Copyright © 2006 Henrietta W. Hay
The Birth of Vail
December 1, 2006
[This column was one of my very early ones, dated October 12, 1990, edited to fit 2006 space. It's always fun to remember "things as they used to be."]
Here in western Colorado Indian Summer is the season. October - now there's a month. Here in Happy Valley it is full of sunshine and blue skies and red and gold foliage.
One day this October a friend and I drove to Vail and back. Surely never in the history of weather was there a more perfect fall day. The temperature was ideal, the sun was pure Colorado and there was not a cloud in the sky until late afternoon when a tiny, fluffy mass appeared that looked just like a chicken.
Vail in the off season rather reminds me of Oz. It certainly bears little relation to my concept of reality.
Being in Vail clicked on my memory mode. When my family first started driving between here and Denver, which would have been in the mid forties, there was a long stretch of unobstructed nature between Loveland Pass and Avon. There was, of course, no Eisenhower Tunnel.
You went over the top of the Pass, weather permitting.
At the west end of the Pass there was a garage. And that was it. That was Dillon. There was no lake, no city, just a garage.
It was a garage there where we always stopped because our car usually vapor locked on the pass and needed a little attention when we got down.
A mile or two farther west here was a place called Moon Lodge that served wonderful coffee and had a slot machine. have no idea whether it was legal, but there it was out in the wilderness. It was there one day that my older son, then little boy of five, learned that parents are not always to be trusted. Said little boy had been given a very firm lecture about gambling and the fact that there's no such thing as a free lunch. But he dug up a nickel somewhere and stuck it in the machine.
When the nickels started to roll out, our credibility was gone and it took years to restore it.
One day as we drove that heretofore empty stretch of road west of what later became Vail Pass there was a filling station with a lunch room attached on the south side of the highway. That seemed to me an odd place to build anything, out there in the middle of nowhere. Who would ever stop unless they were running out of gas or terribly hungry. The next time we went by there was a small hotel with a sign that said Vail Village Inn. There was no village, but there was an Inn. And there was beginning of Vail.
We all know the rest. Vail is a world class ski resort and the mountain is laced with ski runs. Golf courses and condos and shopping malls line the highway from the foot of Vail Pass to Avon - excuse me, Beaver Creek. Although it is completely overwhelmed by high-rises, I think the Vail Village Inn is still there, but I fear that the general store in Avon is history. I've been afraid to look.
From that lonely filling station to the present day Eagle-Vail complex is a long jump, physically, financially and emotionally. But the mountains never change, whatever we do to them, and the Indian Summer days in Western Colorado are still spectacular.
Who would want to live anywhere else?