Vail Daily column: The comeback kid | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: The comeback kid

Don Rogers
My View
Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

Well, I’m just a fan. I try not to let it show, though. Being a journalist and all.

Rod Slifer didn’t just help start Vail from the beginning. He stayed engaged through the twists and turns of the town and valley-long community’s development through generations, right up into the 2000s in his encore tenure as Vail’s mayor at a crucial time.

He has devoted an awful lot of time and energy to us, you know. That’s not too strong a way to put this, either. Slifer shepherded more than the real estate company that bears his name.

We’re lucky, and maybe our kids are even luckier. Most of us emigrated here. I’m one of the rare, rare birds who came here for the job, a surfer who skied once before in 1981 and had no out-of-body experience sliding down a mountain. It was more biting off way more than I could chew and having too many out-of-the-skis experiences as I yard-saled my way down a too-steep run on a hill near Lake Tahoe.

Not to worry, I learned what this is all about in 2000, flipping and flopping and bruising my butt until snowboarding became a state of bliss.

Of course, Slifer had been here 40 years by then, and was just getting started. I’m sure he did important stuff back when — running ski school as well as the office, selling real estate, managing properties, buying the beer, serving as mayor in the mid-’80s. But the town was at a crossroads in the early 2000s.

The sheer boldness and audacity that built the place into the top ski resort and town in America no longer was so evident. The community was having what I viewed as a crisis in confidence. This “world class” town looked a little run down. And too many folks wanted to rest on the past, some clenching hard to it. Change appeared to scare the crap out of this proud community.

Now, yes, I’m touting Slifer today. He was part of a group of leaders who turned this loser mindset around — ironically enough, as part of the “old guard” that had grown protective of the Vail they created, and overly cautious.

The Renaissance — we called the place Crane City during the recession — rebooted Vail. The charm remained. Vail just shed most of the crappy, worn out parts of the villages in favor of yes, bigger as feared, but better, too, as it turned out.

The whole valley still benefits from Vail rising unquestionably to the top again among America’s resorts, weathering the Great Recession better than any. This is an objective statement, going by the statistics.

Vail got its swagger back, found her groove.

Slifer had more than a little something to do with that. He helped build the place. He came back at a key time to help reinvent the place, too. That’s a big deal.

Now, this is a little snippet why I respect him so much.

The thing is, though, there may not be a more likeable person on the planet, either. You can’t help but cheer for him if you know him even just a little.

The cool thing is that generations of us do.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.