Over the weekend, I visited one of my favorite places in Colorado: Vail. Most people associate Vail with skiing, money and elitism – and that is there, it’s true. But Vail demographics is complicated and the “good life” is to be found not only by the well heeled, but by a segment of the population heavily into outdoor life and the pursuit of happiness (see: skiing, kayaking, mountain climbing, rafting, cycling and x-games). They are mostly young (25 to 34), mostly male (58% male to 41.6% female), and well educated: 48.89% have a college degree compared to the national average of 27%. Money is important to this demographic only insofar as its ability to buy a better mountain bike, upgrade to a fatter ski, get custom orthotics and have enough left over for IPA beers with friends. Ninety-two percent of these folks moved to Vail after 1999, and many never left. They’re the young families I saw over the weekend, but they’re also the 48 year old “dudes” – ski instructors or patrolman over the winter – who are “chilling” during Vail’s mellow summers.
My own fondness for Vail goes back thirty years when it was smaller and its owner, George Gillette, ran the place like it was a family owned pizza parlour. I was in college when I once stood next to George in a ski lift line, ignorant of his identity. Unhappy with our lack of progress, he unstrapped his skis, stuck them in the snow, marched to front of the line and helped break the log jam of expert skiers and ski bunnies. Satisfied when things got moving, he came back to his place in line and gave me a wink. That was vintage George Gillette: Owner of the Miami Dolphins, Harlem Globetrotters and Vail. When he sold the resort, I never thought it was quite the same, but his legacy remains in the high speed detachable chairlifts he had installed, and the fact that Vail will host another World Cup in 2015. Before George, most ski areas in America wouldn’t host international races, but George did. Now the mountains fight over it.
When George welcomed international ski races at “his” mountain, he opened the door for other venues like the Eukanuba sponsored Go-Pro’s Mountain Games touted as the country’s largest celebration of adventure sports and music. Professional and amateur athletes competed in nine sports and 25 disciplines for more than $100,000 in prize money, and while I never need an excuse to visit Vail, what could be more fun than watching dock diving and a mud run for dogs? I was curious, too, about a different kind of demographic. With the inroads made by the shelter and rescue message, would I find many pure bred dogs at the Mountain Games?
As they say, a good time was had by all. I threw together some snapshots taken at the games. They include the Golden Retriever who did not want to leave the dock diving pool, the antics of the mud run where the dogs wanted to stay clean,their owners were happy to get muddy, and it took some powerful persuasion to get some dogs through the course. The rest are of some Vail scenery and people and dogs I spotted along the way. A parenthetical note about that mud. It was tenacious stuff. My soil scientist husband tells it’s mostly bentonite but I came to regard it as kryptonite. It took three days for it to come off the sole of my flip flops and my hat goes off to the owners of the Old English Sheepdog and Bernese Mountain Dogs who probably thought it was a good idea at the time to take their coated dogs through it.
A final note: Hands down, the most popular breed (in terms of numbers) seen in Vail? The Bernese Mountain Dog.