Letter: A thank you to the town of Vail and its residents
My family has considered the town of Vail its second home since 1978 when my parents purchased a condominium in the Creekside Building. Since that time, we have spent countless weeks skiing, rafting, golfing, hiking, tubing, fishing, and enjoying the beautiful scenery that the valley has to offer. My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Vail in 1995 and our twins celebrated their first birthday here in 2000. For my children, the town and mountain of Vail have been a source of joy and relaxation their entire lives.
On March 11, 2020, our eldest son, Connor E. Vande Garde, died in a skiing accident while skiing on Star in Blue Sky Basin. Connor’s passing was a tragic, traumatic loss for our entire family, which we will grieve for the rest of our lives. Bystanders, Vail Ski Patrol, Eagle County Paramedics, and Vail Hospital did everything in their power to help Connor, but his injuries were too significant.
The only comfort is knowing that Connor’s death was nearly instant and that he died doing what he loved more than anything in the world. On July 6, 2020, with the help of Vail Resorts, two ski patrol members drove our family back to Blue Sky Basin to visit the site of Connor’s accident as well as Belle’s Camp, Connor’s favorite place to grill food while skiing. Visiting the site for the first time was both sorrowful and comforting.
In 2013, my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and commemorated the occasion with a bench plaque through the town of Vail. The bench is located on the grassy area bordering Gore Creek, next to our building. Following Connor’s death, my wife and I reached out to the town of Vail and members of the Vail Town Council about an additional plaque to commemorate Connor’s life and his love of the Vail Valley. In November 2020, we received word that the town of Vail would be placing the requested plaque on my parent’s bench. On December 28, 2020, the plaque was installed on the bench as Connor’s grandparents watched. Then on January 22, 2021, with help from Vail Ski Patrol, a granite plaque, surrounded in a wooden frame built by a Ski Patrol member, was placed on the tree that Connor struck on Star.
The kindness of these actions to celebrate the life of our son was unexpected and our entire family will be forever grateful to Vail Resorts, Vail Ski Patrol, the town of Vail, and its residents for their love and support as we both grieve his loss and celebrate his life.
With love and appreciation,
Blake, Nikki, Nate, Caleb, and Hailey Vande Garde
Leawood Kansas and Vail