Vail Daily column: Vail’s exactly where I want to be
It’s great to be back in the Vail Valley after an eight-year detour that took me away from the place I’ve dreamed of ending up since childhood after family ski vacations from the eastern part of Colorado where I grew up.
I distinctly remember feeling jealous of the much-cooler-than-me local kids who had the privilege of growing up with mountains in their backyards instead of the wheat fields and stinky feed lots I was accustomed to as a plains dweller.
Of everywhere I’ve lived since leaving Colorado, Vail feels the most like home. I was pumped when I got the opportunity to return to Vail after eight years away from the valley, three years of which were spent in Aspen and the remainder in Jackson Hole. While I enjoyed both places, I’m happy to report that I’ve returned to a Vail that’s even better than the amazing place I reluctantly left behind in 2008.
Perhaps the most impressive change to Vail that I found upon my return last fall was the transformation of Lionshead Village. What used to be the sleepy west entrance to Vail Mountain is now a vibrant alternative to Vail Village. Summertime Epic Discovery activities on the mountain accessible from the Eagle Bahn Gondola, along with increased bed base from The Arrabelle, Ritz Residences and The Lion, have all added to the numbers taking advantage of the activities, restaurants and shopping on this side of the mountain. I’m looking forward to a first summer in Lionshead Village that will be filled with fun activities.
To start things off, GoPro Mountain Games will return to Lionshead Village from Thursday, June 8, to Sunday, June 11, transforming the area into the Volvo Adventure Village. The Vail Valley Foundation and GoPro will create a family-friendly interactive fun zone in Lionshead Village, where kids will get opportunities to try kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding in giant water tanks. For aspiring climbers, a portable climbing wall will be brought in. Rounding out activities will be opportunities for your little athletes to try out slacklining, disc golf and Onewheel demos.
For the music-minded, the Vail Summer Bluegrass series returns to Vail Square at The Arrabelle with free concerts on Wednesday evenings from June 28 to July 19. Featured bands will be Bluegrass Generals, Chatham County Line, Donna the Buffalo and The Lil’ Smokies. Vail Jazz at Vail Square returns on Thursday evenings, July 6 to Aug. 31 with performances by nine of the world’s most celebrated jazz bands. I’m particularly looking forward to the Carmen Bradford and Byron Stripling performance, which will be a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong in celebration of Lady Ella’s 100th birthday.
If a collection of nine eclectic jazz performances wasn’t enough, then the Vail Jazz Party will return Labor Day weekend, with performances throughout the holiday weekend at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and in the Vail Square Jazz Tent. Not to be missed will be the Sunday morning crowd favorite Gospel Prayer Meetin’, featuring Niki Harris.
Also back in Vail Square, Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 8 to 10, will be Vail Oktoberfest, featuring Bavarian beer, classic German fare, live music and fun activities including keg bowling, stein lifting and bratwurst-eating contests.
Vail Pioneers who lived and worked here prior to 1983 will descend upon Lionshead Village for the once every five years Vail Pioneer Weekend, Sept. 22 to 24. This event is an opportunity for Vail old-schoolers to celebrate their contributions to creating the Vail that exists today. Attendees will enjoy a welcome reception in Vail Square, followed by a Lionshead Village pub-crawl on Friday night, a reception at Dobson Ice Arena on Saturday evening and an Eagle Bahn to on-mountain lunch and memorial service for Vail Pioneers who are no longer with us on Sunday.
It’s hard to not be inspired by the Vail that exists today, and having been afforded the luxury of experiencing life in a few other world-class resort towns, I can very comfortably say I’ve landed exactly where I want to be. I couldn’t be more pleased than to have become a part of this community and am excited to participate in the many activities taking place in Vail this summer and beyond. I look forward to my own opportunity to celebrate as a Vail Pioneer in 2042.
Zach Meyers is general manager of The Arrabelle at Vail Square and is a board member of the Vail Chamber and Business Association.