Year in Review: Vail Valley’s highs, lows and in-betweens of 2018 |

Year in Review: Vail Valley’s highs, lows and in-betweens of 2018

As 2018 winds down and 2019 draws near, a lot has happened across the Vail Valley in a year.

Most notably, local resorts are off to the best starts snow-wise in years.

Here’s a look back at some headlines in 2018 from the Vail Daily, from the highs, the lows and everything in-between.

Vail, Beaver Creek open early for first time in more than 10 years

With more than 4 feet of natural snowfall heading into Thanksgiving, Vail and Beaver Creek mountains opened early for the 2018-19 season, joining other resorts across the state.

Vail was originally slated to open on Nov. 16 but opened on Nov. 14, and Beaver Creek opened on Nov. 17, four days ahead of schedule.

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And for the third time in the past decade, the Back Bowls of Vail opened early on Nov. 25. The earliest the Back Bowls have ever opened is Nov. 16, 2002.

Vail Police arrest woman found in dumpster for false reporting, say her story is ‘fictitious’

A woman found in a Vail dumpster in April was arrested for false reporting.

If convicted, the woman faces up to six years in prison.

Vail police said they spent more than 200 hours investigating the woman’s allegations, which they say are “fictitious.”

“The charges in this case are serious,” said Heidi McCollum, assistant district attorney. “People have been on edge, thinking that someone is harming people and dropping them in trash dumpsters.”

Fire at Minturn gun range

It was a dry, hot summer in 2018, leading to multiple fires in Eagle County and fire bans for outdoor enthusiasts.

The fire sparked at the Minturn gun range in September caused plumes of smoke in the area and prompted Vail Mountain to implement a precautionary evacuation.

The Minturn fire grew to about 10 acres before a joint effort by local authorities contained the growth.

The fire, and other aspects of the gun range, have prompted the town to consider how to manage the range moving forward.

Accused murderers ‘likely’ called an Uber in Pilgrim Downs, sheriff confirms

To kick off 2018, a 74-year-old woman was found strangled to death in her Pilgrim Downs home on Jan. 24.

A Pilgrim Downs property manager spotted an Uber driver waiting at the locked community gate and also saw lights on in the woman’s home at a time when they normally wouldn’t be on, the Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said. When the property manager got no response at the door, he asked his wife to call 911.

Deputies arrived moments later and found a window broken on the ground level and two sets of fresh footprints in the snow.

Lake Creek residents were warned to “shelter in place” before authorities found the two people about 400 yards from the house, shivering in single-digit temperatures with a dog they had brought with them.

Whistle Pig Vail: Everything you need to know about the new summer concert series

On June 16, Vail’s newest summer concert series Whistle Pig Vail debuted with Dispatch at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters performed June 19; 311 took the stage in September; and The Jerry Garcia Birthday Band also performed in August.

The new Whistle Pig Vail series, presented by the Vail Valley Foundation, aims to bring high-demand performances to Vail during open dates in the summer. Although ticketed events, the concerts sold out in the first year.

With a strong showing in Year 1, Whistle Pig Vail is in the works for a second season in 2019.

Buddy Werner League celebrates 50th anniversary in Vail

The Buddy Werner League has been helping kids learn life’s lessons for half a century.

In 2018, the ski season marked the 50th anniversary in the Vail Valley. The program serves more than 250 young skiers each season, training at Beaver Creek.

Buddy Werner League focuses on ski racing as well as safety, teamwork and other life lessons.

Epic Pass vs. Ikon Pass by the numbers

It was an exciting summer for skiers and snowboarders looking for more terrain to hit with their season passes. Vail Resorts started adding resorts across the globe to its Epic Pass while the new Ikon Pass hit the market from Alterra Mountain Co.

Epic Pass, celebrating 10 years, offers access 68 destinations and counting while the Ikon Pass provides access to 37 destinations and counting.

The Epic Pass cost is $949, and the Ikon Pass cost is $1,049.

Beaver Creek’s Haymeadow Park celebrates grand opening

Beaver Creek celebrated its new Haymeadow Park and Ice Cream Parlour in December. The grand opening celebration featured root beer floats, live music, ice cream and, of course, cookie time.

Haymeadow Park will contain several new learning features for young skiers and snowboarders as well as a gourmet restaurant featuring classic Old West dishes.

Beaver Creek’s Haymeadow Park will focus on teaching and entertaining children into 2019.

More than 2,400 petition signatures oppose Berlaimont plan north of Edwards

Heading into 2019, residents have been voicing their opposition to the proposed Berlaimont Estate plans in Edwards, a 680-acre parcel of private property surrounded by U.S. Forest Service lands. The proposal includes 19 units and nine accessory units on 35-acre or larger parcels in the area.

Developers must build an access road through Forest Service land, causing more than 2,4000 people to sign a petition opposing the project.

Eagle County’s WECMRD rebranded as Mountain Recreation

One of the county’s longest acronyms is no more — Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District is now Mountain Recreation.

For more than 40 years, the organization has provided athletic opportunities for youth across the valley.

“WECMRD seemed a little bit cumbersome and outdated,” said Mike McCormack, of Mountain Recreation.

Have you seen my Sno-Cat?

On a quiet Sunday morning in March, a large, orange “General Lee” Sno-Cat went missing from the Turntable restaurant’s parking lot in Minturn.

A man allegedly hitched the Sno-Cat and trailer to the back of his small Toyota pickup truck and hauled it to Grand Junction, creating a stir on social media of people posting pictures of the identifiable Sno-Cat on the road.

The owner of the Sno-Cat’s Facebook post was shared 3,000 times.

A man was later busted in Boulder, and the Sno-Cat was returned to its rightful place in Minturn.

Injured skier at Beaver Creek saved by vacationing ER doctor on Larkspur

A spring break trip in March turned disastrous when a 16-year-old skiing with his father and brother collided with a snowboarder, slicing his forearm with his ski.

Luckily, an ER doctor from North Carolina on vacation happened to be skiing by and assisted ski patrol with the young man’s fairly serious injury.

“He’s kind of the angel on the mountain,” the father said of the doctor, along with ski patrol.

Study: Eagle County has third-highest life expectancy in nation

While Summit County’s life expectancy is the highest in the nation, according to a study published in May by the Journal of the American Medical Association, neighboring resort counties of Pitkin and Eagle ranked second and third nationwide.

In 2014, the latest year the data is available, Eagle County’s life expectancy was 85.94, according to the report, and Summit’s was 86.83.

One of the study’s co-authors cited high education, high income, high access to medical care, a physically active community and lower rates of obesity as many reasons for the high life expectancy.

Hundreds of Vail Valley students walk out of class to honor 17 slain in Florida

Students across Eagle County demanded action in school safety in March, walking out of classes one Wednesday morning and staying out for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.

“The idea of a person coming into a school and killing kids was unimaginable,” one student said of the time when their parents were in school. “For us, these things are a part of daily life.”

Eagle County knows finding affordable housing solutions never gets easier

In 2017, the average home sales price in Eagle County was over $1 million. In the same year, the average local median income was $86,000. A resident in 2017 earning an average wage can afford around a $300,000 home.

That means there’s a $700,000 gap between the average sale price and what an average person can pay.

The Eagle County Housing Department exists to combat this issue, with a stated mission to provide innovative, affordable housing solutions to the working people, elderly and disadvantaged members of the community.

With gold and silver, Mikaela Shiffrin savors the ‘incredibly sweet’ moment

In February, Eagle-Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin had hopes of winning five gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

But bad weather and a scrambling schedule left her with a gold and a silver, and that was OK.

“To come away from this Olympics with two medals is insane, especially after the schedule changes,” she said. “It was like someone was playing a game of pingpong in my brain.”

Shiffrin is off to another hot start on the World Cup circuit, seeking her third straight overall title.

Vail Resorts, Alterra and Powdr discuss ski industry trends at Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference

In October, Hotel Talisa in Vail welcomed a multi-day conference focused on tourism in Colorado.

“It kind of sounds like we’re facing an uphill battle, but really Colorado is doing amazing in this industry,” said moderator Lauren Berlamino. “I think nobody’s better positioned than our state to continue to ride this momentum and be successful amidst all this change that we’re seeing.”

Compared to other states in the ski industry, Colorado ranks no. 1 as a destination — and is eighth in the U.S. for year-round destination.

“This is not new news,” Berlamino said. “We’ve been holding the first position for several years, and it’s really our position to lose.”

US moguls team named with 7 of 17 skiers from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail

In May, the U.S. Ski Team announced its 2018-19 mogul team nominee, and seven of the 17 skiers are Ski & Snowbaord Club Vail alumni.

Vail native Tess Johnson will enjoy her first year as a member of the squad’s A team, the top tier of the program, as will Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Casey Andringa. New York transplant Morgan Schild also secured her spot on the A team, despite the fact that her season had to be cut short due to injury.

On the B team, Casey Andringa’s brother Jesse will enjoy his first year as a member of the U.S. squad, joining his teammates Hunter Bailey, Emerson Smith and Dylan Walczyk.

Where has all the wildlife gone: CPW officials cite 50 percent drop in Eagle Valley’s elk population

A story in June asked readers to imagine if, over a 10-year period, half of Eagle County’s human population disappeared.

During the past decade, the exact scenario has played out for one group of county residents. Today’s elk population in the area — from Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon — is 50 percent lower than it was in 2007.

This precipitous drop has personnel from Colorado Parks & Wildlife concerned.

“We are not seeing the animals migrate to another area or permanently move somewhere else,” said a wildlife manager for Colorado Parks & Wildlife. “They are just dead and gone.”

Vail, Burton sign three-year extension for resort to hose US Open

Since 2013, Vail has hosted the signature Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. A three-year contract extension in 2018 will keep the Open in Vail through 2021.

“During the last six years that the U.S. Open has taken place at Vail, the event has grown its legacy as the premier rider-driven snowboard event in the world,” said Jake Burton, founder and chairman of Burton.

The Burton U.S. Open first took place in Vermont in 1982 and is the longest-running snowboarding competition in the world.

GoPro Mountain Games gets even more massive with expansion into Wolcott, Eagle-Vail

In June, the annual GoPro Mountain Games transforms Vail into a massive arena of activity featuring outdoor enthusiasts and athletes.

In recent years, however, the event has outgrown Vail and has branched out into the surround areas, impacting the county as a whole.

The event features kayak racing, trail running, climbing, disc golf, competitions for dogs and more.

“There’s so many other side events — live music, gear town, competitions in the water and on the trails, giveaways, walking around and putting free stuff in your goodie bag — all these other elements make it attractive to people from all over,” said Steve Klehfoth, who helps manage the disc golf portion of the Mountain Games, which this year had a payout of $8,500, likely one of the largest a competitor is likely to see in the sport.

Vail testing fully electric buses this year; purchases wouldn’t come until 2020

For a few weeks in 2018, four largely silent buses ferried passengers between the town’s soccer fields and the west end of Lionshead Village.

The tests — about five days per bus — were run to determine how fully electric buses perform on what town officials call the in-town routes.

The tests started in March, when a bus from manufacturer BYD was in town. In addition to working on the town’s regular routes, the vehicle was also used to bring Vail Town Council members and other officials from Town Hall out to the town’s bus barn and shops.

Vail’s fleet manager said the vehicles may actually be too quiet, especially in busy pedestrian areas where people may not be paying attention to things such as oncoming buses.

Vail upper elevation snowmaking expansion receives draft approval from Forest Service

This story squeaked in just before the new year, and will likely be a topic of discussion heading into 2019.

Vail Mountain is looking to move its snowmaking from the Lionshead area to the top of Gondola One, creating a new area for skiers and snowboarders early and late season.

Moving snowmaking to higher elevations would be an effort to enhance the reliability and consistency of the skiing surface.

The Forest Service issued draft approval of the plan earlier in December.

“Currently, Vail cannot ensure high-quality conditions during the early- and mid-season, nor reliable conditions through mid-April,” wrote Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest.

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley secures land for 7 years of home-building

In total, Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley has now tied up construction plans for 48 new homes.

During the last application cycle for Habitat homes, 69 families applied for the six available homes, showing the ever-present need.

“Having our land needs met for the next few years will allow the organization to focus on other important areas of our work,” said Stuart Green, Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley Board of Directors president.

By 2021, Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley will serve 100 families.

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley has volunteer opportunities year-round.

Vail’s InDeed deed restriction purchase program has successful first year

The town of Vail in 2017 adopted a strategic plan that called for putting deed restrictions on an additional 1,000 units by 2027.

That plan got off to a strong in 2018, with officials seeing significant progress. In 2018, 32 townhomes at the Chamonix neighborhood in West Vail have all been sold and occupied. Work has also begun to replace the Solar Vail apartments, just east of Red Sandstone Elementary School.

Vail’s latest deed restrictions have a number of rules, including limiting use of units to only people who work an average of 30 hours per week in Eagle County. Units can’t be used for short-term rentals.

Eagle County leads statewide mental health funding trend

When Eagle County voters approved a 2017 ballot measure instituting sales and excise taxes on marijuana products with the proceeds dedicated to mental health services, they may have started a movement in Colorado.

In 2018, 10 counties across the state passed measures to improve mental health services in their communities.

“We had a few organizations give us a call about community engagement,” said Eagle County Public Health Director Chris Lindley. “Seeing out success the year before made them more confident.”

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

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