Photo by Loy Van Vleet
Vail vacation takes an October chill pill
October 21, 2008 —
Everyone needs some chill time. But what about Vail locals, who live year round in a place so meritorious that thousands of people pay good money just to be here for mere moments, for mere days per year?
People on vacation in Vail sometimes look at me and at the end of a raging weekend, their breath reeking, their ski clothes still dripping with melting ice, their credit cards warped from over-use, and I know what they're thinking: “My god, how do the locals do this all year round?” Are we on some kind of nightmarish, permanent vacation? Do we put Margaritaville and Rocky Mountain high on iPod repeat and cycle endlessly through days filled with skiing and golf and nights full of drinking and casual sex, spinning through spirals of joy in an endless ascension toward some inconceivable ski-and-snowboard ecstasy which none but Vail property owners will ever know?
If you've heard this before, that Vail is an endless series of athletic achievements followed by fine dining and vintage, top-shelf wines, then you’ve clearly met some of our vintage, top-shelf public relations people.
And they’re partly right.
Life in Vail is, or can be, little more than a fast-paced toggling back-and-forth between the beautiful and the sublime.
But for most of us it’s a toggling back-and-forth between ON-season and OFF-season. The ON-season is always frenetic, a time of mental chainsaw juggling. ON-season is scrambling from one place to the next, ironing black-tie clothes just in time for the Black Diamond ball, pushing the fatique out of your smile, picking up that Christmas gift just in the nick of time and working, WORKING, and making hay for 13 hours a day while the sun – as it does 300 days a year – shines with enough brightness to blaze through the entire top 50 percent of your epidermis and leave you lathered in aloe and soaking in the oversized tub in your million-dollar, two-room apartment, wondering desperately when the market will recover.
Off-season, on the other hand, is more tranquil.
October is the best of those tranquil months.
Everything is gray when the leaves fall. One day the weather is 80-degrees and dryer than ancient bones buried in sand, the next the sky is spitting lighting and snow, then rain, leaving an un-navigable layer of ice upon all of our many construction sites.
It’s not a good time to come here on vacation. We know that, and we love it.
Look, we all understand that if it weren’t for the loyal seasonal visits of second home owners, international vacationers, Mexican aristocracy, Texan families of 12 or more, and those blessed Front Range riff-raff, that all of us locals would be out of a job and living off the land like the Utes who tended this land before us (which, given the sharp decline in bookings this year, may come back again sooner, rather than later).
But it’s October, and we need a rest. We need to gather in livingrooms and bars and watch Sunday night football. We need to get our construction and road projects finished. We need to hunt for days at a time, wandering through the wilderness out of range of cell phones, off the grid, telling time by the position of the sun.
October is our holiday, a human right as old as humanity itself: Egyptian Pharoes built summer palaces, Native Americans went on spirit quests, and Greek gods were known to leave Olympus and take vacations from guarding mankind, leaving Chaos in charge of humanity from time to time (…hmmmm, perhaps that’s what’s happening now with our economy?)
Even George Bush kicks back once in a while and gets some relaxation (which he recently spent reading Camus’ “The Stranger” on Aug. 11, in a weird, ironic-and-yet-not-ironic twist in the bizarre and painful narrative through which he has lead our country).
The Decider of America has his Texas ranch – and we’ve got October. It’s a gray time, an ugly time, a cold and unpredictable time. The creeks flow at barely a trickle. Daylight savings and darker nights approach. There are no concerts, no events, no fireworks on Wednesday nights.
But it’s also a time of 50 percent off at local restaurants, where once a year we get to act like we can afford a few pounds of Dungeness Crab at Montauk, slathered in butter, washed down with the second-cheapest wine on the menu. It’s also a time when skis are on sale at the Ski Club Vail ski swap, and summertime kayak, rafting, and mountain bike gear can sit out alongside ski and snowboard gear (A-basin and Loveland are, after all, open for business).
Everyone will tell you that the reason to come here is for the skiing, the people, the summertime golf and fly fishing, the blue-bird powder days, martinis, beer, shots of jager and anything else you might want. But for us, more than anything, we live here for October, when this outrageously beautiful place belongs wholly, and completely, to us.
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