Vail’s most recognizable residents talk about being valley locals
If Bridge Street had a walk of fame, there would be a lot of stars on it. And it’s likely that the row of luminaries would begin right at the Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer. While Vail draws a number of well-known faces and personalities thanks to its pristine slopes and glitzy villages, we have a few “Vail celebrities” of our own, too. Meet some of our favorites …
“I don’t think of myself as a celebrity,” Sheika Gramshammer said. “Rather, as a woman who got very lucky to have made her home and had the chance to raise a family in Vail.”
Pepi Gramshammer, an Austrian-born professional ski racer, and Sheika, a model, designer and dancer, met in Aspen in 1962, and it wasn’t long before they were hitched. The Gasthof opened on Dec. 18, 1964, and has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. You’ll see Pepi and Sheika there often, working with guests and connecting with friends.
“Since I am my own ‘boss,’ I don’t have to ‘steal time away,’” Sheika said. “I love to be at Pepi’s, and I like to make time to see my friends and meet new people.”
The couple and their family run the hotel, restaurant and sports shop, and the ever-recognizable Vail duo often reside at their top-level condo in the Gasthof, shining like stars over all who come and go, and especially who come and stay.
Queen Of Endurance
If you’re walking up Bridge Street, Ellen Miller is probably the petite speedster who is running past you. What’s most special about this accomplished endurance athlete, however, is that she will stop and say hi.
“I think that we have created a very special ambiance here in this town,” she said. “I think we are warm, and I think we are welcoming, and I think we are humble and gracious.”
After moving here 25 years ago to manage Alfalfa’s Market when it was in the village, Miller stayed. This has been her base camp ever since.
“One thread that has been constant throughout almost my whole life has been mountain climbing,” Miller said. “And that’s been very consistent, very solid passion, and it still is for me.”
Miller’s athleticism and love of mountaineering has taken her all over the world, and to the top of it … twice. She was the first North American woman to summit on the north side of Mount Everest from Tibet. The year, she peaked Everest again, from the south side.
Miller said she is physically made for mountain climbing and mountain living — she tends to tolerate places above 25,000 feet, “pleasantly.”
“I know my mitochondrial potential came from my mother, and I had the opportunity to thank her before she died for this gift — that for some reason my cells can adapt very easily to altitude,” she said.
This gift, along with natural leadership skills, support her work now as an outdoor fitness coach at the Vail Vitality Center. She’s an inspiration to many, and if she walks into a room, she lights it up.
Chef de Celebrity
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Kelly Liken has been in the news a lot recently, but that’s nothing new. As a competitor on “Iron Chef America” and “Top Chef,” as well as a James Beard semifinalist, Liken has just sold her well-known restaurant in Vail Village and is “actively seeking (her) next adventure.”
“We are at the cutting edge of Colorado cuisine,” she said. “I am so proud to be a part of it. Vail has proven itself time after time as a world-class designation with award-winning dining. We just need to continue striving for top-notch hospitality, and we’ve got it sewn up.”
While her hospitality brand is finding a new home, Liken and her family aren’t going anywhere soon.
“This place is like no other on earth,” she said of the Vail Valley. “The community is amazing; to be able to do what I do, on a national scale, and call Vail my home is everyone’s dream.”
Liken and her husband, Rick Colomitz, have their plates full with a 16-month-old girl at the moment, so she said time off is often spent at playgrounds and on bike rides.
“The fact that I can look forward to her walking to school and riding her bike in the neighborhood is why I continue to make the Vail Valley my home,” she said. “We are a like-minded community. We all live here for one reason: quality of life. There’s no other reason or one more important. We are lucky; we can do what we love, in an idyllic setting, and can be successful.”
Primetime Love Birds
Everyone watches “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette,” or that is, everyone watched the 2003 season of Trista and Ryan. I was 16 years old and watched every episode, so there you go.
The Sutters are a staple in this community and are often seen out and about with their two kiddos.
“You can usually find us doing anything that involves our kids, Max and Blakesley,” said Trista Sutter, “whether that means ballet or gymnastics classes, lacrosse or basketball practice, volunteering at Avon Elementary School, swimming, biking, skiing or just good old-fashioned time at the park.”
She said that since she moved to the valley from several decades of city living, she has developed a greater appreciation of nature. She’s grateful to be surrounded by such beauty every day, she said.
Ryan Sutter has lived here for years because of the wilderness, he said, and therefore he spends as much time as possible in it.
“My winters are spent on skis and a snowboard, while the summers involve countless hours on my bike,” he said. “I’ve heard the golf is pretty good around here as well, so this year I’m going to find out for myself.”
As a family, the Sutters “make memories” on hikes and stand-up paddleboarding sessions at Piney Lake, tubing at Adventure Ridge, camping at Sylvan Lake, fishing with Minturn Anglers, rafting with Lakota Guides, apres at the Ritz in Bachelor Gulch and lots of visits to their “second home,” the Vail Fire Station.
“Though being outside is where I prefer to be, I would be remiss if I did not include Yeti’s Grind coffee shop and Crespelle Crepes as mainstay actives,” he said. “I’m there so often it may be a problem.”
“Let’s just say,” Trista said, “we should’ve bought stock in both.”
While she’s often busy setting records on the slopes and walking red carpets all over the world, Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Vonn considers herself a Vail local.
“I’ve been living in Vail since I was 12 years old,” Vonn said. “So, I’d say I’m a local, for sure.”
And she is, especially considering her dining and hobby preferences.
“I go to Westside for breakfast a lot and take my dog hiking,” she said. “We go up Vail Mountain, and we go to Homestake a lot, and I go camping, and I go fly-fishing, and I love to go to Matsuhisa and have sushi; I go to Larkspur when it’s open. … I’m a normal local — I do pretty much everything everyone else does.”
Yes, that and more.
She’s probably more recognizable than an average local, but Vonn said she can feel like a “normal” person here.
“Everyone is really respectful, and I really appreciate that,” she said. “And it’s nice to feel a part of the community and feel respected, but at the same time, to be able to have your privacy and to be able to feel normal.”
The rest of Vonn’s family still lives in her native state, Minnesota, and while she says that there will always be a part of her heart there, Vail is where she comes to play, and she’s here to stay.
“I’m a mountain girl, and I love having everything at my doorstep,” she said. “Being able to go hiking and do runs on the river, and I can go fly-fishing … it’s just, everything is possible in Vail, and that’ll never change.”
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