This week’s trivia asked what ski area had a trail named Tourist Trap. Bob Lefsetz and Kitty Coppock both identified Vail as the home of Tourist Trap. Kitty says, “A deliciously moguled part of Riva Ridge at Vail. It trapped me years ago but it became one of my Vail favorites.”
As most people know, Vail was founded by Pete Seibert, a 10th Mountain Division veteran. During training for WWII at nearby Camp Hale, Seibert and other 10th Mountain members had skied through the terrain and recognized its potential for a ski area, particularly the Back Bowls which have become Vail’s trademark. That potential would not be realized until 1962 when Vail first opened.
Riva Ridge in Italy was the site of the 10th Mountain Division’s greatest victory in WWII so the longest of the original Vail trails was named for that battle. In my memory, I thought the trail was an Intermediate except for one steeper pitch which Kitty described. The current trail map shows it as an Expert. The Tourist Trap segment actually earned its name before it had even been skied. While the trail was being cut, someone commented that the segment would be a real “tourist trap” and the name stuck!
Originally this week’s column was going to be about a trip to Vail 50 years ago in 1972, but a post from the Colorado Snowsports Museum sent me in a slightly different direction. The post was an article about old Vail “watering holes.” I was surprised how many of those I had patronized and they triggered some great memories!
One place I visited any time I was in Vail was “The Slope!” Located at the head of Bridge Street, near the base of the original Vail gondola, The Slope was a combination theater and bar. They showed non-stop ski movies and cartoons. There weren’t seats. The ramped floor had cushioned rows that you reclined against. So in effect you were almost lying down. After a hard day skiing and a couple of drinks, standing up was difficult! Their most popular cartoon was the animated version of Lenny Bruce’s “Thank you, Masked Man” routine. (You can find it on YouTube.)
Kitty Coppock says her favorite après-ski bar in Vail was Los Amigos. Like The Slope it was located at the head of Bridge Street. I really enjoyed the brunch at Los Amigos.
My favorite bar was Donovan’s Copper Bar. The article described it as a place “where you might find President Gerald R. Ford at one end of the bar and one of Vail’s town drunks at the other.” I never saw President Ford, but the place was always crowded so he might have been there! Beers and hot dogs were cheap, 3 for a dollar! One Saint Patrick’s Day I don’t think I ever paid for a beer. There was a human bucket brigade just passing along green beers so you just took one as it came by!
Across Bridge Street there was the Red Lion which had good entertainment in the evenings. I remember seeing an acoustic folk duo there named Banks and Shane. They alternated songs with shots provided by the audience. They had a whole box of guitar strings on their table and they almost went through all of them! Alcohol and strumming a guitar don’t always mix!
I’ll finish with one of my favorites that’s still in operation. That would be Bart & Yeti’s located in the Lionshead section of Vail. The name comes from two dogs that were regulars at the bar. OK, their owners were the regulars, but the dogs came with them. If you’re in Vail, make sure to check it out!