With tourists heading for the hills, there are plenty of things that tick off the good people of Aspen. Vail's been inundated, too, and in addition to hordes of skiers, this weekend the town will attract many New Year's Eve revelers. Built strategically along I-70 (it’s no mistake that the only main roads going into and out of Vail are I-70 exits) in the not-so-distant past, Vail is like a Disney model of a ski town — only you can actually go there and ski.
Still, despite the practiced and mandatory smiles of the employees who work the resort town (and probably have to live in other parts of Eagle County), there are some things that ruffle the feathers of Vail residents. Let's start with these eight.
Parking is a pretty ubiquitous issue for a lot of places in Colorado, as its inclusion on several of these angry-area lists can attest. But in Vail, it can be a pretty pronounced and pervasive problem, what with skiers and snowboarders trying anything they can in order to park their ski-racked Subarus anywhere besides the Village parking lot. It’s the little things, especially when you’re spending $25 just to get out of your car for the day.
7. Missing the Roost
The Roost was one of the few affordable places where you could stay in Vail. It wasn’t five-star, but it was clean and dependable — and it didn’t have five-star prices. But the Roost closed for good in 2014, and has since been in development limbo…until recently, when plans were set to build another massive hotel, along with some “market-value” permanent housing (read: expensive). This makes residents of Vail mad for two reasons: One of the downhome places that they could point to as old-school, and where they could send impoverished relatives, is now gone — and in its place will be another monstrosity blocking views and sunlight. In Vail, the term “pay to play” isn’t political: It’s just reality.
There are probably a lot of cultural sub-groups that aren’t all that popular in Vail: occasionally showered ski bums, five-year-olds who have more in savings than all of the resort employees combined, Kobe Bryant. But a special sort of ugh is reserved for Texans: Across Colorado, they're considered usurpers in a general sense — but it gets worse in Vail, the preferred choice of Lone Star Staters with a healthy bank account, a booming (and demanding) presence, and very little ski ability with which to back it up. Luckily, they’re easy to spot: They’re the ones chasing their Alan Jackson cowboy hats across the snow when the wind picks up.
5. That It Has Essentially No History
The town of Vail was incorporated in 1966, which means that it’s been in existence for less time than I Dream of Jeannie has been on TV. The town as a concept was around for a while before incorporation, having been built in the early ’60s to serve as base for the brand-new Vail Ski Resort. Vail is, and always has been, about the money. So if you’re looking for any sort of Colorado history, Vail isn’t the place for you. If you’re looking to appreciate commercialism on an impressively deep level, then Vail (and probably one of Dante’s circles of hell) is exactly right for you.
Until recently, many native Coloradans would have claimed that Vail’s problems with pot were limited to a decided lack of dispensaries. That’s a situation that’s been rectified outside town limits, but there’s still an issue, mostly with snotty out-of-towners who seem to equate pot smoking with the rabble of the lower classes. We covered this jaw-droppingly presumptuous letter back in late 2013, in which a New Yorker threatened to take her business to Utah. Somehow, Vail survived despite the loss of East Coast asshat income.
3. Workforce Housing
Eagle County just voted down ballot issue 1-A, which would have promoted the creation of new and affordable housing in Vail and the county at large in order to serve the growing employee base. That base, which has the inconvenient need to, you know, live somewhere, is currently woefully underserved by the real estate and rental market, leading to a near-zero apartment vacancy rate and an average income completely out of step with the feasibility of home ownership. Clearly a problem, right? Everyone in Eagle County seems to think so, but no one can agree on the right solution — which means that nothing ends up happening at all. Unless you consider “Can Tyler crash on your couch again this week?” a sound policy response to the problem.
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2. Losing Big Beers
Seeing the Big Beers, Belgians, and Barleywines Festival finally vacate Vail is going to hurt the locals, both in their hearts and in their pocketbooks. For the first time in its now-seventeen-year run, the celebration of all things beery will move to Breckenridge, scheduled to run January 5-7, 2017. Losing any marquee festival would cause some stress on both the reputation of a town and its local economy, but saying goodbye to one that was born and bred in Vail itself must sting a little extra. Ironically, it’s a pain that could be solved with, yes, beer: As Homer Simpson reminds us, beer is the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.
1. That It’s Still Not Aspen
Yes, both towns have gorgeous vistas; yes, both are lousy with celebrities trying not to be recognized; yes, the skiing is among Colorado’s (and the nation’s) best. But Vail, in most people’s minds, still trails Aspen in terms of reputation and exclusivity…and nothing burns more coldly than the winter’s sun of second place.