Aspen vs. Vail circa 2006
October 19, 2006
Shortly after the Vail ski resort was founded in the early 1960s by ex-10th Mountain Division visionary Pete Seibert, a competition began in the minds of many about which resort, Aspen or Vail, was a better representative of Colorado skiing and lifestyle. Today, obviously there is no contest. Aspen is a real ski town with real skiers on family-owned mountains. Vail, on the other hand, is part of a publicly traded corporate conglomerate that panders to the cruise-ship crowd and has sold the remaining semblance of its soul to the gods of greed, aka Wall Street. “There’s no comparison,” reads the tag line of Vail’s promotional and marketing materials. They sure got that right. Consider that Vail was named after Charles Vail, an engineer with the Colorado Highway Department who cut the original Highway 6 over what is now Vail Pass. That would be like naming Aspen Trapani Mountain after the guy who was in charge of the Highway 82 redo. No, we’re named after a tree. The difference between the two towns was highlighted this week in two separate articles that ran in the Aspen Daily News. The first, written by Curtis Wackerle, was about the boot packers who do their ski conditioning climbing up and down Highland Bowl. These men and women embody the spirit of the mountains as they work to pack the Bowl for themselves and the rest of us. It’s hard to imagine, but these people are asked to climb up and down the Bowl in their ski or snowboard boots from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a half-hour lunch break for up to 15 days. Just writing that last sentence was exhausting. And get this: If they work all 15 days, they get a season pass. Fewer days worked qualify for vouchers for $100 a day. A tad over $22 an hour. Maybe a little better than the wages paid a freelance writer but certainly a lot more work. In contrast, the second story detailed the “Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail Resorts” (I love that description, a ski resort company headquartered in a Denver suburb says it all) attempts to install “an alpine slide” in Beaver Creek, which would allow summertime visitors to zoom down the ski slopes on roller-mounted sleds. Whee. If that doesn’t sound like an idea born and bred in Broomfield, I don’t know what does. Vail likes to point out that it already operates an alpine slide in Breckenridge. Like that’s a surprise. Yes, we do have things to complain about here (unfortunately far too many to list here) but in the competition with our brethren just across the hills, the simplest thing we can agree on is that they are right. There is, in fact, no comparison. Yes, we do have things to complain about here (unfortunately far too many to list here) but in the competition with our brethren just across the hills, the simplest thing we can agree on is that they are right. There is, in fact, no comparison.