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My friends all seem to be in denial

Essay by Ed Quillen

Vail Arson – December 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

IT APPEARS that I know many people who have severe attitude problems when it comes to Vail Resorts, a big company along the Interstate 70 Sacrifice Zone which employs many Central Colorado residents at low pay and minimal benefits.

Vail is also posed to expand into a relatively undeveloped area, and that show will go on despite a fire early in the morning of Oct. 19 which destroyed a ski-patrol lodge and a restaurant while damaging the top terminals of several ski lifts.

A few days later, a radical environmental group, the Earth Liberation Front, claimed responsibility for the arson. Naturally, they were widely denounced, and of course I must share in that denunciation.

It is a reprehensible act of violence to burn anybody’s buildings. I’m totally opposed.

I am also opposed to expanding I-70 to funnel more skiers into the Vail resorts along that highway, and I am opposed to any expansion of anything at Vail until the place can accommodate its employees.

I also note that our judicial and political systems take arson quite seriously, while ignoring corporate invasions that shred communities and demand tax subsidies.

To move on, my correspondence was full of denials. One frequent contributor assured me that his twisted ankle was the result of an unexpected hole encountered while walking his dog, and their stroll had not taken them anywhere near Vail Mountain.

Another told me that on principle, he never ventures into Eagle County, since he sees it as a wholly owned subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc., and that if he traveled through there, he might have to buy gas or a meal, and he prefers that this corporation never get a cent from him.

One fellow who lives quite a ways off the beaten path said he had nothing to do with the arson on Vail Mountain, “but if the arsonists need a place to lie low for a while, I’d be honored to put them up.”

That anyone would believe that an extremist environmental group could set fires with such precision amazed one correspondent who lives in the Four Corners area. “Around here, environmentalists couldn’t organize a dozen people for a three-block protest march to the courthouse, so I have a hard time believing that they can handle matches, let alone set selected buildings on fire at a specified time.”

Allen Best, a former editor of the Vail Valley Times and the Vail Trail and a frequent critic of Vail Resorts, told me he was in Utah the night of the fires, and even offered to produce a witness.

Speculation has been rampant about who might really be responsible for the fires, and Best has done plenty of speculating. He points out that if you think about who benefited most from the fires, it was Vail Resorts which gained public sympathy at a time when the company was under political attack from many sides over its proposed expansion into alleged habitat of the endangered Canadian lynx.

For the indefinite future, he observed, “Nobody in Eagle County is going to say a word against poor beleaguered Vail, which means they can race right ahead with construction on the expansion. Vail’s opponents certainly didn’t benefit from the fires. So if you consider who came out ahead, there’s only one answer.”

And as long as we’re speculating, I found another possibility while poking around the Internet. It seems there’s an outdoor-apparel company in Canada named Arson, that offers snowboard and skiing outerwear that will “ignite your soul.”

And it popped right up when I told the search engine to look for “Arson” and “Vail.” You can check it out yourself at

Though Governor Romer denounced this act of “terrorism” before investigators had even declared it an arson, and many prominent citizens now decry this outbreak of “eco-terrorism,” there’s still conjecture that the arson may have been sparked by something other than recent environmental wrangles. Thus speculators still hypothesize a host of possible motives and suspects, like thrill-seeking psychopaths, anti-environmentalists, disgruntled ex-employees, crazed commuters, and even divine intervention.

As I’ve written elsewhere, the Vail Engorgement Process demonstrates a failure in public policy. A bigger Vail is a threat to much that we cherish around here, and yet, one has no legal or political standing to oppose a corporate swelling on those grounds.

Instead, any opposition has to derive from the fact that a Vail expansion might disrupt the habitat of the endangered Canadian lynx, which hasn’t been seen anywhere in that area for about a decade.

Not that I have anything against lynxes, but to be honest, I care a lot more about people and communities. But the lynx is the only issue that can go to court. And then the pundits wonder why people are so disgusted by our political and legal systems.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the arson trial. In this case, it should come along right after the hanging.

–Ed Quillen