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Vail to Celebrate Silver Anniversary

October 11, 1987|FRANK RILEY | Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section

VAIL, Colo. — While Olympic skiers go for the gold at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Vail will be going for the silver as this largest ski complex in the United States celebrates its 25th anniversary.

The festivities began with a silver summer celebration of concerts, art events and warm-weather sports around Vail and its sister resort of Beaver Creek.

Nature set an optimistic mood for early snows by lightly powdering mountains around and above the 10,000-foot level before the end of September.

Vail's 25th winter season will be launched with a Dec. 12-19 week of festivities.

The aspens turned to gold early because of cooler than usual weather. The Farmers Almanac has forecast that this winter will be a return to ample snow in the Colorado Rockies.

Families are intrigued by the new Whipper Snapper runs for children, and world competitors will be arriving for the American Ski event in March, two weeks after the close of the Winter Olympics. The event will prepare the ski world for the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek Jan. 29-Feb. 12, 1989.

Vail opened for skiing Dec. 15, 1962. By opening day, it was already one of the three largest ski areas in the United States, offering the nation's first gondola ski lift, two double chairs and a beginner poma lift to serve 876 acres of skiable slopes.

Steady Growth

Over the next few years more than $40 million was invested in lodging, restaurants and resort amenities. By 1964 three more chairlifts had been added and Vail was the largest single-mountain ski area in the United States.

Some of those early skiers are expected to share in the Dec. 12-19 Birthday Party Week. Among the highlights are a weeklong Snow and Ice Sculpture Contest around Vail Village and Vail Mountain. The opening ceremonies and torchlight parade will begin at 6 p.m. Dec. 13.

The following afternoon a demonstration team from the 10th Mountain Division will launch ski events on Golden Peak. During World War II this division trained 20 miles south of where Vail was to be founded. It was the only U.S. Mountain Unit to see action overseas. Ski troopers included Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) and Peter Seibert, who later returned as a founder of Vail.

On Dec. 15, the 25th anniversary of the opening of ski slopes here, an all-day party will be held in Vail and on mid-mountain. Throughout the week, special events will include cross-country tours, bonfire talks, a downhill race on antique skis, a Founder's Ski Race and a Founder's Cocktail Party. An anniversary film, "Vail, the First 25 Years," will be premiered.

A new book, "Vail," tracing the roots and history of the town and its mountain, will be available for this birthday week. The book is written by local artist, author and historian June Simonton. Her mountaineering and photographer husband is pastor Don Simonton of Vail's Interfaith Chapel. He is known nationally for the annual pilgrimage treks he leads to the Mount of the Holy Cross, 30 miles from Vail.

Soaring to more than 14,000 feet, this mountain and its cross created by rock formations can be viewed from Vail's ski mountain and is one of the oldest pilgrimage destinations in the Western Hemisphere. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote "Cross in Snow," a poem about the mountain.

This ski season Cascade Village will become the fourth base area serving Vail Mountain, adding to Golden Peak, Vail Village and Lions Head base areas. The new Cascade quadruple chairlift will soar 1,400 vertical feet to carry 1,800 skiers an hour from close to the Westin Hotel to link with the Lions Head Gondola and the high-speed Vista Bahn.

The new Cascade lift will give Vail 19 double, triple and quadruple lifts, one gondola and a children's poma lift for an uphill capacity of 30,600 skiers an hour. They'll be skiing 92 named runs. Despite the uncertain snows of last winter, nearly 1.3 million skiers visited Vail. The largest ski school center in the world, with more than 500 instructors, helps to draw skiers of all abilities.

Ten miles west of Vail, Beaver Creek has nine double, triple and quadruple lifts that can carry 15,209 people an hour.

Trails for children have been added at Vail and Beaver Creek. Six acres of Whipper Snapper trails at Golden Peak take young skiers through such fascinations as the tail of a dragon.

For this winter at Beaver Creek, a super-luxury Trapper's Lodge will open with only 10 rooms, plus its own chef and wine cellar, at the top of the chairlifts. A new 300-room Hyatt for Beaver Creek is planned for the 1988-89 season.

Well before the birthday party week, Vail's anniversary season will get under way with a wide range of events. The 14th annual International Ski Film Festival will take place at Vail's Westin Hotel Dec. 2-5.

Pepi's Wedel Weeks, a comprehensive early season ski tune-up program, will be held for three successive weeks beginning Nov. 29.

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