Culture in the Vail Valley

VV Arts & Culture and local economy

Vail Valley Arts & Culture scene fuels local economy

The allure of the beautiful Vail Valley in winter is undeniable. With 2.5 million skier days and only about 50,000 residents, it’s clear that the beautiful Colorado winters bring plenty of people to the Valley, and with them, their tourist dollars. Tourism is the largest sector of the valley’s economy, with 79 percent of jobs either directly related to the tourist industry or indirectly servicing both residents and tourists. Income from tourism stimulates not only hotels and restaurants, but also meeting facilities, attractions, tour companies and the local arts and cultural communities. Vail organizations and residents have created a huge array of cultural opportunities that will keep them pouring in on I-70 until the snow flies again.

The most significant contributor to the cultural scene is the Vail Valley Foundation (VVF), which sponsors everything from the Teva Mountain Games in June to the Vail International Dance Festival in August to the Birds of Prey World Cup in December. VVF’s involvement in arts and athletic programs in 2010 directly infused over $9 million into the economy. Add the patrons who attend the events, advertising and other indirect dollars spent and you’ve got $52 million spent to enhance the culture of the Valley for its visitors and residents alike. In addition to supporting arts programs directly, the VVF gave other local nonprofits over $662,000 in 2010, continuing to fulfill its mission statement of enhancing the spirit of Vail Valley.

For the indie crowd, the Vail Film Festival is in its eighth year of providing a screening opportunity to aspiring filmmakers as well as a beautiful backdrop for those who love to discover new talent. Thousands of these film enthusiasts converge each year for four days, bringing their ideas and credit cards with them.

Don’t miss the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. In its 24th season, it features performances by three acclaimed orchestras, over 50 world-renowned soloists and impressive guest-star conductors. Small chamber concerts might only accommodate 100 spectators, but the largest performances at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater seat over 2500 music lovers. With six weeks of events and an annual audience of over 60,000, the economic impact of Bravo! is huge.

The Wine and Spirits Festival features the winners of the San Francisco International Wine Competition and World Spirits Competition, as well as top culinary talent from around the world. Visitors can attend seminars on cocktail mixology, pairing, culinary demonstrations and of course, wine. With tickets running from $25 to $125 for the classes and amazing dinners with renowned chefs, you can bet that the servers of Beaver Creek will earn their wages.

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are funded entirely through private donations and grants, yet they are an integral part of public works to educate the community and visitors through arts programs, artists’ series and outreach.  These beautiful gardens draw 100,000 visitors annually.

Just because the festivals are generally more sedentary offerings, don’t think that the Vail Valley has forgotten that its first draw was to the athletes. The businesses, rental shops and tour operators that focus on mountain biking, hiking, river rafting, jeep tours, golfing, fishing and hot air ballooning can keep an adventurer busy for weeks. For most, these are the main reasons to visit the valley; the arts are a sideshow. But tourists have to stay somewhere, so the hotels and local economy benefit either way and some of those dollars get funneled into the local culture.

As you traipse about your festival of choice, swirling a lovely glass of Pinot at Splendido, spending an afternoon pondering a new film at the Cadillac Screening Room, relaxing on the Ford Amphitheater lawn as you listen to an award-winning orchestra or marveling at the lithe dancers at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, remember what you are contributing to: a community that passionately cares about its environment, a cultural panorama that leaves no artistic want unsatisfied, a thriving economy of 50,000 people with a relatively low unemployment rate, and a $725 million industry that focuses on giving you, the treasured tourist, a few days of unparalleled beauty, luxury and culture. Those are dollars well spent.