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Two times for Tierney: Eagle snowboardcross athlete qualifies for second Olympics

Meghan Tierney rides during a World Cup in Italy in 2021. Tierney will be headed to her second Olympic Games this February.
Andrea Diodato/AP

Despite missing the final U.S. Olympic qualifier in Krasnoyarks, Russia, at the beginning of the year because of COVID-19, Eagle snowboardcross racer Meghan Tierney is headed to a second Olympic Games.

“I was super happy,” Tierney said about the nomination. “I think it will probably hit me more once I’m over there, because it hasn’t fully set in.”

Her prior World Cup results positioned her to receive the fourth spot on the women’s snowboardcross roster. As local athletes are learning, however, there are no guarantees when it comes to being named.

“It was tough for sure because I didn’t want to in my head say, ‘Yeah I definitely got the spot,’ but I was really thinking in if they take four, I should be fourth,” Tierney said about waiting for the official announcement. “I wasn’t saying it to myself, but I was just hoping and it turned out good.”

Tierney joins an experienced women’s team composed of four-time Olympian and fellow Ski and Snowboard Club Vail alumna Faye Gulini, and 36-year-old Lindsey Jacobellis, who is still in search of redemption after her infamous celebratory method-grab and subsequent crash cost her the gold medal in 2006 as she heads to a fifth Olympics. The lone rookie is 21-year-old Coloradan Stacy Gaskill, a U24 ultimate frisbee world champion who has stated aspirations to compete in the 2028 Summer Games in that sport as well.

While her team’s selection was fairly cut-and-dry, Tierney said she has followed the Vail Daily’s reporting of the more messy mogul squad selection process that left Tess Johnson off the Olympic roster.

“I feel like she is such an incredible athlete, so when I read that I was shocked,” she said. “I think its unfortunate that there seems to be a bunch of athletes that should be there that aren’t going to be,” she said, referring also to close friend A.J. Muss, a 2018 parallel snowboard Olympian and Vail’s Senna Leith, both of whom were left off Olympic roster.

“I hope they keep going, though, because they are great athletes,” she said of the trio.

Muss connected Tierney with her current coaches, Richard Pickl and Rene Nocker, during the 2019-2020 season. After experiencing significant growth with their private team, Tierney elected to turn down her U.S. team nomination this fall.

Eagle’s Meghan Tierney in yellow bib, trails Italy’s Michaela Moiolo while leading Lindsey Jacobellis and Sofia Belingheri on March 20, 2021 in Veysonnaz, Switzerland.
Karsten Neumann/AP Photo

“I feel like I’ve had good progress with these coaches and when I was nominated to the national team, I decided to stick with them,” she said.

“I’m not really good with change, so I didn’t really want to switch up my whole program right before the Olympics. I felt like sticking with the same program was the best for me this season.”

The relationship with Team USA coaches remains healthy.

“They’re great,” she said of the national staff who will oversee her in China. “I’m definitely cool with the coaches. They understand that this is what was best for me this season, which was cool.”

The decision had financial ramifications as well. The Eagle resident was forced to foot the bill for her entire season.

“Thankfully, I got a really good sponsor,” she said about Virtu Financial and Jim Curley Buick/GMC of Lakewood. “They’ve been really gracious and helped me fund my season. My parents still help me out — I wish they didn’t have to, but they do.”

Speaking of sponsors — or World Cup travel secrets — the snowboarder, speaking from her current training base in Reiteralm, Austria, noted an abundance of Mountain House meals in her duffle bag. The quick, easy and nutritious staple has become a necessity for Tierney in the well-traveled and high-energy lifestyle of the World Cup tour. When Jacobellis inquired of Tierney’s boyfriend, an armed forces member, to provide a stash of MRE’s (meals, read-to-eat), he suggested she try Mountain House. “They are more nutritious and taste better, so we got a bunch of those,” Tierney said.

Her bag contains more sentimental items for the trip to China as well. “I usually bring my grandpa’s rosary beads and some other things that remind me of home,” she said.

Even though officials have advised American athletes to bring burner phones to Beijing, Tierney has encouraging news for her social media followers.

“I’ll be posting a lot of Olympic stuff on Instagram,” she said, noting she is “definitely” bringing her phone.

Eagle’s Meghan Tierney is going to her second Olympics.
Courtesy photo

As far as the snowboarding goes, she will stick to what she did in 2018.

“I’m definitely going in with a similar mindset. I’m really proud to be representing the U.S. And (I’m) kinda going in with the same expectations to just do the best that I can, so pressure-wise I feel the same that I did last time,” she outlined.

Even without fans and family in the stands, Tierney will be thinking of them as she launches down the track.

“My goal is to do the best I can and hopefully making my family and the country proud.”

Several Vail-area bridges could receive upgrade from $45M infrastructure infusion

Funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is beginning to flow into Colorado to help fix bridges in poor condition, several of which are in Eagle County.
CDOT/Courtesy photo

As funds begin to pour into Colorado from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s newly launched Bridge Formula Program, aging Eagle County bridges could soon see an upgrade.

The Department of Transportation launched the Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program — known as the Bridge Formula Program — on Jan. 14. On Thursday, Rep. Joe Neguse confirmed Colorado is among the states receiving $45 million in 2022 from the program, and several Eagle County bridges will qualify. Neguse represents Eagle County in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“These federal dollars represent the strong first step towards putting Coloradans to work building and rebuilding the bridges that drive our local economies,” Neguse said.

The funds will be administered by the Department of Transportation and will fix bridges which have been determined to be in poor condition by the Federal Highway Administration’s Bridge Formula Program, while preserving bridges listed as fair.

Century-old structures

In Eagle County, several such bridges are on the Federal Highway Administration’s radar, including five bridges listed in poor condition, which are more than 70 years old, eight bridges listed in poor condition, which are more than 80 years old, and one bridge listed in poor condition, which is more than 100 years old.

In Vail, poor condition bridges are located on Matterhorn Circle, Kinnickinnick Road, Bighorn Road, Bridge Road and I-70. In Red Cliff, bridges on Water Street and High Street are listed in poor condition. In Edwards, West Lake Creek Road has a bridge listed in poor condition. And in various places along U.S. Highway 6 in Eagle County, bridges crossing Hackett Gulch, East Lake Creek, Castle Creek and the Eagle River have all been listed as being in poor condition.

A staff member with Neguse’s office Thursday confirmed that funding from the Bridge Formula Program is beginning to flow to over 400 Colorado bridges in poor condition in Colorado, several of which are in Eagle County.

The oldest bridge Eagle County, which is being monitored by the Federal Highway Administration, is a 109-year-old structure that crosses the Eagle River in Wolcott near the intersection of Highway 131 and I-70. It’s listed in fair condition. The next oldest bridge crosses the Eagle River on Trail Gulch Road in Gypsum. It’s 105 years old and is listed in poor condition.

Neguse described the bridge funding as a “tangible impact” of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in communities across Colorado.

“Northern Colorado communities want to know that they can rely on their highways, roads and bridges, and they want assurances that their safety will always be prioritized,” Neguse said.

Biggest bridge upgrade ever

The Bridge Formula Program is the largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system — providing $26.5 billion to states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico over five years and $825 million for Tribal transportation facilities.

The program was made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Nov. 15.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is thrilled to launch this program to fix thousands of bridges across the country,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a press release. “Modernizing America’s bridges will help improve safety, support economic growth, and make people’s lives better in every part of the country — across rural, suburban, urban, and tribal communities.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will appropriate $5.5 billion for the Bridge Formula Program from 2022 through 2026, with each state receiving no less than $45 million each fiscal year.

Colorado is one of several Western states to receive the minimum $45 million per year over five years, along with Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Arizona, Alaska, Idaho and Montana. Oregon will receive $53.6 million per year, Washington will receive $121 million per year, and California will receive $849 million per year over the next 5 years.

Vail moving away from big concerts

December’s Powabunga shows in Vail drew thousands of people to town.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

Vail’s funding of big events has long been a staple of the town’s entertainment scene. That scene seems to be shifting.

Instead of putting large sums into weekend events, the town, along with Vail Resorts, will put a combined $250,000 — $125,000 each — into a seven-week period this spring.

In a Jan. 18 presentation to the Vail Town Council, Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said her department, in concert with the resort company, is “reassessing” what March and April should look like this spring.

While nothing’s yet to the signed-contract stage, Vlaar said the general idea is to continue the early-season success of the Revely program. And, instead of large concert crowds, a memo to the council states that the idea is to use the seven-week period to enhance the Vail experience for “guests, employees and residents.”

Lauren Barotz, Vail Resorts’ director of resort Marketing, told council members that those working on the project felt it would “be more meaningful to amplify the experience” through weeks, not just a couple of weekends.

Vlaar said the idea for a stretched-out spring experience also fits with the idea of the town’s DiscoverVail efforts in highlighting non-skiing activities.

Vlaar added that the idea behind the new effort is to provide entertainment and experiences that fall somewhere between the bigger concerts and the town’s “ambient” music in the resort villages.

The idea is to book “mid-scale” entertainment, but to stay away from the big concerts.

Vail Special Events Coordinator Jeremy Gross said the idea is for entertainment to land somewhere between the Shakedown Presents outdoor shows that began in 2020 and the bigger-name Street Beat shows that filled Vail Village in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Those shows ended in 2011.

While the town’s 2022 budget included $300,000 for Spring Back to Vail, Gross said his department had told promoters the town was holding back on funding anything beyond March 31. That fits in with how the town is rethinking how the Commission on Special Events helps fund events.

Gross added that the town also hasn’t had any discussions with Powabunga promoters since December.

Barotz told council members that Vail Resorts’ contribution is money, and not just marketing.

Council member Travis Coggin said he was somewhat conflicted about the idea, noting that Spring Back has traditionally been an end-of-season party. He said he’s worried that the big show would be replaced by “more stuff.”

Council member Jen Mason said she’d like to see something done for the town’s front-line employees.

Vlaar replied that the ideas so far are focused on “anyone who’s experiencing Vail,” adding there are a lot of ways to reach out to employees.

Council member Kevin Foley noted that the current allocation still leaves already-budgeted money available if another event comes up. For now, though, it’s time to define what this project will become.

“We’re looking for that sweet spot — big enough for a fun, inviting atmosphere, but stretched across seven weeks,” Gross said.

Help getting granted: Holly Loff leaving Eagle River Watershed Council, seeks to advise other Vail area nonprofits

Holly Loff with the Eagle River Watershed Council is vacating her position as executive director in an effort to disperse her talent for grant writing across the Eagle River Valley through a new business called Sage Grant Writing and Consulting.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Holly Loff was a grant writer when she arrived in the Eagle River Valley in 2009.

Loff used that skill to help local nonprofit organizations, and when in 2013 the opportunity to focus her abilities on the natural environment arose with the opening of the executive director position at the Eagle River Watershed Council, she embraced it and began the task of growing the nonprofit river advocacy group.

The Eagle River Watershed Council has more than doubled its annual fundraising totals since Loff arrived while tripling volunteer participation, which made the group’s recent announcement especially difficult.

On Thursday, Eagle River Watershed Council announced that Loff will be leaving the organization after a transition period in which it will try to find someone to fill her position.

In a release announcing Loff’s departure, Board of Directors President Tom Allender said Loff’s shoes will be difficult to fill.

“Her service to this community, and to the natural rivers and streams that we value so much, cannot be understated,” Allender said.

Loff said she intends to go back to her original passion, grant writing for nonprofits, as that’s the area she feels she can be of most help to the community right now.

“I think that there’s a huge need for grant writers and people who understand the challenges of the nonprofit sector,” Loff told the Vail Daily on Thursday.

Gift of grant

Loff’s new business, Sage Grant Writing and Consulting, will seek to help those nonprofits which need help writing grants and formulating programs which receive grants, along with nonprofits which have the experience to form programs and identify grants, but don’t have enough staff time to actually write the applications.

In Eagle County, both such organizations exist, Loff said.

Loff said through her work at the Eagle River Watershed Council, she felt there were times when even she could have used outside grant writing help.

Holly Loff addresses a crowd at a previous Riverfest. The Eagle River Watershed Council has more than doubled its annual fundraising totals since Loff arrived while tripling volunteer participation, which made the group's recent announcement especially difficult.
Courtesy photo

“I have a background in grant writing, and there were a lot of times when I couldn’t find the time in my schedule to do it, because nonprofits are busy and they wear a lot of hats,” Loff said.

Loff focused a lot of her energy on passing along her skills to others at the Eagle River Watershed Council, which also prepares her to help local nonprofits on the other side of the coin — those which might have time, but lack training and experience in grant writing.

“We didn’t have a development coordinator until December of 2019, so prior to that, staff was doing the grant writing,” Loff said. “So for the most part, I was teaching employees how to write grants.”

Loff was able to grow her staff at the Watershed Council from herself and one part-timer when she started in 2013 to five full-time employees today. She said in seeking funds through grants, she was able to go from writing the grants herself to reviewing and editing the work of those she trained.

“So the work that I’ll be doing as a consultant is very similar to what I’ve been doing at the Watershed Council,” she said.

Original goal attained

The Eagle River Watershed Council was formed in response to chronic spills of heavy metals from the Eagle Mine into the Eagle River, which turned the river orange and impacted the fishery on numerous occasions throughout its history.

In 1986, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the Eagle Mine Superfund site to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites due to continued uncontrolled metals discharges into the environment.

In 1996, several existing groups unified under the Watershed Council name, and the organization attained 501c3 status in 2004.

In September, the EPA announced the deletion of a portion of the Eagle Mine Superfund from the National Priorities List, meaning all response activities in the area are complete and pose no unacceptable risk to human health or the environment under the current land use. Therefore, EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have determined that no further cleanup response is necessary at OU2 of the site.

The deleted part of the site consists of the abandoned mining Town of Gilman Operable Unit 2, which covers approximately 50 acres and includes an estimated 90 buildings within its boundaries.

“The deletion of Operable Unit 2 at the Eagle Mine Superfund site reflects the significant progress that has been made to secure the site and protect human health and the environment,” said Betsy Smidinger, director of EPA Region 8’s Superfund and Emergency Management Division.

Longtime Eagle River Watershed Council Executive Director Holly Loff at the banks of the Eagle River near the town of Eagle on Friday. Loff on Thursday announced her current role to start a new grant writing business, saying the decision to leave was extremely difficult but she’s confident the organization is in a good place to start a new chapter.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Work ahead

In the evolution of the Eagle River Watershed Council, however, many new issues have presented themselves over the years.

The council’s river and highway cleanup efforts have become important community gatherings, and the group has completed more than 20 river restoration projects in Eagle County during Loff’s nearly nine years with the organization.

Today, the group’s four major areas of focus include monitoring, advocacy, education and restoration efforts for local creeks and rivers.

The looming impacts of climate change and population growth mean that the Watershed Council’s work has become increasingly important in the years to come, as well, Loff said.

“The next 5-10 years are going to be particularly critical to our watershed, and I look forward to seeing this amazing organization continue to rise to the challenge,” she said.

Loff said the decision to leave was extremely difficult, but she’s confident the organization is in a good place to enter its next chapter.

“Looking back over my time here, I am proud of the restoration projects we completed, the education programs we implemented and much more, but all of it comes down to the great people in our community and those involved with the Watershed Council. Our donors and sponsors, our hard-working volunteers, the great folks on our board (past and present) and our absolutely stellar staff. It was an honor to work among all of them,” Loff said.

Will be missed

Kate Burchenal, one of the Eagle River Watershed Council’s earliest employees, began working at the organization around the same time as Loff. Burchenal was a recent college graduate at the time.

“I was so glad to have (Loff) to learn from,” Burchenal said. “Her fundraising and grant writing expertise allowed the Watershed Council to more than double its staff, and in doing so greatly expand its project work, partnerships, and education throughout the valley. Holly’s passion for river recreation has made her an approachable and knowledgeable leader which in turn has deepened already strong partnerships with other nonprofits, the county, and towns, as well as local businesses.”

Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry was serving as the organization’s president of the board of directors in 2013 when Loff was hired.

“Holly took the helm at the Eagle River Watershed Council after a period of change, organizational development and growth,” Chandler-Henry said. “She has advanced the Council forward into a well-respected scientific, educational and advocacy organization. Her ability to see beyond the current work to imagine what’s possible, and her knack for developing partners in projects and research have paved the way for the next iteration of this important watershed group.”

Burchenal now serves on the Watershed Council’s Board of Directors. She said Loff’s leadership, enthusiasm and laughter will be greatly missed.

“She always welcomed new projects and challenges, shepherding a vision for the Watershed Council that has kept pace with our growing valley and the water challenges we continue to face,” Burchenal said.

Chandler-Henry said she too will be sorry to see Loff go.

“Eagle County’s rivers and tributaries, and all the residents of this great place, have benefited immensely from Holly’s leadership,” she said.

This story contains material supplied by the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Eagle Valley High School students to be featured in PBS NewsHour program

Langston Jame, Emit Brown and Sam Elliott (left to right) are all members of the Eagle Valley High School student media class and produce for EVTV. On Tuesday, Jan. 25, their work will be featured on a national PBS NewsHour event about student life in the pandemic.
Joy Hamilton/Courtesy Photo

Throughout the last two years, the pandemic has taken hold of the education system and impacted students. While parents, administrators and community members have talked about what students need, student voices haven’t always been at the forefront of these discussions.

However, next week, three students from Eagle Valley High School’s student media class will be featured on a national PBS NewsHour event sharing stories and talking about issues that matter to them and that may have been overlooked in recent school years.

“None of their stories have to do with the pandemic, which is what I think is kind of important; a lot of these things haven’t been really overshadowed because of this COVID narrative and learning loss and the negative side,” said Joy Hamilton, an English teacher at Eagle Valley High School and the student media faculty advisor. “It’s nice to see what else is going on in education and our students shine a light on some of the really positive things, but also on some of the issues we need to keep paying attention to.”

Eagle Valley High School’s student media program is a PBS Student Reporting Lab, a program that allows students from across the country to work with PBS youth producers to submit and create stories to be produced into the national NewsHour shows.

For this specific event, Sam Elliott and Langston James, both seniors at the high school, produced a story about Ms. V’s skateboarding class at Red Canyon High School and the world of skateboarding in Eagle County. Emit Brown, a sophomore at Eagle Valley High School, participated in a panel discussing transgender student rights.

The work of all three students will be featured on Tuesday, Jan. 25, on the hour-long PBS NewsHour event titled, “Our New Normal: How Teens are Redefining School Life.” The event starts at 5 p.m. and will be streamed on YouTube. In addition to the pieces that Eagle Valley students contributed to and produced, the event will cover mental health, school safety, teaching race in the classroom and more.

For each student, the opportunity to be involved on the show combined their favorite parts about student media, and gave them real world insight and knowledge about the world of broadcast journalism.

“It’s hard to stay up to date in school broadcast programs with what’s happening in the industry; my favorite part of this program is you hear from people who are in the industry,” Hamilton said. “It’s so nice to have access to that because it’s such a more authentic experience for them and prepares them so much better for what you can actually do in the field and the processes they use, like scripting and things that the industry uses that we maybe didn’t know about in our curriculum.”

Brown said his favorite part of being involved with the class and the PBS program is that it helps get student voices out there.

“I know that, of course, teachers have a lot of opinions, but it’s also nice to give students a chance to speak up so that teachers also know how they can modify their policies and rules and how they can make school a better place to be,” Brown said.

James echoed this sentiment, saying that the class and EVTV helps him connect with the entire Eagle Valley High School community.

“It helps bring everybody together; it helps bring teachers and students together and keep everybody on the same page,” James said.

Through the pandemic, the Eagle Valley student media class helped keep all three students connected to this community as they worked hard to still produce their show and provide the community with valuable information.

“It took a lot of time to get used to how things were going to be, but actually, for my education specifically, this class was really good from me,” Elliott said. “We still had those opportunities to make stories and make packages. It was a lot harder and it was, at times really frustrating, but we still kept making episodes throughout the pandemic, which was really awesome.”

Telling their stories

The students hope that those who watch next week’s show will learn new ways to help and teach students.
Joy Hamilton/Courtesy Photo

In the upcoming PBS show, the students’ hard work will be on display. For each of these student media shows PBS puts out a prompt, and then students from across the country are able to submit their ideas, and then only a handful are selected to be featured on the show.

For Elliott and James, the skateboarding story came about pretty naturally. Elliott had previously worked with the skateboarding class’s teacher, Ms. V, and thought that the PBS prompt was the perfect opportunity to showcase a unique student experience being offered in Eagle County.

“We’re covering her class and just showing people what the class is about, but then we’re also talking about the skateboarding culture and community in Eagle Valley,” Elliott said. “One of the big topics that we’re addressing is how skateboarding can be such a healthy and beneficial activity for a lot of people, but it’s not really often utilized. Schools are offering things like traditional sports teams, and we kind of think that skateboarding should be offered as well.”

Brown’s participation on the panel about trans rights also came naturally as he had previously worked with PBS on a video about LGBTQ education. The panel includes several transgender and non-binary students and was pre-recorded over winter break for next Tuesday’s show.

“It was mostly about our experiences in school and how we wanted it to be different, how teachers and students are, what it’s like changing your pronouns and your name mid-school year, trying to get kids to actually use them, so it just highlighted the things that we hide that we don’t necessarily want to,” Brown said.

Brown added that the student panel discussed topics like gender-neutral restrooms, going outside of the binary and other big debates.

“I’m hoping teachers or administrators see this and take it as an example of what they should do and how they should treat kids as a whole; it’s not just kids of the LGBTQ community, it’s pretty much everyone,” Brown said. “We need more equity in our schools, and I’m hoping that teachers take this panel and this whole special as an example of what they should do.”

Similarly, Elliott said that he hopes that school leadership and teachers across the country, in watching the whole PBS NewsHour, see that there are “more progressive and intuitive ways to teach students.”

“People learn different ways, and what I hope comes out of both pieces of media is that it shows schools there are different ways to teach students that are a lot more beneficial than how they’re doing it now,” James said. “I think both of these things are really similar — the skateboarding and the panel that Emit did are both pretty similar in showing schools that it’s OK to try different things, because schools may benefit from that and students may learn more easily from that.”

This was something that Hamilton agreed with, noting that the PBS program offers a unique opportunity for students to share their voices.

“We need to listen to students more, and that’s what I appreciate about this reporting lab program is their whole goal is youth voice,” Hamilton said. “I hope people listen and hear what is being presented by our students; it’s so cool to have a platform for that.”

How to watch:

What: PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs presents: “Our New Normal: How teens are redefining school life”

When: Tuesday, Jan. 25 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Register at: eventbrite.com/e/our-new-normal-how-teens-are-redefining-school-life-registration-220023725887

Vail takes a hard look at short-term rentals

A new study has shed light on Vail’s short-term rental scene. The offshoot of that study — potential town action — is still several weeks away.

The Vail Town Council Tuesday got its first look at the study, a joint creation of the town’s finance department and consulting firms Economic & Planning Systems and RRC Associates. The study combined research into property tax data, mailing addresses and locations of registered units in town.

A few data points aren’t surprising. For instance, more than 60% of all of Vail’s short-term rentals are in the town’s resort areas from Vail Village to Cascade Village. Many, if not most, of those units were already in the short-term rental pool before owners took their listings to the internet.

But the study also shows short-term rental growth in the town’s residential areas. For instance, since January of 2020, more than half of all new registrations were in those areas.

Still, just more than half of short-term units are in the resort areas. Most permitted units are condominiums.

Alex Jakubiek, of the Vail Finance Department, said the number of registered short-term units — defined as those rented for less than 30 days at a time — has increased by about 10% since 2017. But, Jakubiek added, it’s difficult to know how many of those units were converted from long-term to short-term use.

Affects on neighborhoods

Mayor Kim Langmaid, who has long advocated for stricter regulations on short-term rentals, said those rentals have in many ways changed her Intermountain neighborhood. That switch has increased traffic, from cleaning crews to new renters on an almost-weekly basis, Langmaid said.

“You don’t get to know people who are here for two days,” she added.

But there’s money to be made in short-term rentals. The study found that on average, a short-term unit in Vail can bring in nearly $35,000 in annual revenue.

Much of that revenue is flowing outside of Eagle County. The study found that 77% of unit owners live outside the county. Another 20% of owners have Vail mailing addresses.

Andrew Knudtsen, the managing principal of Economic & Planning Systems, said council members can use the data to find the best ways to regulate short-term units in the future.

Part of that future regulation may include higher fees. Fees currently are set at $150 per year for units that aren’t under professional management. Professionally managed units are charged $5 and $10 per year. Those fees currently raise just less than $77,000 per year. Jaubiek’s report states that amount doesn’t cover the town’s labor and software costs.

Longtime resident Stephen Connolly, who’s been involved in the short-term rental business for several years, said he believes the low fees for professionally managed units were the result of intense lobbying by property managers.

How big is the problem?

Connolly added that the data show that short-term rentals aren’t the problem many believe them to be.

“We are an economic generator,” Connolly said. “We’re not the cause for this affordable housing shortage.”

Chris Cares, of RRC Associates, noted that the town might want to consider geographic restrictions on short-term rentals.

Council Member Pete Seibert said he’d like to understand how many owners are putting their units into the short-term pool for brief periods, such as holiday weeks. Council Member Jonathan Staufer asked if there’s a way to determine how many short-term units were once in the long-term pool.

Short-term rentals have a couple of effects on the town, Knudtsen said. There’s the impact on neighborhoods and the long-term pool. But, he added, there’s also a big impact from guest spending in town.

Council Member Barry Davis said he wants to understand how units that have previously been long-term rentals could be brought back into that pool.

“How do we incentivize people to bring (units) back into long-term rentals?” Davis asked.

The consultants were taking notes during the discussion part of the presentation and will be back Feb. 1 with more information.

By the numbers

$34,922: Vail’s average short-term rental annual revenue for 2021.

$150: Vail’s annual fee for short-term rentals that aren’t professionally managed.

7,359: Total residential units in the town of Vail.

2,454: Registered short-term rentals in the town of Vail.

Source: Town of Vail

Kai Owens named to US Olympic mogul team

Vail’s Kai Owens reacts after a run in the finals of the World Cup freestyle moguls competition Friday at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo

Kai Owens is officially returning to China.

The 17-year old moguls star who wrote “Beijing” next to the Olympic rings in her journal four years ago is about to realize a dream she described as “a journey coming full-circle.”

“This Olympics is like everything to me,” she said from Deer Valley, Utah, where she finished the first day of a pre-Olympic camp before the team flies out in a week.

“I’m really excited to go and see China now that I’m older. And also, to tie that into the thing I’m most passionate about, which is skiing — both of those things coming together — it’s hard to explain. It’s very personal. To be able to represent the U.S.A. — it feels like everything is tying together.”

Johnson left off Olympic team

It’s bittersweet news for local ski fans, as it means Owens’ teammate and friend, Tess Johnson, will not be making a return to the Winter Olympics. Currently ranked fifth in the World Cup standings — the second-best American — the 21-year-old has podiumed in two of her last five individual events.

“We both know that if I named the Olympic team, she’d be the first one on it,” Owens said about Johnson, who hasn’t finished outside of the top-10 in any individual mogul World Cup this year.

“She’s definitely the closest person to me on this team, so it’s hard. But, I’m also trying to find a lot of gratitude with the U.S. Ski Team and also just pride in our team.”

The fact that Johnson was left off is by no means a slight towards Owens, whom, along with Johnson and Olivia Giaccio, are the only Americans who have upset the now predictable women’s mogul podium triumvirate of Japan’s Anri Kawamura, France’s Perrine Laffont, and Australia’s Jakara Anthony this season. However, John Dowling, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s mogul program director, believes it’s a symptom of a larger issue in terms of Olympic selection methods.

“It’s hurting our chances as a nation for performing our best at the Olympics, and it’s hurting athletes,” he said of the established criteria, which utilized FIS Points list rankings from results within the previous two years, including dual moguls results — an event not contested at the Olympics — to select the first two athletes to the team.

“I’m so upset about it,” Dowling said about his thoughts of Tess being left off the team.

“It’s hard to talk about — it’s a travesty. I can’t believe it’s played out this way. It’s horrible. If you look at our athletes, at our U.S. team, we have four athletes in the top 10 in the World Cup right now, and that’s not the team we’re bringing to the Olympics.”

Giaccio earned her objective spot by having the best top-3 finish of anyone at a designated tryout event (Johnson had two top-3 finishes, but Giaccio’s victory in Ruka, Finland on Dec. 4 trumped either of those placements). Meanwhile, Jaelin Kauf and Hannah Soar were the benefactors of having top-six rankings in the Dec. 15 FIS Points List, positions they held largely on account of successes in dual moguls results. Soar’s second-place and Kauf’s third-place finish came at Deer Valley two years ago.

“We’ve all known what it takes — two seasons ago, before the events even started — that FIS points matter,” Owens noted, pointing out the importance of taking advantage of both duals and individual events during that time.

“I think it’s something that hopefully can bring our team together because this is something to be proud of. Everyone contesting to go to the Games has podium potential. It’s heartbreaking because Tess is my best friend and when we made the team, I always dreamt of going with her.”

While Owens is correct in saying every contender for this year’s U.S. moguls team is internationally elite, the system objectively failed to nominate the top-scoring individual mogul athletes from the current season. Kauf’s results in individual mogul World Cups this year are seventh, 25th, 21st and 14th, respectively, while Johnson’s season has gone like this: eighth, fourth, third, third, ninth, 10th and ninth. Soar’s resume — with a fith, eighth, eighth, 15th and seventh-place finishes, respectively — is also worse than Johnson’s.

Still, considering her recent performances, Johnson seemed well-positioned to nab the fourth discretionary slot for the team. Then, the U.S. selection committee took an unexpected left turn.

The criteria states that in order for an athlete to be nominated by discretion, they must “clearly demonstrate the ability to produce a medal-winning result or demonstrate future medal potential by achieving one of the following criteria listed (in no specific order of priority): 1) one top-eight result in the last 24 months at a FIS World Cup, World Championships, X Games, or Dew Tour, or 2) a top-20 ranking within the last 24 months on the FIS points list.”

With four top-five results in the last two months, Johnson more than fit the bill, as did Owens or even 15-year-old Elizabeth Lemley — all three athletes Dowling filed the necessary petitions for as stated in the discretionary policies.

After a hearing, however, the selection committee notified Johnson that her resume was not satisfactory.

“I did not meet objective criteria for the Games, therefore my hope remained with the fourth and final spot which was a discretionary spot,” she wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “Yet, despite my results again, the committee selected by the @usskiteam to oversee discretionary cases decided that they were not good enough.”

Because they eschewed the discretionary process for naming a fourth member, that selection would be determined by going back to the FIS points list, where Owens is ranked above Johnson.

“Basically, three out of our four athletes have been named primarily because of dual results, not even the event we are competing at in the Olympics,” Dowling stated.

According to Dowling, the FIS Points List was implemented to set minimum quotas at World Cups for competing countries.

“It was never intended to be used as a selection device for national teams,” stated Dowling, who believes the U.S. ought to create its own in-house ranking system which considers the nuance of each freestyle discipline in figuring out which athletes have the most medal potential.

At time of reporting, the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team’s communications department had not replied to an email request from the Vail Daily to comment on the calculations behind the moguls team’s decision.

Johnson demonstrated class and poise in her social media post, stating, “I’m grateful to the U.S. Ski Team for funding me with the opportunities to chase my dreams and achieve what I have so far, but I’m simultaneously crushed by their decision. This wound will take time to heal,” Johnson wrote on Instagram on Tuesday, adding that she will be cheering on her teammates and will continue striving for success.

“If you look at how the rest of the World Cup shakes out, Tess is still a contender,” Dowling said.

“She’s got a lot of things still to do.”

Owens is hopeful that this isn’t the end of Vail’s dynamic mogul duo.

“I think we just get better, both improve, and shoot for the next one together,” she said about her and Johnson’s road ahead.

Owens to return to birth country

For Owens, who was abandoned by her birth parents in a town square and sent to an orphanage in the Anhui province, about a day’s drive from Beijing, before being adopted by John and Amy Owens in 2005, the return to China presents a potentially golden opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to this event and kind of just enjoying the process,” Owens said.

She’ll face a stiff competition on the virgin slope.

“The precision these top three athletes are skiing with is very high,” Dowling said about the stacked field.

“Somebody like Kai — she’s got that highest DD (degree of difficulty) when she throws her cork-to-cork grab. She can make her presence known.”

Owens believes that if everything falls into place, she has a chance at a medal.

“For me to get on the podium, it’s going to take my best stuff, every run. I think my best can beat at least one of those girls,” she said, noting that the Laffont, Anthony and Kawamura are “skiing incredibly right now.”

Dowling believes if Owens continues to sharpen some technical aspects, she can be a podium contender.

“She’s obviously got the potential with her air package,” he said.

“Those U.S. coaches and athletes know the game, it’s just a matter of whether they can upset the apple cart at the top.”

Owens sees consistency as the main factor for success.

“I have lots of little parts that are consistent, but I’d say my overall run is something I’m really working on — being able to put three runs down,” she said about what she’s working on this week.

Even though this particular Olympics represent so much to her, she isn’t changing her mindset going into the event.

“My primary focus is always to improve,” she said about her main goal for the Games. “I’m always skiing to improve; my goal is always to get better everyday. The same goes for China.”

5 questions for Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey’s Vonn’s memoir, “Rise” reveals never-before-told stories of her life in the fast lane, her struggle with depression, and the bold decisions that helped her break down barriers on and off the slopes.
Courtesy image

Q: Why did you decide to write the book? What was the catalyst for “Rise?”

A: It was the right time in my life to write a memoir. Having just retired from skiing, I could reflect back on things that I have overcome and also what I’ve achieved. When you are in your career, you aren‘t really able to appreciate things because there is always another race you have to prepare for. Writing my book gave me a chance to really reflect and process what I’ve done while also moving on from the sport.

Q: You started penning your book over a year and a half of time, but then you didn’t like it and started over. What did you change from the first version to the second version?

A: The first year of retirement wasn‘t easy for me, and because of that, my first book had the wrong tone. I was sad that I was no longer racing and maybe a bit resentful because, if not for my body falling apart, I would still be out there. After therapy and more reflection I got to a much better place where I could write the book I wanted to write. Something positive and inspiring.

Q: You’ve said that this book helps readers understand who you are as a person, beyond an athlete. If you could describe Lindsey, the person, how would you describe yourself?

A: Honestly, I‘m a pretty simple person. I am a Minnesota girl who had a dream to become an Olympian. I am determined, hardworking and driven but also a caring person. But you‘ll get to know me more through my book as I can’t truly describe myself in a few sentences.

Q: How has life away from ski racing allowed you to heal your body?

A: Unfortunately, it hasn’t healed at all. I don‘t have to grind every day to prepare my body to ski 85 mph down a mountain, and in that sense It’s easier, but I still wake up in pain every day. I paid a price for my success, but I don‘t regret it, and I’d do it all over again if I could.

Q: You’re involved in so many things — clothing lines, producing documentaries, this book, other endorsement obligations, commentating — but are there other things that you are pursuing?

A: I am advising several companies in addition to being an investor. My goal is to be more successful in the board room than I was on the ski slopes.

If you go …

What: “Rise” with Lindsey Vonn hosted by The Bookworm of Edwards

When: 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21

Where: Virtual

Cost: $35 per single ticket or $40 per couple’s ticket; purchase online or at the Bookworm of Edwards

More Info: Call 970-926-READ or visit BookwormOfEdwards.com