I’ve always had a soft spot for Vail, ever since I first visited in 1980 for a weeklong ski vacation.
Surprised? After all, I do live near that “other” well-known mountain town whose residents love to poke fun at their neighbors along the Interstate. And as the incoming editor of Aspen Sojourner, Vail-Beaver Creek’s sister magazine, I have a reflexive instinct to champion all things local to the Roaring Fork Valley. But partisanship aside, Vail offers many of the same amenities that lured me to Aspen 18 years ago: inspiring high-country scenery, an overabundance of outdoor recreation, big-city culture in a village setting, and an indefatigable mountain-town mind-set.
So when this magazine’s editor, Ted Katauskas, and I decided to swap overseeing each other’s summer issues, the experience of delving more deeply into what makes Vail Vail was at once familiar and enlightening.
Let’s start with that scenery and recreation. With multiple trailheads close to town, the Vail Valley stands out among Colorado places for providing so many easily accessible opportunities to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trail. While I can affirm from personal experience many of writer Devon O’Neil’s picks in our cover story on the area’s watery hideaways (“Great Lakes"), a couple of his recommendations—Whitney Lake, Lake Constantine—weren’t even on my radar beforehand. Thanks, Devon, for enticing me to do some more exploring this summer.
I’ve long been a fan of Kelly Liken, from her innovative Vail Village restaurant that opened a dozen years ago to her celebrated appearances on Top Chef and Iron Chef America, her James Beard Award nominations, and a memorable dinner I was lucky enough to enjoy in the custom wine cellar of her home in Eagle. So I was especially pleased to send John Lehndorff, the magazine’s contributing food editor, to catch up with Liken as she prepared to open her new restaurant, Harvest, at the Sonnenalp Club in Edwards.
In working on this issue, I was repeatedly reminded that what really gives a mountain town its character are its characters, the people like Liken who live here. But, similar to the situation in my own valley, the lack of affordable housing is a growing concern. Few would deny that we need to provide more places for locals to live and thrive; the challenge is figuring out how (and where) to make affordable housing happen. As a counterpoint to Molly Blake’s exploration of a local real estate market where the median listing price recently hit $1.65 million (“Live Here Now"), O’Neil (“Skirmish on Battle Mountain") takes a look at the controversy surrounding a developer that has proposed building affordable housing for hundreds in Minturn. The catch? It wants to build most of those new homes in the heart of one of the valley’s most popular recreation areas.
Issues like this one underscore how this resort community has evolved from the simple place it was when I first visited as a teen all those years ago, but one thing remains constant: there’s no place like it in Colorado, or anywhere else. You can be sure that I’ll take at least a few return field trips this summer to hike to Lake Constantine with my son, dine at kid-friendly Harvest, and bask in the unmatched beauty of a summer day in the Vail Valley.