Year in review: First family comes to Vail
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – We live in a world of short attention spans. That’s why it’s always interesting to go through the archives.
This past year was eventful in ways many of us have forgotten while we’re getting the kids to school, worrying about work and taking care of our other day-to-day duties. Here’s a look at the first three months of 2011, the first of a four-part year in the review.
• Beaver Creek Resort took its first official step toward upgrading its fixed-grip triple-chair Rose Bowl lift to a high-speed four-seater. The new lift would cut the ride time from 11 minutes to five.
The lift opened in the fall to good reviews, although at the time of the proposal, some readers were concerned that the new chair might put too many people into Rose Bowl.
• Richard “Rossi” Moreau remains in jail, the only suspect in a Nov. 7, 2009, shooting at the Sandbar in West Vail. Moreau’s mental health occupied a lot of courtroom time, starting in January, when District Court Judge R. Thomas Moorhead ruled that Moreau, who is charged with eight felonies including first-degree murder for the death of Carbondale man Dr. Gary Kitching, must receive a mental health evaluation at a Colorado state mental health facility.
Mental health experts retained by the defense caused months of delays in pretrial hearings and two delays of the trial itself. The trial was originally set to begin in September 2010 and was postponed until February and then postponed again to begin in July.
• With Vail seeing no races or closing award ceremonies during the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, town officials balked at contributing money to the event.
The Vail Valley Foundation, the host of the 2015 Championships, asked the town of Vail to contribute $1.25 million to the event, or $250,000 per year over five years. The Foundation asked Beaver Creek for $2.5 million.
“It’s a very bitter pill to swallow that we are not having any races,” Councilwoman Margaret Rogers said.
Rogers was particularly peeved by the fact that the closing awards ceremony is scheduled to take place in Beaver Creek, when Vail Valley Foundation officials have repeatedly said Vail would be the awards and celebration center throughout the Championships.
Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz told the Town Council that the reason the final awards would be in Beaver Creek is because the closing ceremony always happens in the finish area just moments after the last race.
Vail was later awarded a Nation Team event as part of the 2015 races.
• A system that uses heated wastewater from Avon’s wastewater treatment center to heat the pool in the recreation center was opened in January.
That neat trick took a mixture of political will, engineering ingenuity and about $4.5 million. The resulting project is unique in the state, said Greg Winkler, of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which provided a $1.5 million grant for the project.
While the system will cut the heating bills for the pool by 30 percent to 40 percent, it can also be expanded to include sidewalks and heat for Avon’s Town Hall in the future.
• Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin has been in the property-assessment business much of his adult life, but he’s never had a year like this.
Early in the year, Chapin estimated that property values for tax purposes would probably drop an average of 30 percent from the 2008 valuation to 2010. Those values would be reflected in property taxes collected during 2012.
“This is the most difficult reappraisal I’ve ever been involved in,” Chapin said. “There’s a decided lack of information out there.”
• Not long after his inauguration, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper hit the road to talk about economic recovery. His first stop on that tour was in Edwards.
Speaking to an invitation-only crowd at the Singletree Community Center, Hickenlooper said he wanted to create a “bottom-up” plan to revitalize the state’s economy.
“We want to focus on issues surrounding economic development and what will allow us a more rapid ascent,” Hickenlooper said.
The idea, Hickenlooper said, was to get regions, and then the state, talking about new ideas for the state’s economy. He said there’s a problem in that different parts of the state don’t know what’s going on elsewhere.
• The Vail Valley Foundation celebrated its 30th birthday in January.
Those three decades covered billions of details and decisions, millions of dollars raised and distributed, hundreds of thousands of people entertained and inspired and one pair of khaki pants for Willie Nelson.
After opening the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater with a concert by local musicians, Nelson followed a few days later with the first professional show. A foundation board member knew a guy who knew Willie and knew that Willie was a golf fanatic.
So Willie showed up, soulfully singing that all his heroes were still cowboys, and went down to Arrowhead to play golf. The foundation got a call from the golf course declaring that while Nelson is a wonderful human being and a great American, he’s not playing their course in blue jeans. So the foundation folks scrambled around for some khaki pants for Willie.
Next to that, what’s a World Alpine Ski Championships or three?
• Maia Fishman and Brielle Quigley, both 7 years old, placed their tiny, delicate hands on the same kind of feather quill Moses used and helped inscribe a few letters in a new Torah, just for our valley.
The Chabad Jewish Center of Vail’s Torah was the first to be completed in the valley. Completing new Torahs is a rare event anywhere, especially here.
Almost no one in Gracie Finkel Freedman’s Singletree home had seen a Torah-dedication ceremony.
“I’ve been to one, myself, and that was many years ago,” said Rabbi Dovid Mintz, with the Chabad Jewish Center of Vail.
A scribe in Israel spent a year and a half on it, completing the entire Torah but leaving the last five lines blank to be filled in by members of the local community.
But Rabbi Aaron Raskin, of Brooklyn, wrote the last word – “Israel.”
• The 2010 census came out over the year and put Eagle County’s population at 52,197, up 25 percent from 41,659 in 2000.
• First lady Michelle Obama came to Vail in February for Presidents Day weekend.
A motorcade of about a dozen vehicles, including 15 local law enforcement officers, traveled from the Eagle County Regional Airport to Vail, according to the Colorado State Patrol. Roads were temporarily blocked to make way for the motorcade in Eagle.
During the weekend, our own Randy Wyrick covered the visit, and visits to the Vail Daily’s website – and comments on the stories – brought down the servers for pretty much the whole corporation of which we’re a part.
• A February cold snap put some literal snap into water pipes around the valley.
A couple of the bigger floods hit the Landmark condos in Lionshead and the Vail Cascade. A news release from the Cascade stated that water from the pipe rupture didn’t affect any guest rooms and the only damage occurred in some of the hotel’s offices and The Market Cafe.
Water from the Landmark flowed into Billy’s Island Grill and toward the North Face store.
Everything was cleaned up, of course, but the valley’s disaster-restoration companies were working overtime for several days after the big freeze.
• Freeskier Magazine’s search for a national Lange Girl winner stopped in Eagle County. Amy Blakey, of Eagle, entered the contest, along with nearly 100 other women. Her prize was a brand new pair of Lange ski boots, a new set of skis and a sweet photo spread in Freeskier Magazine.
“It’s really exciting,” Blakey said. “When I got the email (saying that I had won), I was jumping around and flattered to win the contest, for sure.”
• Eight local skiers and snowboarders who took the Minturn Mile backcountry route off Vail Mountain ended up stranded overnight before Vail Mountain Rescue teams were able to get them down.
The group finally got off the mountain around 2 p.m. after a night in the backcountry, shaken from the experience, since they had nothing more than standard ski gear and some flashlights.
Thanks to a smoker in the group, they were able to start a fire, using it both to stay warm and to melt snow for drinking water. Snow fell throughout the night, and temperatures dropped into single digits.
Someone from the group called for rescue around 8 p.m. from a cellphone. Vail Mountain Rescue asked them to shine their flashlights down toward U.S. Highway 24, which the stranded group could see from where they were, in order to locate them. Nobody in the group had a compass, map or GPS.
“I’m just embarrassed,” one of the rescued men said.
• Avon’s SnowBall Music Festival drew people from around the country for three days of DJs and techno music and a headline performance by the Flaming Lips.
The concerts drew as many as 10,000 people per day to Nottingham Park. The town reported record sales tax collections for the month. Merchants and hoteliers were happy.
But many neighbors weren’t happy about the show. The park was a trashy mess, they said. Condo associations had to pay for added security for their parking lots. There were nearly 50 arrests over the weekend, most for drug possession or underage alcohol consumption. The air in the “groove” tent was thick with marijuana smoke. Some neighbors claimed the thundering bass from some of the acts shook their windows and skewed photos hung on their walls.
SnowBall returns this winter, with the promoters promising they’ll do their best to take better care of the neighbors. Still, it’s probably going to be pretty loud out there.
• A March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan was the fourth-strongest ever measured in the world, and some local students had their world shaken, too.
Ski and Snowboard Club Vail racers Delaney Patterson, Quin Davis, Zeke Pierce and Victor Guilminau were in Japan for a race the day the quake hit.
Patterson described the quake as feeling like riding in a car caught in a strong gust of wind.
The racers’ parents largely kept their composure. The kids were able to stay in touch with their families while they were in Japan, and they had with them coach Nigel Cooper, who knows the country, the language and the culture.
• Vail Valley Medical Center’s Edwards campus started the final phase of its long-term plans with the start of work on a new day-surgery center. The center will add to services that already include the Shaw Regional Cancer Center, the EagleCare Clinic for low-income residents and Jack’s House, a place patients can stay while they’re being treated at the Shaw Center.
The new surgery center is expected to be finished in the spring.
• Martin Cooper always expected everyone would have a cellphone one day. But he never imagined he’d use one to save a friend.
Cooper, 82, is known as the father of the cellphone. After years of working for Motorola on portable devices from pagers to police radios, Cooper led a team that created the first cellphone in just 90 days in 1973.
In March, Cooper took Masami Yamamoto, a friend and business associate, for his first runs at Vail. It didn’t go well. Yamamoto got separated from his friend, skied off a catwalk and found himself dangling from a tree.
Yamamoto was able to use his cellphone to call for help and was rescued that day.
• A Longmont man is the only suspect in the shooting death of a Vail Valley native who was in Boulder for St. Patrick’s Day.
Kevin McGregor is accused of killing Todd Walker, 20, during a botched robbery while Walker was walking Elizabeth Roach home from a party near the University of Colorado campus.
Walker, a Battle Mountain High School graduate, was attending college in New Hampshire at the time of his death and has been remembered both there and here as a friend and role model. He is missed by many.
• Kenzie Shreeve, a former volleyball star at Eagle Valley High School, took her game to Switzerland to play the sport professionally.
Her first game was the Saturday she arrived. She practiced twice with her new team before her first match.
“I am having an amazing time here, and I am so happy that I decided to do this,” Shreeve said.