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America's Track - Vail

Welcome to the
Vail Track

View of the Gore Mountains from the proposed locale of Vail's Mountain Track. Train with us at 8150 feet.

Grand Opening of Vail's Mountain Track

Yes, seeds of new life are coming to the town that helped build the endurance for America's sole Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist since 1908. Vail is planning its first (and state-of-the-art) outdoor running track which we think will be one of America's most beautiful. 🥰 Plus, we'll potentially be updating the rugby/soccer field with turf and completely redesigning and building three new world-class sand volleyball courts on the site grounds.

The history of running is Vail is deep and, well, it provided the spark unlike any other city in America after Frank Shorter won the Olympic Marathon Gold Medal in 1972 (photo here). Frank's win turned on the 1970s running boom in the United States that shaped our love of running... which still exists today. Oh, yes, he won the Olympic Marathon 🥇 by 2 minutes . . . that doesn't happen, unless you train in Vail. 😉

"The legend is that America was so taken with Shorter’s triumph that it collectively stubbed out its cigarettes, traded Budweisers for Nikes, and took to the streets in a jogging craze. Needless, to say, that’s not exactly what happened, but the running boom he started was so very real.

Frank's Gold Medal victory in Munich (immediately after training in Vail with the USA Olympic team and its coaches for 3 months)

And make no mistake that Frank Shorter’s Gold Medal, the first since 1908 by an American in the Olympic marathon, reshaped the game for running and fitness in the United States." shared the New York Times.

The story of Vail being this birthplace of high altitude champions started at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City which is situated at 7,349 feet. Distance runners soon realized that to run and more importantly win at altitude they had to train at these oxygen deprivation heights too. Well, with the next Olympics being in Munich at 1,706 feet the Yale graduate, Frank Shorter, thought, well, if he turned the tables and trained in thin air at high altitude in Vail it presented a unique benefit of becoming more efficient in delivering oxygen to the muscles.. even thought his marathon would be much lower. So, Frank and the entire USA distance running team for Munich's 1972 Summer Olympics relocated to Vail for three months to prepare. Beside Vail's beauty and the quiet, peaceful atmosphere that it gave USA Olympians Frank Shorter, Jeff Galloway, Jack Bacheler, and coaches it also gave a wonderful opportunity to focus. Vail also gave those runners hills. And while the course of the marathon in Munich was flat, Vail's hills made them strong. And from Vail hence came about the famous Frank Shorter quote: "Hills are speedwork in disguise."

Stakeholder WINS

Vail's major stakeholder wins for the track will be: (1) our residents—from youth to seniors—who could use the track (perhaps the outside lanes) as a safe space to walk right near their homes; (2) our local students including our Vail Mountain School (located 2 miles from track); (3) Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes who will have a track 300 yards from their home base to train/improve their endurance and explosive starting power; (4) our town with a new iconic venue for national and international press and marketing; (5) runners around the world. For the first time in modern history, Vail might be in the discerning thoughts as a viable high altitude location for spending weeks before their major races/marathons or for the numerous running camps that might begin to call Vail their home base.

 

Yes, Vail's running track could be a catalyst that delivers far more good than any of us can even imagine at the moment. 

Rough mock-up of the Vail Track.jpg

This is super simple mock-up of what the track might look like. It will be 4-lanes (perfect for a town track) rather than the typical 9-lanes around high school football fields. The track cost will be approximately $1.5 million. That includes moving the mound of soil near the volleyball courts and working with a landscape architect in replanting of conifers and Aspens. 

You will see we also envision replacing the old maintenance shed (near the parking lot and turning it into a small fieldhouse for athletes to stretch and stay dry/warm if needed. This might also be an opportunity to add 55 parking spots directly beneath the current parking. There will be no leveled parking above the ground level (it will keep the current look).

Vitality in Vail

Runningand running cultureis once again more popular and is bringing more richness and vitality to communities than ever. "It was one of the most popular forms of exercise during the pandemic, with a Trend Insight survey indicating that 61% of fitness consumers have still done so in recent months," as shared by an Inspira research report. Running, while an individual sport brings people together and bring so much life and energy (literally) to a town.

 

I was the President of the San Francisco Road Runners for three yearsone of the west's most well attended running club of it's kind. The health, the friendships, and joy it brought our city and its residents (well, visitors too were always invited to join us) warmed my heart on what seemed like hundreds of different occasions. Nearly every single day of the week we would meet at different locations around San Francisco.... some days, we'd run the roads, other days the trails, and on Tuesdays we run (with what seems like half of the city's running community) at the public track.

Is Vail's mountain track going to bring excitement and vitality AND community to Vail? Absolutely. There is no question that if we do it right, this track can globally reshape the "year-round" thoughts of Vail and running in our legendary little International town. Plus, in the process our track will help bring millions in revenue over the next decades. While Vail is not a destination for runners at all currently . . . in Colorado, Aspen and Crested Butte hold the exclusive title for high altitude training destinations and summer camps (well, seems like every mountain town in Colorado hosts running camps), plus, internationally, along with Iten, Kenya. But that might be changing come the summer of 2028.

OK, yes, there is a running club in Vail... but in reality, the Vail Valley Running Club has moved to Edwards. Why is that? Well, as every resident, visitor, along with our friends and family know.... Vail has practically no flat trails for running or walking. Yes, the bike path (know as the Gore Creek Path (~2 miles) is the exception along with the area from Lionshead to Vail Village (~1 mile) being a superbly enjoyable connector. For some who like to run uphill 😂, the working/service road up Vail mountain is another running opportunitybut, in reality, fewer are drawn to that busy and dusty road as any type of alpine sanctuary run (no, Vail's two uphill hiking trails don't qualify as running trails). Doesn't Vail have any trails without climbing (that might have undulating/rolling hills and flat sections)? OK, there is one—the Vail Trail but it has become nearly ignored/forgotten over the past decade and is overgrown. Yes, it's still hikable and runnable, but it's a mess. 

When things seem impossible (or perhaps even previously unthought) that is when we have the opportunity to do mind-blowing things. And with our engineer get super creative on making it possible.

ON THE POSSITIVE SIDE: As part of the gift of the Vail Track, we will (1) reinvigorate that simply amazing Vail Trail (second image) and with good hope will (2) work to extend the trail to East Vail. Plus, in our genuine interest in giving locals, guests, plus our family and friends more areas to run we hope to (3) build one additional new trail (first image) from Vail to Dowd Junction / Minturn. None of these will climb up Vail mountain. rather be flat cross mountain trails with rolling hill and some gorgeous views of waterfalls, cliffs, and more. These cross mountain trails will not just be a win for (attracting) runners, but will also be super welcomed by our local walkers and hikers too. Oh, we are also (4) working very hard to activate the rails to trails from Minturn to Leadville (AKA: more flat trails that allow for immense beauty for all and accessibility for our elders, kids on bikes, and our brothers and sisters in wheelchairs).

The photos show two super rough ideas of where we will propose and build a trail extension (of the Vail Trail) and significantly flatter new trail than any running or hiking trail in town currently. 🤞

Purchasing Power

Running camps with their people add a beautiful shot of adrenaline to a town, that town's running culture, and their running stores. But with this "people" vitality, they also brings significant revenue to our economy. Additionally, the win of having the finest track in the world is going to reverberate far beyond.

 

Oh, what is a running camp or a running retreat, you might ask, well, they look like this: (1) Run the Alps or Tin Man Elite Altitude Camp or Running Mecca camps (2) Elevate Running Camp in Steamboat Springs (3) Summer Altitude Camp, in Keystone, (4) Rocky Mountain Cross Country (RMXC) Camp in Crested Butte, (5) the Dream Running Camp & Bruce CampProject Gold in Flagstaff, (6) High Altitude XC Camp in Lake Tahoe, (7) High Altitude XC Camp in Colorado Springs, (8) Kenya High Altitude Training Camp, (9) Colorado Trail Running Camp in Snowmass, (10) Sundog Trail Running Camp, (11) Trackster Running Camp, plus so many others, and most individual teams and clubs each run their own camps. Our club, San Francisco Road Runners did our summer camp in Occidental, California and our fall retreat in Pacifica. 

 

Runners have tons of purchasing power.  Today’s runners are highly educated with 79% having earned a college diploma, compared with only 27% of the United States population. Runners are also affluent with 73% of those surveyed reporting a Household Income of more than $75,000, well above the U.S. median household income of $52,175. (taken from 5kevents)

Oh, for the huge demographic of runners in America who love simply taking runs to explore when they visit a new town, Vail has tons of room for beautiful growth! 😃😃😃

High Altitude Training

The famed town of Iten, Kenya (photo) at 7,874 feet. Surprisingly, Vail is not thought of as a summer running camp destination or even on the list of high altitude training hubs for runners. It's because Vail has no running trails or even a track.

"Elite runners will do blocks of training in high-altitude locations like Flagstaff, Arizona (6909 feet), Aspen, Colorado (7,998 feet) or even all the way to the “Home of the Champions” in Iten, Kenya (7,874 feet)." - ALTITUDE ATHLETIC

Why Aspen? Well, it has one of the best track surfaces in the state. And it offers some of the best views on any track. 

It could happen here too (harkening back to the early days of Vail where Olympic champions trained here? “To flourish as a community, we must always be open to opportunities to build local vitality — this project not only provides valuable physical assets but also a place for expanded sports that will strengthen the minds and bodies of girls and boys who are key to a prosperous future for our humble town of 6,500 residents.”

While one can drive 14 miles to Battle Mountain High School track (sadly, it's not available always, including when games are happening and when the fences are locked after hours). But, considering the Vision of Vail—to be the premier international mountain resort community— a track with a glorious view will be a fantastic win.

Might the Vail Track be the most gorgeous looking track on the planet . . . we think so. With its idyllic and picturesque scenery (and, maybe, coming soon - native Aspen and confer trees), it makes you want to jump on and have a run around!

Track Specs

We have been in conversation with both Hellas (who installs polyurethane tracks) and Mondo (who installs volcanized rubber tracks). For the reason of ruggedness of the Mondo track surface, this will most likely be the surface that is used, if/when we build an indoor athletic center in Vail - where a track with a Mondo surface might go around the new Dobson Ice Rink. 

For our Vail Track here, after significant thought, research, and discussion, our intent is a 4-lane polyurethane track around the outside of the rugby pitch/field. Unlike running or walking on asphalt or concrete, the cushioning of this soft surface not only provides excellent shock absorption, decreases muscle stress, and substantially increases recovery. It's also grippy enough so runners don’t slip or stumble due to a bad stride.

Most tracks are 9 lanes (around football fields), but with our interest of having a open community track for the town primarily — 4 lanes is just right. On the straight away on the inside (away from the roadway) there will be 5 lanes for 100-meter dash and sprint/power practice for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.​

Speed work away against the background of iconic Gore Mountains (yes, the photo behind is the view from the track). Warm up in along the run/bike path of the gorgeous East Vail. Then come to Vail's tree-sheltered track with its amazing view of the Gore mountain and let the views take your breath away. With snow capped mountains and blue skies it’s absolutely stunning. It will be an experience to share, with a view to cherish until your next visit. Or until you move to Vail. 

Regardless, if you're a runner, don't miss Vail's new track!

You'll love it. Can Vail (like other global mountain towns) become a runner's paradise? Yes, of course.

Bring Back the Tracks

There is currently an underground rally cry for saving the smaller under-funded inner-city community tracks. Or find the funding to renovate. I just returned to Vail after some beautiful years coaching track in San Francisco. They recently did a complete renovation of their public track. Oh, everybody loves it! And so much vitality has blossomed from it.  

Our new track means a new experience not just for runners, joggers, and walkers, but all visitors. Yes, it's will be a super tiny part of Vail, but this track, will be a magnet and open up beautiful vitality to everybody. Might it become a daily meeting place where people come to train in the morning, when the sun rises, perhaps. Just a small little gathering track surrounded by beautiful conifers and Aspens (well, we're hoping to remove and replace the non-native invasive Cottonwood tree) and mountains. 

Community access is also a priority, for adults and kids. There are a lot of schools in the Vail Valley that don’t have access to a high quality track — or a track at all. Now, their runners can come and use our community track. It’s all about accessibility. Any school in the Vail Valley that wants to use it will be able to bring their students and enjoy it. Might it be used for meets - yes, it could, but we won’t close it off to the public very often.

In conversations with Town of Vail, we've decided not to add a lower level to the current parking lot. This type of parking structure would add significant costs and add a summer of undesired construction with dump trucks, excavating equipment, and concrete truck — of which none of our resident of the area would ever want. Rather, we will re-pave and stripe (using a 45-degree diagonal parking upping our parking spots by over 15 and making parking far easier than the current 90-degree parking. 

This track will additionally add another gateway to Vail's East Vail multi-use recreation path. So while running or Lacrosse will be the primary draws, the track (and it's parking) can be another chance to enjoy Vail's parks and many many miles of trails all around it. And no, you don't need to tell someone to meet you at your car... just them 'em to meet you in the café clubhouse that will open up adjacent to the track - with fingers crossed. 

This is the look and feel that we hope to bring in a new Vail Athletic Field Clubhouse.

 

Our "Vision" for the town of Vail is to have the "premier mountain resort community." And, yes, while adding an indoor gathering area for a track arena might seem crazy to some... it does just what we want to do — it creates an opportunity for community! Vail Wins. 😃😅

It would give our residents, or anybody visiting our track, a place with a roof over their heads to stay warm and dry if a rain or lightning storm comes in, plus a place to stretch, connect with each other or visitors to our town. Yes, we will have a microwave inside (it's a popular little feature at track clubhouses).

idea for look and feel of Vail Athletics Field refreshment center for both atheletes and g

We're 100% open to working with a donor interested in helping build this beautiful, cozy, little community/athlete refuge.

Proposed Location

We have a feeling you might like the Vail Track location (where it currently says "Vail Athletic Fields/Soccer Fields). It's 800-meters from the heart of Vail Village (by the way an eagle flies). 

Beyond the new track around the athletic fields, the Vail Track Foundation will be paying for the excavation of a lower (sub-grade) parking level in the location of the current parking. Because the new parking will be all sub-grade there is no raised parking structure. 

Vail's Mountain Track

We are honored and super excited to bring our residents and our Town of Vail one of the most beautiful tracks in the world.


Yes, of course, we agree: the running tracks of St. Moritz and Chamonix are breathtaking.

 

But, different than theirs Vail's mountain track is on the edge of town and with no tall buildings in sight.

Open to all paces and smiles! Come run with us. 

Vail's running culture/community is blossoming now.

   Saturday, July 17, 2027 (or July 2028) - in super early planning phase but hopeful

 

Honorary Guests invited to the grand opening weekend (well, this is a super preliminary list): Frank Shorter1972 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist & 1976 Olympic Marathon Silver Medalist, Jeff Galloway—1972 Olympian, Jack Bacheler—1968 and 1972 Olympian (this trio trained together in Vail for the 3 months prior to the 1972 Munich Olympics), David Wottle1972 Olympic 800-meter Gold Medalist, Joan Benoit Samuelson—1984 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist in the first women's Olympic Marathon, Shalane Flanagan—2008 Olympic Silver Medalist and winners of the New York Marathon, Molly Seidel—2022 Olympic Marathon Bronze Medalist (oh, Joan and Molly are avid skiers), Parker Valby—NCAA record holder for the indoor 5000-meter and outdoor 10000-meter,  Vail's own Mikaela ShiffrinTwo-time Olympic Gold Medalist and winningest World Cup alpine skier of all time (men or women), Lindsey Vonn—Olympic Gold Medalist and third winningest World Cup alpine skier of all time (men or women), Vail's Porter Middaugh and William Brenner—high school cross country state champions, and track mile and two-mile state champions who have both ran some of the fastest times ever run in Colorado high school history, Vail's Valerie Constien—Olympic Steeplechaser, Vail's Sarah Will—12-time Paralympic Gold Medalist and most decorated athlete in U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team history, Vail's Paralympian's World Cup Champion Thomas Walsh and National Champion Audrey Crowley, Vail's Liz Lemley—Youth Olympics Gold Medalist, Jake Pate—Two-time Youth Olympics Gold Medalist, Vail’s Porter Huff—Youth Olympics Silver Medalist, Vail's Tess Johnson—Olympian and World Championship medalist, Vail trained Meghan Tierney—Olympic snowboarder, Vail's Sarah Schleper—Olympic Skier, Colorado Head Track coach Mark Wetmore and Assistant Head Coach Heather Burroughs, Jenny Simpson—Olympic 1,500-meter Bronze Medalist, Scott Jurek—one of the most dominant ultramarathon runners in the world, Dathan Ritzenhein—Three-time Olympian & On Athletics Club coach, and more.

 

I am personal friends with Frank Shorter, Jeff Galloway, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Molly Seidel, Lindsey Vonn, and a number of other Olympic marathoners and qualifiers who all believe in benefits of training at high altitudes...getting them to join us will be reasonably quite possible. Oh, Usain Bolt is godfather to the child of a long-time friend in Jamaica, so, crazy as it seems, I'm somewhat optimistic of Usain joining us too... especially if we can time the grand opening with an evening Ziggy Marley concert in the Ford Amphitheater just 300-meters from our new track.

We will, of course, invite Vail local celebrity athletes including: Josiah Middaugh—World Champion triathlete, Mike Kloser—World Champion mountain biker, Buddy Lazier—winner of the Indianapolis 500, Chris Anthonyprofessional skier and filmmaker, and more coming.

Opening Ceremony at 1pm: Will include ribbon cutting and first lap and, of course, photo opportunities with Olympians, plus catered food under a large tent hosted by Pepi's Restaurant of Vail's loved and first Austrian family - the Gramshammers.

Press Invites: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Denver's news stations and newspapers, plus Runner's World, Meter Magazine, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) media/press team. OK, yes, of course, our track opening will ultimately play a significant promotional/tourism role, as the press coverage highlights the world's best runners being in Vail with images of the new track in its gorgeous setting. Of course, the coverage of how America's only modern day Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist, Frank Shorter, trained in Vail with his teammates for the 3-months prior to the 1972 Olympics for the high altitude training benefits will also plant some ideas in the running community around the country (and the world). Perhaps, no longer, will the runner community only think of Iten, Kenya, Flagstaff, Aspen, and Crested Butte as the towns for their running camps and high altitude training. 

Grand Opening & Special Guests

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Yes, we will be making a special invitation to Usain St. Leo Bolt - Jamaican retired sprinter, widely considered to be the greatest (and faster) sprinter of all time. We are coordinating the track grand opening with the Ziggy Marley evening concert across the street at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

Oh yes, beyond press, professional photographers will be on hand as the kids will have the opportunity to race again the fastest man on earth (Usain Bolt) and/or against any of our special guest Olympic athletes. One of our highlighted races will be Usain Bolt 🐐 (fastest man on earth) vs. Frank Shorter 🐐 (greatest American distance runner of all time) vs. Mikaela Shiffrin 🐐 (greatest alpine skier of all time). And, of course, we'll have a face painting artist for the kids - painting once-in-a-lifetime "Vail Track Grand Opening" track and mountain art.

All of our out-of-town guests for the Vail Track grand opening will be given a stipend for their travel plus lodging at the Sonnenalp hotel in the heart of Vail Village. 

If you're not in the know "Tracksmith" (the brand and shops) has been shining an extra big of light & pep back into running. For the month surrounding the Vail Mountain Track grand opening we're working with Tracksmith to bring a pop-up store to Bridge Street. And, who knows, maybe incentivize them to stay. 

Tracksmith is a New England heritage running brand that celebrates the style and culture of track and running. Our Pop-Up store will highlight Frank Shorter, who trained in Vail for the 3 months prior to winning the 1972 Olympic Marathon in Munich. It will also feature an art gallery with some of his pieces and a limited-edition Frank Shorter short.

For the month the Pop-Up will be in Vail, there will be nearly daily events. Every Tuesday, the team will lead workouts at the Vail Mountain Track, and every Saturday morning will be a trail running adventure of some kind. The shop will also host events including the July 18th (2027) full moon run, book signings, pasta parties, and fitness classes. Oh, along with Tracksmith the Vail Mountain Track Foundation is flying in celebrated London tattooist (and runner) Miles Chaperlin for a week of interactions.

We will be working with one of America's finest poster designers to have for a commemorative Vail Mountain Track poster. These posters will be free and available to all and our special guests will be scheduled for poster signings (and meet and greet) at the Tracksmith Pop-Up for the entire weekend. There will be no official "athlete" poster signing at the track during the ribbon cutting. Rather all the athletes will be available for meet and greet, along with photos and maybe even a run around the track together. 

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VAIL: WE're FUlly Committed

Our Town's Vision
To be the Premier International Mountain Resort Community

Our Town's Mission
Grow a vibrant, diverse economy and community and preserve our surrounding natural environment, providing our citizens and guests with exceptional services and an abundance of recreational, cultural and educational opportunities.

Our Vail Resort's Vision & Mission

To create the Experience of a Lifetime

In our partnership with the Town of Vail we will continue to build together (and do so more joyfully and effectively with each opportunity) to make Vail truly "like no place on earth."

 

Together we are better.

 

Thank you all for your support and calling Vail your home or "home away from home." To you we are grateful and the reason we strive for more.

Stay Safe. Smile. Let's Be Kind to Others.

With Gratitude

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. —John Brust

Seasonal Hours

If you're looking for someplace extraordinary to run during your winter/spring training (or summer or fall, for that matter)... don't pass up on Vail. Our track will be OPEN all year; cleared from snow and ice all winter thanks to a sub-grade system that keeps the track heated, when needed. Yes, like the Town of Vail likes to keep its walkers in town safe from slipping, its likes to keep its runners upright too. 😊 Of course, you have access to Vail Athletic and its indoor track all winter long too.

Construction Timeline

The build will begin during mud-season of 2028. Yes, as mentioned, will need to move the mound (and replant the young trees) behind the volleyball courts back 25-30 meters - this will begin in late-summer of 2027. We are also very keen on replacing Vail's largest grouping of invasive. non-native trees with the beautiful and Aspen and conifers trees that are naturally growing in the surroundings.

 

We will first remove those gigantic, water resource intensive, 17 invasive trees (and completely remove their large root system) along Vail Valley Dr. We will then replace with a super tasteful mix and placement of native Aspen and conifer trees. In older Denver neighborhoods, like Greenwood Village or Cherry Creek, the cottonwoods are hitting the end of their life cycle (which has a life expectancy of around thirty years for healthy growth). Our Cottonwoods (with their massive trunks and root systems and deeply furrowed, rough, solid grey bark on the lower 15 feet) were likely introduced to the area during the build of East Vail and certainly could be close to 50 years old, perhaps even older.


Of note regarding our non-native introduced cottonwoods: They have been prohibited for use in Denver’s public rights-of-way for many years. Basically, they are a massive and invasive tree species. Incoming water sources aren’t the only thing cottonwoods love. They search for any water-type source, so your outgoing sewer line is often just as easily the victim of thirsty cottonwoods. Furthermore, they have an incredibly strong root system and there is almost no way to properly lay an attractive running track with the large root that have already invaded the soccer/rugby field.

Our Most Sincere Thank You to Each One of Our Donors

"We want to thank you with all our heart for your extraordinary gift and for placing your trust in our vision to transform lives (from the youngest to the oldest) and strengthen our community vitality in our amazing Town of Vail. We draw tremendous inspiration and motivation from your encouragement and support." (needs editing)

© 2024 by Project Vail 33: Fighting for Resilient Communities 

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