The Magic of Vail Valley Summers

You can't compare Big Apples to 14ers, or can you? A word from our editor on summer in the happy valley.

By Ted Katauskas June 12, 2017 Published in the Summer/Fall 2017 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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Yukon Cornelius, the office puppy, scouting out a favorite scenic spot.

In my late 20s and early 30s, I lived in New York City. Inevitably when spring transitioned to summer, friends and relatives would come to visit (excepting Christmastime; who plans a Big Apple vacation in winter?), and as a local, I felt it was my duty to show my guests all the things I had learned to love about my adopted city. In addition to offering insider hacks of the obvious A-list attractions (why queue and pay $24 for the official boat ride to Liberty Island when you can walk right on to the Staten Island Ferry and score a better view of Lady Liberty for free?), I also wanted to show off the special places I had discovered over the years. Sure, we could go witness the romantic Hollywood backdrop of the East River from beneath the Brooklyn Bridge that Woody Allen made famous in Manhattan, but even more authentic was Patsy’s, the mom-and-pop woodfired pizza place at the foot of the bridge where Sinatra had dined. Better yet was the intimate urban oasis I had discovered on bicycle commutes home to Park Slope from my Midtown office late nights, when I’d pedal the bike path/boardwalk over the bridge, dismount mid-span, and stand there and stare at the lights of Lower Manhattan, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty gleaming in the night, the cacophony of cars and trucks and buses rumbling beneath my feet counterbalanced by the spine-tingling hoooomp of the Staten Island Ferry whistle wafting over the water on the warm sea breeze.

Introducing visitors to Manhattan-inspired moments of magic to be had in the Vail Valley was the idea behind this issue’s cover story (“The Ultimate Summer Adventure Guide”), written by the magazine’s talented digital editor/staff writer, Kirsten Dobroth, who, over the winter, asked our online audience to opine about the valley’s signature summer experiences. How can you possibly compare our Edenic corner of Colorado high country to New York City, you ask?  You can’t, of course. But then again, maybe you can.

Our Empire State Building is a 14,011-foot peak named the Mount of the Holy Cross. On any given summer day, you can join the hundreds of hikers on a pilgrimage to the summit—I’ve done it many times, and the top-of-the-world view from the pinnacle is exquisite, and highly recommended. So too is the rack of Colorado lamb at Sweet Basil, our readers’ pick for must-dine restaurant. But they also chose a lesser-known eatery in my neighborhood where locals feast on mussels by the dozen while playing bocce on a green lawn serenaded by a river humming with snowmelt. And a trailhead to a waterfall where resident daredevils on hot summer days cool off by walking a highline strung across the cascade’s canyon, inspired perhaps by the great Philippe Petit’s epic transit of the void between the World Trade Center in Man on Wire

Our newest office mascot, Yukon Cornelius (Kirsten’s wirehaired griffon pup, pictured above on a late-spring scouting shoot), even sniffed out my secret summer place: a promontory on Bellyache Ridge in Wolcott where the valley unfolds eastward at night like an animated black velvet curtain (see The Ultimate Summer Adventure Guide). On my drive home from an especially long day at the office, sometimes I’ll detour to the crown of Wolcott and curb my car at the turnout. Soaking in the scene, myriad stars twinkling above, Denver-bound taillights and Glenwood-bound headlights snaking along the interstate below, I’ll just stand there and stare as I did in Manhattan, lost in the magic of the moment. It’s my Brooklyn Bridge.

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