The Vail Community Gathering in March is usually quite upbeat, a chance for people to come together towards the end of a long winter. This year’s edition brought even more community camaraderie.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first such gathering since 2019, since the COVID-19 pandemic relegated the last two events to mere online updates.
City residents spoke with city employees about various initiatives and projects, from housing to a focus on sustainable tourism. There were also updates on the city’s finances, including that the city had record sales tax collections for nearly a year.
Vail Mountain chef Beth Howard also provided an update on the season so far. Howard noted that the mountain’s recent announcement that it would remain open until May 1 will create the resort’s longest ski season.
“I know it’s been a tough season,” Howard said, adding that she hopes the season can end on a high note.
“The Vail community has stayed strong,” Howard said, adding that she’s proud of the team that kept the mountain running through the winter.
Besides the updates, there were also handshakes and hugs all around, before and after the introductions people were catching up as both an early sign of spring and a chance to reconnect after who knows how long. .
“I still like it”
“It’s great fun – I still like it,” said longtime resident Charlie Langmaid. “I see people I haven’t seen in a while.”
Langmaid is a proud dad these days, as his daughter, Kim, is now mayor of Vail.
Kim Langmaid said she was enjoying her first community meeting as mayor, especially after two years of pandemic restrictions. In-person contact is the best kind of contact, she said. “It’s much better than communicating by email,” she added.
Bobby Lipnick has long owned a home in Vail, but is a relatively recent full-time resident.
“We communicate by seeing each other,” Lipnick said, adding that the in-person conversation can help advance community priorities, including housing, transit and the city’s relationship with Vail Resorts.
“That’s how we grow,” he added.
Long-time resident Charlynn Canada said she was pleased to see the in-person presentation of this year’s Vail Trailblazer Award to Terry Minger, the city’s second City Manager.
“I’m happy they’re getting the recognition they deserve,” Canada said.
After receiving his award, Minger spoke about the city’s growth since his 10-year stint as manager, from 1969 to 1979.
A new generation of leaders
Minger noted that the current Vail City Council has a new generation of leaders, having worked with Langmaid’s parents, Pete Seibert and Jonathan Staufer.
“It’s nice to see community members who grew up here now taking on leadership roles,” Minger said.
And, while Minger over the years has a number of resort stops on his long resume, “That’s where I keep coming back to,” he said. “This place shaped me. We shaped it a bit too… but (Vail) changed my life. It allowed me to have the career that I had.
While 50 years seems like a long time, Minger noted that Vail is still a young place. Vail’s first sister city, St. Moritz, Switzerland, dates back to around AD 1100 and has seen Roman legions, world wars and more. The place is still thriving, Minger said.
Vail can be part of the future of the ski industry, Minger said. Some of the industry’s concerns, particularly about global warming, don’t mean the station can’t thrive in the future, he said.
Aside from the station’s elevation, “this mountain is unique,” he said. “It’s magic, and you can’t capture that anywhere else.”
Vail has really begun to reflect on its historical significance since Vail Mountain’s 50th anniversary in 2012 and the city’s 50th anniversary in 2016.
Longtime local Packy Walker is hosting another Vail Pioneers weekend in August of this year. Walker was of course at the Tuesday meeting and shared as many handshakes and hugs as anyone.
“It’s nice to be able to breathe on people again,” Walker said.