” he said. “And it helps attract other teams, as well. They get to come to a place where people love to come vacation, and they get to be in front of these big crowds.”

Forte said he’s already looking forward to next season, trying to plan another good schedule with some of the budding rivalries the Yeti has in teams like the Breckenridge Vipers, who the Yeti went 4-2 against this season.

“It’s incredible how well both communities travel when we play one another — we go up there and a third of the fans have come from Vail to watch us, or visa versa, they come here and a third of the fans are cheering for the Vipers,” Forte said. “I think it goes to show that both organizations have really found their home within the community.”

As for next year, “We’re hoping we can retain a lot of the group that we had this year, but another good group of guys together and have another bang-up year,” Forte said.

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