#VailBen Dispatch 12: The Best Thing I’ve Done All Summer In Vail

Aug. 13, 2014

Well that went by way too fast. America’s Best Summer Job, my 10 week adventure experiencing and documenting the best Vail Summer has to offer, has come and gone. And now that my incredible journey is over, everyone wants to know one thing: what was my favorite part? Hold on, I’ll get to that. When I arrived in Vail at the beginning of June I could never have expected to see so many incredible places and experience so many amazing adventures. I had been to Colorado before, but Vail was a side of the Centennial State I had not seen. In Vail you can experience some of the finest luxury hotels in America one minute and be covered in mud from some of the best single-track mountain biking around the next. I did many things for the first time this summer. I rafted my first Class Four rapids, caught my first rainbow trout with a dry fly, learned how to SUP, paddled the Upper Colorado in a whitewater kayak, cycled up (and down) my first mountain pass, ran my first trail race, rode my first zip line, and stayed in my first 10th Mountain Hut. Best of all, I even got to do some of it with my dad and mom. But this is not what suprised me. I anticipated some of these outdoor adventures going into America’s Best Summer Job. These are the kinds of activities that make Colorado, Colorado. Don’t get me wong. I pushed myself in ways I’ve never pushed myself before. And they were all memories that will last a lifetime. But where Vail really shined was in the unexpected Who’d have thought I’d sample my first elk corndog, hear Steve Reich for the first time, catch my first Memphis Jookin performance, make my first French macaroon, slide down my first firehouse pole, work in my first resturant kitchen, sit in my first helicopter, and make my first adventure film. I mean, I even flew in a plane! It was through these unexpected adventures that Vail revealed itself to be more than just ski hill. It’s a world-famous center for orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation, while also a mecca for dance. It is the breeding ground for some of the world’s most exciting emerging sports, as well as jazz talents. It is a destination for Texans, New Yorkers, and Floridians as well as Mexicans and Brazilians. The country’s best lacrosse players come here every summer—and so do the country’s best symphonies. Vail is a town than can be a place of rest and relaxation one minute, and of excitement and thrills the next. This is a small mountain town as well as a big resort. Through meeting people, both residents and visitors alike, I have also learned that Vail has a lot more in common with my beloved New York City than I realized. Both are destinations we dream of visiting. And the lucky few of us who have the will and the means to make that town our home are united in our passion for the place and in the journeys that took us there. Honestly, I could spend an entire day hearing what brought people to Vail and never hear the same story twice. That’s something worth treasuring. So, you still want to know my favorite experience from America’s Best Summer Job? Well, it’s a difficult question to answer and one I have thought long and hard on. But when I think back on all these unique and disparate experiences I’ve had, the only answer that seems appropriate is one: hiking. Vail, at its core, is all about being in, and being inspired by, wilderness. So what better—and easier—way to do that than with a good ol’ hike. All you need are a good pair of shoes and you’re on your way. It’s something anyone of any skill level can do. No gear and training required. You don’t even need a car! (I’d know: I’ve taken the free town bus to just about every trail possible.) To me, hiking in Vail is the purest and best expression of what makes this place so special. And that’s why it is the single most rewarding experience of my entire summer. A summer that has been, without a doubt, the best of my life.

***Missed the adventure of America’s Best Summer Job? You can experience it from the beginning by searching the hashtag #vailben on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.***