Originally from Sterling Forest, NY at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, Bryan Rooney has lived in the Vail Valley since October 1998 when he started at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. He has also lived in Victoria, Australia, where he worked as the racing, terrain parks and events manager at Mt. Hotham. Now he is the senior manager of mountain operations for Vail Mountain.
Vail, you were seared into my brain during the 1980's. I watched as the storied ski racers of that generation competed upon your slopes. At a birthday celebration with my parents, I received a shirt that had the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships logo emblazoned on the chest. My parents had no idea what an impact that shirt would have. And so began a secret love affair with you, Vail.
At that time, I was an aspiring ski racer confined to the hills of the Northeast. Vail, it seemed, was a snow-filled paradise that was far off in some distant land. I had dreams of sliding down your slopes and walking through your Bavarian-themed picturesque village. It would be another fifteen years until I would finally set foot upon your legendary slopes. It was the spring of 1998 and by this time, I had wrapped up a ski racing career of my own, graduated college, by-passed the job on Wall Street and had settled into the Northwest. I was searching.
During that initial visit, I was greeted with abundant spring snowstorms. The snow seemed to only fall under the cover of darkness, leaving behind piles of deep, fluffy powder and sun-drenched days. The skiing was like nothing I had ever experienced - on either side of the United States. It was neither icy nor heavy and sparkled in the sunlight like magic pixie dust beckoning to be floated through by skiers and snowboarders alike. It now seemed that while I had been exploring the edges of this continent, the crown jewel laid land-locked somewhere in the middle. Vail, you were then, and are now a magical place of unspeakable beauty. My search had ended.
My first impressions of Vail, received through that old Zenith television, were now confirmed by my eyes - this was indeed a land where mountains touched the sky and rivers bent under the weight of its' immeasurable beauty. While your mountain was the initial attraction, your inhabitants and the surrounding lifestyle sealed the deal. Each like-minded person seemed to be floating free, unencumbered by the stresses of daily life and existing in a euphoric state of bliss. It was easy to be lured by your ways, Vail, and I had fallen - fallen deeply in love. I made it my goal to settle here that next winter and to enjoy your mountain paradise. I received a job offer in October of 1998 and I was off. Little did I know, but I would never leave Vail for more than a few weeks at a time since that fall fifteen years ago.
When I was pulled out of your protective grasp, I was swept out of this valley and off to exotic places across the globe. Some trips were for work, some were for pleasure and some were for re-connecting with family. The one constant was that while I was away, I always longed to return. I have been to places of unspeakable beauty and they have been so very nice to visit. Returning home to you, Vail, has always overshadowed each of these places. That is how I know this is true love. No matter what temptations lie in front of me, you still have my heart. There is something very true about being lucky enough to live, work and play in a place where people travel far and wide to spend their vacations.
Vail, you have provided me with so much joy over these years. I met the love of my life here, we married and now she is my wife. I followed the road less traveled and along the way landed my dream job. You have afforded me the richness of spirit and the appreciation of our natural surroundings, while asking for nothing in return. You have allowed me to settle upon your land, start a family and bring a new generation into this playground of Mother Nature's splendor.
Vail, you are a treasure that everyone should be lucky enough to find. Since I have lived here, I have been changed in ways that are both profound and immeasurable. For that, I thank you. Vail, I love you.