Snow Table Art in Vail

snow table 1

Apparently the picnic table just outside my office door is tipped very slightly to the west.  

snow table 3

Whenever it snows, and then warms up to about 33 degrees, the blanket of snow starts to slide ever so slowly in that direction.  I’m often amused by nature’s artwork as a result.

snow table 2

These pictures were all taken of the snow here in Vail in the last few weeks.

Solar Panels in Vail, Only Better

Antlers solar panels 1

When I told Randi that we had just bought 14 solar panels, her response was, “Really?  Where are we going to put them?”  A logical question, I suppose.  Happily, we don’t have to put them anywhere… we don’t even have to touch them. That’s all taken care of.  All we do is write a check and then start watching for the monthly credit on our Holy Cross electric bill.  How cool is that?

Instead of being placed on our roof, Clean Energy Collective installs them along with about 1,986 of their best buddies on a two acre site down by the airport in Rifle.  The energy they produce then gets fed into the grid.  Voila!  Naturally, the site was selected for optimum exposure and efficiency.  The maintenance is taken care of in perpetuity by virtue of the purchase price plus a fraction of the energy savings from now on.  Again … how cool is that?

Antlers solar panels 2

When we replaced the Antlers roof a few years ago, we tried hard to make it work to install solar along with it.  Sadly, we weren’t able to get it done.  But hey … at this point … who cares?  This is better.  No muss, no fuss, and we’re saving about $700 a year on our electric bill.  That’s about a 7% return initially (better than any of my investments are doing these days), and it should only grow each year as the cost of energy goes up (uhhhh … that’s pretty likely).  Of course, even if the return wasn’t so obviously good, it would still feel great to be “doing the right thing”.

We at the Antlers are quite proud of all our green efforts and initiatives, but this almost seems too easy.  Like, why wouldn’t you do this?  If all goes according to plan, we’ll pick up some more panels next year, and the next year, and …

Another fun element of this project (for us, at least) is the fact that Mike Dow, son of Antlers owners Buzz and Connie Dow, works for Clean Energy Collective and is the one who sold us the panels.   The only thing better than doing this kind of business, is doing it with a member of the family (well, practically).  Since each Antlers condominium is individually metered for electricity, our next step is to point ALL of the condo owners in the right direction, so they too can sign up for this gig.  Which is exactly what I just did for my own home in Edwards.  Ya-hoo!

CEC

Antlers at Vail Biking Tradition

In keeping with the Antlers biking tradition, Randi and I participated in the recent Ride to Work day.  I think this was our tenth time doing it together out of the last eleven years.  One of us must have been on vacation that other year … I can’t remember who.  In the spirit of Bert Farin, we stopped at every food station between Edwards and Vail, and did manage to hit our favorite one at Dowd Junction, just before they ran out of breakfast burritos … Yes!   Bert claims to take a circuitous route each year down in Boulder, just to stop at a couple more.  We totally admire that.

Ride to work 2013

Another component of the Antlers Vail Cycling history is our participation in the Colorado River Ride.  It’s coming up in just two weeks, on July 27.  We’ve had as many as two dozen people proudly wearing the Antlers colors.  Out of 32 people, that’s not bad.  Some of them even work for the competition, but we still call them friends.   Besides, our standards for this purpose are exceedingly low.

River Ride Montage

Unfortunately, this year many of our regulars have conflicts and I think we’re only going to have a handful riding together.  No biggie, because we usually split up pretty quickly anyway.  However, if YOU would like to join us, we’d love to have you, AND you get a free limited edition Antlers jersey!

bike jersey back    bike jersey front

Just give me a call at 970-790-5200.

We do have one celebrity rider with us this year, although she doesn’t know it yet (she knows she’s riding, she just doesn’t know that she’s a celebrity).  Back in April we contributed a free night stay (as we often do) to the Bicycle Colorado fundraiser, PLUS entry into the River Ride with Team Antlers!  A very nice woman who works at Kaiser Permanente called me to say that she was excited to have bought our donation at the auction.   What fun!  After she’s here in two weeks, had a chance to meet us and then if she still has the poor judgement to allow herself to be associated with us, we’ll publish her name.  Maybe even a picture.  Stay tuned.

Rob

More than Vail Vacation Rentals

The Antlers is excited to host an important event on May 23rd entitled Community Conversations.   There have been three instances of similar community conversations over the past year.

The first was at the Elevate Conference last September, when the organizers put on a Mayors Panel with five past Vail mayors.  The intent was the same as that of the entire three day conference … to broadly explore what makes places like Vail, special.

The second was when the Vail Symposium hosted the program pictured here at the Grand View room in March, with Elaine Kelton, Terry Minger and Merv Lapin reminiscing about Vail’s early days.

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The focus was one of “lessons learned” and their potential meaning for our collective future.

In April, the annual Town of Vail meeting at Donovan Pavilion included another Mayors Panel (slightly different participants) which also explored what our history tells us about the future.

All three of those community discussions included good audience participation.  They were well attended and seemed to imply a thirst for more.  The Vail Symposium’s roots, in the early 1970’s, was based on similar community introspection. It’s only fitting to continue that conversation today.

Some of the recurring themes that arose from those three recent dialogues will provide the focus of these upcoming Vail Symposium Community Conversations.  The first is, Progress at what Price?  The topic for each of the following Conversations will be chosen by the audience de jour.

The Antlers enjoys being more than just another Vail vacation rental operation.  We see ourselves as an integral part of the greater Vail community and it’s with enormous pride that we host and sponsor events like this one coming up.

Please join us on Thursday the 23rd at 5:30 at the Antlers.  $10 recommended donation, but it’s not required.  We would NOT want that to keep anyone away.

Octogenarian, role model, Antlers friend

If you happened to be walking through the Antlers lobby on a January afternoon sometime in 2002, or 2003, or 2004, or …

You might have been lucky enough to see an elderly gentleman sitting on the couch, listening to a tape recorder making an awful whistling sound.  Although he may have appeared to be sleeping (who’s to say?) he was also listening to books on tape, having skied all morning on those 88 year young legs. Despite the fact that he could hardly see anymore (hence the audio books) he still had a twinkle in his eye that reflected a life worth living … to the max.  You may have also seen him whooping up on me with a monster cribbage board and a deck of cards big enough that you or I could read them across the room.  29, 2 … 29, 4 and a pair makes 6.

Carter Williams started staying at the Antlers back in the 80’s I think.  I remember his Canadian Mountain Holidays one piece.  He was no spring chicken, but I suspect he could ski your legs off even then.  In the Antlers lore of octogenarian, character guests … Vlasta, Brad & Jane, Bill & Jane (different Jane), Jim Porter, even my dad David … Carter will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

Recently there was an obituary that went viral about an everyman from Mississippi.  With all due respect to his daughter who authored that one (it was fabulous), I submit that Carter’s is better.  Maybe it’s just because I loved him …

Rob

 

Carter Williams passed away on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 in Wesley Chapel, Florida at the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Marnie and Kip Bennett, following a sudden, precipitous decline in health in his wonderfully long life.  His other three children, a granddaughter and a devoted caregiver were also by his side.  Carter was preceded in death by his parents Johnny and Ruth Williams, his beloved wife Judy Birch Williams, and his three younger sisters, Wanda Barthelow, Doris “Ducky” Burke and Nan Slusher.   Carter is survived by son Mark Williams of Seeley Lake, Montana and Mark’s daughters Katie and Madeline and their mother Ginger; daughter Marnie Williams Bennett and Kip Bennett of Wesley Chapel, Florida and their daughter Sydney Price and son Joshua Bennett; son Fred Williams and Mollie McGill of Boulder, Colorado and Fred’s sons Carter Williams, Issac Williams, Reece Yapuncich and his wife Jenel, and Mollie’s sons Jack and Alex Guerin; and daughter Beth Williams and Doug Pewitt also of Seeley Lake.

Carter Williams played his final hand in the cribbage game of life, pegging out at age 95.  He passed as he lived, persevering to the end and leaving the world in his wake.  He will be missed by the myriad of people whose lives he touched with his keen intellect and sharp wit. Born of humble beginnings on a ranch near Whitehall, Montana to Johnny and Ruth Williams, he spent his early years in a one-room mining shack with dirt floors in Elkhorn, Montana.  Dad later moved to Boulder when his father became deputy sheriff of Jefferson County.  Graduating from Jefferson County High School, he attended the University of Montana, graduating with a degree in economics and a subsequent law degree.

Refusing to allow school and later work to interfere with enjoying life became a recurring theme for Dad. He and his good friend Bob Fletcher lit out for Europe in 1937 billing themselves as Montana cowboys.  They spent ten months bicycling through pre World War II Europe where they encountered people from all walks of life including Mussolini’s son-in-law, members of Hitler’s Youth Movement and the ruler of Ireland.  One of the stories Dad told often was of sitting around a bonfire with two Scottish boys, Bertie Brash and John, and two German boys, Otto and Ivan, who were members of Hitler’s Youth Movement.  Otto posed the question, “What will you do when war comes?” a very foreign thought to Americans in 1937.  Carter took that question to heart and wrote an original oration, winning first place in both the University of Montana and later the Montana State Oratorical Competition.

Following his return from Europe aboard an Italian tramp steamer where he developed an aversion to anything resembling pasta, he finished his law degree, graduating at the top of his class.  After Pearl Harbor, he enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training program, becoming a flight instructor prior to joining the Air Transport Command of the Army Air Corp.  Having dodged an assignment flying ”the Hump,” when one of his crew was diagnosed with trench foot and the crew was disbanded, Dad was reassigned and spent the latter war years stationed in Tripoli, Libya in North Africa.  Here he spent his time flying C46s east and west along the Mediterranean, playing tennis, winning poker games, riding motorcycles and generally making the world safe from serious military protocol.

Dad and his friend Bjarne Johnson joined their law practice with the established firm of I.W. Church and George Harris, creating the firm of Church, Harris, Johnson and Williams in 1949.  He met his wife of 62 years, Judy Birch during his early years working as an attorney in the Ford Building.   They married in March of 1949.  They began their life together doing three of his favorite things; skiing in Sun Valley, dancing with his beloved Judy, and playing poker.  Later they would travel together to the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway, the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, sail through the Caribbean and visit Mexico with friends.    Kids showed up, beginning with Mark in 1951, Marnie in 1953 and Fred and Beth, the twins in 1958.  His time in Great Falls was divided between family, the law firm, his various real estate adventures and his many civic duties.   In addition to forming the United Way of Cascade County, he was president of the Cascade County Chapter of the American Red Cross, a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers farm club Board of Directors, President of the Montana Tennis Association and a founding member of the Benefis Hospital Foundation.   He was also, and perhaps most importantly a founding member of the Great Falls Ski Bums, a group dedicated to fostering the irresponsible pursuit of fun on long upturned sticks on a steep, slippery surface.

Dad often credited his success, professionally and personally, to his ability to pick good partners:  Bill Croft of Croft Petroleum; his boyhood friend Glenn Kyler and the Kyler Ranch; his law partners, starting with Bjarne Johnson; his tennis partners; his indispensable assistant of 34 years, Janet Connolly; and the greatest partner of all, his devoted wife Judy.    Other business success included Big Sky Lake Properties near Seeley Lake and Sourdough Creek Properties in Bozeman. 

Dad enjoyed the challenges of his business endeavors, which helped keep his fertile mind engaged.  Although none of his children followed his path into the world of law or ranching, they did school him in skiing, windsurfing and hunting.  In a moment of introspection, he said all things being equal he would have rather been a ski instructor.  He did give it his best shot, taking to the slopes every chance he got until his 90th year.  Ever generous he included the extended family, in-laws, out-laws, kids, grandkids and peripheral friends on his ski vacations.  He effectively imparted the ski gene to his kids and grandkids and their lives are richer because of it.

As much as Dad was devoted to enjoying his recreational pursuits, he was also devoted to family, extended family and clearly understood the importance of giving back and leaving a positive legacy.   The Williams—Ario Emergency Room in Great Falls and the Glenn Kyler Tennis Courts in Boulder, Montana are testaments to Dad’s generosity.

Vacations and family gatherings – at the cabin on Seeley Lake, skiing in Vail, Purgatory and Sun Valley, windsurfing on the North Shore of Maui, scuba diving in Martinique and Kauai, or helicopter skiing in Canada – often centered around the cribbage board where he schooled all comers in the finer points of the game.  Although at times these gatherings seemed more like “cribbage camp” than family fun, they demonstrated Dad’s passion for engaging with his family.

Following the loss of his beloved Judy in November of 2011, Dad went to visit Marnie and Kip in Wesley Chapel, Florida last April.  The warmth of Marnie and Kip’s welcome and the Florida sunshine were enough and he, in true Carter fashion, invited himself to stay.  With the exception of a five-week visit to Montana and the cabin on Seeley Lake last summer, Dad spent his final months with Marnie and Kip.  

Dad exited the world in the same way he inhabited it, fiercely determined to do and be the best in all aspects of his life that he could control.  In his later years with deafness and blindness overtaking him and shrinking his environment to a cocoon of family and an inner circle of caregivers and friends, he looked upon life with happy bemusement, still claiming to be the luckiest guy on the planet. He truly woke each morning with a song in his heart.  He provided a role model for all.  Humble yet wise, smart and yet unassuming he always expected the best of himself and his kids.  He will be remembered as the man who taught us to snow ski, water ski, windsurf, hunt and treat people as equals regardless of their social standing.  Every cribbage game well played, ski run enjoyed, joke well told and poem recited by memory provide a testament to this remarkable man.

Carter Williams has caught the first gondola to the Pearly Gates and in Ski Bum parlance he is “skiing elsewhere.”  Après ski, if you listen you might hear “one more sip, won’t sink the ship.  Hallelue!”

Please join the family in a celebration of Carter’s life on April 19th, 2013 in the Grill Room at the Meadowlark Country Club from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. 

 

 

An All-Day Planning Session on Sustainability… Fun? Really?

Last week I got an invitation to volunteer an entire day to do an “alignment workshop” with the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability.  On the surface, that offer was slightly less than compelling.  Given my somewhat stressed schedule (so what else is new?), I was really tempted to just say, “Sorry”.

Because it was my friend Kim Langmaid (the new President of EVAS) asking, and because the Antlers has been the Official Hotel of EVAS and largely because Bob Vanourek was facilitating (who’s at the very top of my all-time business heroes list), I said yes.  It turned out to be the best decision I’ve made in awhile.

Fifteen of the brightest people I know, led by a genius, in an incredibly valuable planning session.  What’s more, it was actually fun.  Bob’s alignment process addresses everything from Purpose, Vision, Values and Goals, to Strategy, Structure, Action Steps and Communication.  Much of that is covered in his book Triple Crown Leadership, plus a whole lot more.  

We spent the entire day on the initial “high-level” pieces.  As a sidebar, when we were talking about the Purpose of the organization (what many call a “Mission Statement”) I was particularly struck by one of Bob’s slides.  It reflected the stated purpose of the United States Humane Society … Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty.  Wow … how’s that for powerful?  It made me think that every Mission Statement ought to be limited to four or five words.

At the end of the day, I admitted to feeling somewhat guilty that I had only spent half the time thinking about the future of EVAS, and the other half applying it all to the Antlers. I can’t wait to put it into practice.  Happily, EVAS has already started to.

Rob

Antler Vail Luggage … Who Knew?

I love unsolicited crazy ideas.  I even have a reputation for sending emails with nothing in the subject line but “Crazy Idea #627” (or 395, or 822 or…).   So I get this call the other day from Maria at VeraLuca Media.  She tells me that she represents Antler Luggage.  My first thought is, “How would you make a suitcase out of old, shed antlers?”

Silly me … she’s not thinking, “How would you make a hotel out of the same?”  It’s just a name, nitwit.

Anyway, Maria explains that Antler Luggage has just expanded their line of products with a series called “Vail”.  How amusing … no wonder she’s calling me … I guess.  She asks if we’d be interested in doing some kind of co-promotion with them.  They’ll provide a couple pieces of luggage (Vail luggage, of course) that we can give away.  No strings attached.   Really?  No strings attached?  You’re going to GIVE me something nice, that I can GIVE AWAY, and now you’re actually waiting for me to respond?  Say, this IS crazy.

For one who likes to say, “The answer is ‘Yes’, now what’s the question”, this is WAY too easy. 

True to form, if someone is willing to do something nice for us, we want to return the favor.  So not only will we come up with some kind of a contest to give away these lovely duffels with wheels, (keep an eye on our FB page), but I told her that we would also offer an immediate $40 one-time discount off anybody’s total room bill, who arrives with a piece of Antler Luggage.  It doesn’t even have to be AntlersVail Luggage …. just any old Antlers Luggage.  The $40 is representative of this, our 40th year in business.  Uh-oh… that promotional  message may be a bit too mixed.  Oh well … tough … $40 it is.  Who’s going to argue?

 

Bowling with the Governor

Not too long ago my friend Jenn Bruno, who along with her husband owns one of the nicest stores in Vail, Due Luca Bruno, told me that she was helping the Red Sandstone Elementary School with a fundraiser to hire a librarian (what an admirable goal).  She proceeded to tell me that the fundraiser was similar to the Mask Project, only it would be bowling pins that would be auctioned off.  Fun!  Then she said that Elaine Kelton told her I knew Governor Hickenlooper and asked if I could get him to sign a bowling pin.

Whoops … who said I knew the Governor?!  I’ve MET the Governor.  It would be a stretch to say that I KNOW him.  I guarantee you that the Governor doesn’t KNOW me.  Oh well, what the heck … I’ll try.

I called my friend Trisha Smith at CACI (who KNOWS people in the Governor’s office) and asked for her help.  True to form, she said that she’d try … bring her the bowling pin.   When I told Jenn that we’d do our best,  she asked if he would decorate the pin as well as sign it.

Uh, no … the Gov may SIGN the pin, he isn’t decorating anything.  He’s kinda busy.  After a little further discussion though, Trish suggested having someone paint the Capitol Building on the pin.  After all, it’s shaped a little like a bowling pin.  I passed that idea on to Jenn, and she loved it.  A week later she dropped off a fabulously decorated bowling pin, complete with the Gold Dome.

 

The fundraiser is February 1, so now we’re running out of time.  Fortunately, yesterday was the annual CACI Business Day at the Capitol and guess who was the keynote speaker?  How convenient.  As he approached the head table I cornered him and said, “Governor, I’ve got a crazy favor to ask … would you sign this bowling pin for an elementary school fundraiser?”  Being the affable guy that he is, the response was predictable … “Sure I will, got a pen?”

Larry Laszlo, one of the best photographers in Denver, was nice enough to send me these pictures.

For what it’s worth, the Governor’s subsequent talk and response to the Q&A cemented my admiration for him.  I can’t tell you how lucky I think we are in Colorado to have Governor Hickenlooper and his team running this state.

And I’d say that even if he hadn’t signed the bowling pin.

 

Last Vail Chairlift Ride of 2012

I haven’t often been FIRST at anything (other than some seriously age-handicapped events), so I thought I’d go for LAST.  And I succeeded.  On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, I found myself above Eagles Nest with only a few minutes before 3:30 lift closure time.  It was the last day of my Vail vacation, and I just wasn’t ready to embark on the final run to the bottom of the mountain (and the welcoming fireplace in The Antlers).  So, I blasted (and that is a very relative term) down Simba hoping to get to the Pride Express lift for one more trip to the top and, then, El Ultimo run.  The lift line corrals were completely empty when I got to the bottom of the chairlift and, when I cruised through the “singles” lane, I found that the rope was tied across the entry to the lift with the dreaded “closed” sign.  But I went into a tuck, stood up on the other side of the rope and looked beseechingly at the lift operator, saying “dude, it’s the last run of my vacay…”  And, he compassionately replied, “you’ve overwhelmed me.”  And, thus, I gained passage to the lift and became THE LAST SKIER OF 2012 TO RIDE UP THE PRIDE EXPRESS LIFT!

Epilogue … Wayne Skigen happily sitting in front of the Antlers at Vail lobby fireplace

Impact of Marijuana Legalization on the Antlers

I got a funny call the other day.  The guy says, “I’m John Ellis and I’m with NHK Japan TV.”  I wasn’t actually positive what he had said, but undeterred I answered with my standard, “Great, what can I do for you?”

He said, “We’re here doing a story on the legalization of marijuana and would you be willing to do an interview?”  My first thought was “Why me?”  On the advice of our crack public relations team,  WordenPR, I always try to make myself available to the press.  So was this a result of that?  Or did they have more classified information about my youth, qualifying me as somewhat of an expert on this subject?  I wasn’t totally sure of myself (still not recognizing exactly who I was speaking with), but my PR instincts took over and for better or for worse, I said, “Sure, why not?”  Any press is good press, right?

“By the way, where’d you get MY name?”

“Oh, we went to the Chamber of Commerce and they said we don’t want to deal with it … call LeVine.”

Excellent … probably not the youth thing.

About twenty minutes later John shows up at the Antlers with Mami, a lovely twenty-something-year-old interpreter/interviewer and Taka, the camera guy.  They set up shop in the lobby and proceed to spend the next half hour asking me how I anticipate our business to be effected by the passage of Amendment 64.

 

It’s clear to me (being the quick study that I am) that they’re looking for a story and want me to say that I expect to be overrun with pot-heads rushing to Colorado to get high. Or that our regular guests will quit coming altogether because of their own personal intolerance.  Or that our staff will be so stoned that we won’t actually be able to get anything done.

Naturally, I say nothing of the sort, and tell them repeatedly what I believe to be the truth … that I don’t really foresee much, if any, impact at all.

They seemed a bit surprised when I acknowledged that we already have guests (and probably more than a few) who get high behind closed doors.  Since the new law still doesn’t allow toking in public, that won’t really change.  We certainly expect our guests to respect the “non-smoking” designation of some condos, regardless of the specifics, and we’ll continue to enforce that.   As far as employees go, our staff is very conscientious and I have every confidence that they won’t allow what they do on their personal time, to affect their work performance.  It’s no different than drinking.  Liquor’s legal, but being even a teeny but tipsy at work  is totally taboo … not to mention an immediate invitation to look for other job opportunities.

Over and over, in as many different ways as I could think of, I kept saying that legalization just wasn’t a big deal, and wouldn’t really have much effect on our business.

I suspect they were a little disappointed at the lack of a story.  Oh well … Sorry.

 

There was one amusing sidebar to the whole thing.  When John first introduced me to Mami, I was kidding around with her (what a surprise) and said, “I’ll be happy to do this interview, but I need some consulting help on how to increase our Japanese market.”  She played along and agreed, in her somewhat broken English.  John asked if we had much Japanese business and I said yes, some, but not nearly enough.

Just then, a Colorado Mountain Express van pulls up to the door and a young couple gets out, ready to check-in.  You guessed it … they’re Japanese.  I turned to Mami and exclaimed, “I can’t believe how FAST you work!  You’re hired!”  I think she was amused … but probably not as much as I was.  I crack myself up sometimes.

When we explained to the arriving couple that this was NHK, their reaction made me appreciate the parallel to our own PBS broadcasting system.  We’re talking Japanese national public television.  This is a big deal.  I hope I looked okay in the interview and as usual, didn’t say anything TOO dumb.