Vail International Dance Festival young audience draw

photo by Erin Baiano

photo by Erin Baiano

Growing up dancing Damian Woetzel on Vail International Dance Festival’s draw for young audiences  By Shauna Farnell

Given that children love to dance – as evidenced by the constant presence of twirling toddlers on the lawn at Gerald Ford Amphitheater, even during the most serious of  Bravo! classical music performances – the Vail International Dance Festival has an innate draw for families. 

Festival director Damian Woetzel knows a bit about the appeal dance can have to a child. It begins with simple movements and the utopia that comes with putting movements together and learning from the fluid movement of the world’s best dancers. 

Retired Principal Dancer at the New York City Ballet, Woetzel was actually drawn to the stage slowly as a small child. Dance wasn’t immediately his calling but simply one of the hobbies his parents were trying out on him.

“I started ballet when I was 4 years old, but only once a week … if that,” he recalls. “Once a year I was in The Nutcracker and that would get me out on the stage for a month.  I was very lucky in that I was introduced to a lot of different options for things to try – musical instruments and different activities not meant to be a life choice, just a well-rounded, cultural education. Ballet was one of those and it grew to overtake the rest. There was something about the dancing that was more potent to me.”

vail international dance festival

Photo by Erin Baiano

The stage and the excitement of being applauded for his grace and artful movements was addictive. By the time Woetzel was 11, he was so entranced by dance that he would study the pros at every possible opportunity. He even maneuvered his way into local theaters in Boston just to be immersed in the scene.

“The physicality of it, the movements, I liked that. It was an achievement as I got better, being on a stage and performing,” he recalls. “When I turned 11, it became a six-day-a-week commitment. I would go to everything I could, everything that was happening.  I would sneak into theaters. I knew my way around the theater in Boston, so I would pretend I knew what I was doing and make my way through where the staff and performers entered the building.”

Also, Woetzel’s own talent began to shine. It became progressively recognized as he grew into his teens and went on to take starring roles in the film rendition of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Dinner with Balanchine and then, of course, his 50-plus feature roles in The New York City Ballet’s massive repertoire of performances.

When he retired from the stage in 2008 there was an outpouring of recognition and high-profile sendoffs written up in The New York Times, Vanity Fair and The Telegraph. But he could have never imagined this future during his time as a young boy when the ballet was growing on him, and he with it.

“I remember being in a boys class on Saturday mornings when I was first at Boston Ballet school at age 7, which was very unusual though I didn’t know it at the time. What happened later of course is that there were fewer boys. But there was always that sense of specialness.  I knew it wasn’t the most normal thing to do but it was what I got attention for and I became committed to dancing. By the time I was 12, I was convinced that this was my life’s work,” Woetzel says.

vail international dance festival

Photo by Erin Baiano

After performing with the New York City Ballet for more than 20 years, Woetzel took on the role of director and choreographer, and in addition to his work with the Vail International Dance Festival over the last eight years, he has produced and directed numerous events and performances in New York City and throughout the country, even at the White House, where President Obama appointed him to the President’s Committee on The Arts and Humanities.

Woetzel has worked extensively introducing dance to students, launching mentorships and children’s programs across the country, including Celebrate the Beat, the local nonprofit organization focused on teaching and inspiring Vail Valley students through dance and artistic expression.

Seasoning the next generation of dancers and dance enthusiasts is always a consideration for Woetzel as he formulates each summer’s International Dance Festival, and in looking at the 2014 lineup, there are several performances he believes are ideal for families and young audiences. 

“To me the point has to be to have range of appeal, to make the festival an immersive thing. It’s not just what goes on the stage, but also the fact that we have people dancing in the streets. We want kids there interacting with the professionals,” Woetzel says. “There are a couple of very entry-level performances for families new to dance and the lawn is an incredible opportunity to come any night.”

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climbing for kids in vail

Photo courtesy of Larry Moore

The Field House in Edwards also has some challenging wall options. It’s not as busy in the summer, so it’s the perfect opportunity to try it out.

The Field House has a 28-foot tower wall and a bouldering wall. The tower wall has two self-belays, which allows the climber to hook herself in and catches the climber on the way down. 

Twenty-eight feet doesn’t seem so high until you are on top. ‘Elvis Leg’ might rear its embarrassing head (Elvis Leg: when your leg quivers and shakes uncontrollably, just like the King of Rock-n-Roll.)

Don’t let the fear of heights deter your kids: Lisa’s son is not a fan of heights, but challenges himself and has almost conquered his fear. 

According to Mark Thomas, Assistant Manager, the Field House is seeing more kids, from about fourth grade up through middle school, get into climbing.

There’s not a team yet, but there is one in the works. It’s an individual sport but with a distinct team feel. Larry makes sure all his climbers cheer for others on the wall. Poor sportsmanship is not an option. 

If you find yourself down valley and in the midst of a summer thunderstorm, ride it out on the wall at the Gypsum Recreation Center.

The 26-foot tall wall is particularly fun because once your kid reaches the top, they can check out the treadmill runners, the elliptical exercisers and everyone else getting their sweat on in the aerobics area.

There’s space enough for seven climbers on the wall at one time and room for ten on the bouldering wall. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. volunteers from SOS (Snowboard Outreach Society) work on the wall, help teach the correct belay techniques and climb on. The energy is palpable and the kids love it. 

WECMRD rents harnesses, but you will need to bring your own shoes. No worries if you don’t have any yet, kids can climb in just about anything to get started.

Teens older than 16 and belayed certified can climb solo, anyone younger needs to be with an adult. Anyone can boulder. (FYI: an annual membership for kids is $49 and adults, $59.)

All the gyms require climbers to be certified by passing a belay test. Although it’s a fun sport, it is one with inherent risks. It looks fun to go out and climb around, but for safety sake, it makes sense to go out with somebody who knows what they are doing.

“Proper instruction is key so people can stay safe and so they are exposed to appropriate level of difficulty,” Larry explains. This allows children to be introduced to various aspects of the sport without being scared or intimidated. “It allows them to approach the sport with feeling of success and accomplishment.”

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Kids Climbing-13Indoor climbing wall in Vail at the Vail Athletic Club.

Climbing is a sport of concentration, tenacity, strategy, mental toughness, intensity… oh, yeah, and a lot of fun. Eagle County has crags and walls that inspire rock climbers. But a lot of these honed rock climbers got their start on indoor climbing walls.

So, if you and your kids need a break from Colorado’s intense sun and want try something new, check out all the indoor walls peppered throughout the Vail Valley. But be ware: you might find yet another sport that you will love.

The Vail Athletic Club located in the Vail Mountain Lodge in the heart of Vail has a bona fide climbing club. It takes place on wall that doesn’t look like it’s crazy hard. But look again, there are vertical climbs, overhangs to roofs to challenge any level climber.

What’s a roof? Just what it sounds like – holds that are on a horizontal ceiling. There’s also a bouldering cave, a big overhang that is like sitting in a cave. 

Larry Moore brings 29 years of climbing experience to his is role as Head Climbing Coach at the Vail Athletic Club. His brother introduced him to climbing and Larry believes the familial aspect of climbing is invaluable.

climbing for kids in vail

photo courtesy of Larry Moore

“My brother got me into rock climbing that’s why I treat it as a family endeavor, to go out with the whole family,” Larry explains. “There’s something for everybody out there: easy and hard and fun and challenging. Go out and enjoy it as a family.”

Larry started the VAC’s climbing program nine years ago. Today it’s a thriving program, teaching children the challenges and thrill of climbing – both of which translate into real-world skills.

“It’s a great skill-building set used outside of climbing as well. Children walk away with more confidence, they can take on challenges and take these growth (XXX) into all aspects of life, school and later on, relationships,” Larry says. “The life building skills and camaraderie is pretty amazing.”

“The level of instruction from Larry’s crew is incredible,” says Lisa Woods, a mother whose son has been part of the climbing club for almost two years.

“They don’t play around, it’s a serious sport but the kids have fun. I am impressed by the growth I’ve seen in my son.  It makes them strong! He has ripped shoulders, abs. My son is 9 year old, it’s weird he has pectoral muscles,” she adds with a laugh.

You don’t have to be a member of the team to enjoy the benefits of the VAC wall. From three to five every Sunday, the VAC offers family drop-in climb time. There’s an instructor available to keep everyone safe, and it’s a great way to get an introduction to climbing. 

Climbing inside is a perfect venue to get educated on climbing. “It’s a great learning environment,” Larry says. “It’s smaller, controlled and quieter. It’s an easier environment to learn and some safety elements. It’s not necessary, but it’s an excellent learning environment, so it’s recommended.” 

For Information on the climbing program go to their website

They also have a money saving coupon for entrance to the club.

climbing for kids in vail

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Mobile Ice Cream truck in the Vail area

Ice Cream in VailCarrie Foster’s ice cream shop is the only establishment on wheels. Known as the “Ice Cream Lady,” Foster has been driving her white ice cream truck around Eagle County for 14 years now, handing ice cream novelties like Drumsticks and Eskimo Pies through the window cut in the side of her truck.

“We have about 20 different kinds of ice cream novelties,” she says, including Push Ups, Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars and ice cream sandwiches. “It’s your favorite childhood flavors; the traditional ice cream treats from your childhood.”

This summer you can find her at the Minturn Market on Saturdays and at Freedom Park in Edwards most Sundays. She’s also available for special occasions — everything from birthday parties to bar mitzvahs, she says, and if you give her a call with a request to come to your neighborhood, she’s happy to oblige.  

At Benderz Burgers in Avon (attached to Northside Coffee & Kitchen), there’s a slew of milkshake flavors to tempt you, including Oreo, Butterfinger, hazelnut, walnut, M&M and Reese’s Peanut Butter. 

“We are proud exclusively to use Sinton’s Ice Cream made right here in Colorado without any hormones or antibiotics — au natural,” says owner Jim Pavelich. “Choose from chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or coffee and add your favorite cookie, candy or whatever for the best shake in Eagle County.”

For down valley folks, HP’s Provisions, located in Eagle Ranch, makes homemade ice cream that is “to die for,” according to owner Samantha Perkins. The 12 creative offerings rotate weekly and include flavors like salted caramel, espresso chip and watermelon sorbet. 

“We change it all the time, that’s the beauty of it,” Perkins says. “We get creative and have fun with it. For the Broncos, we did an Orange Crush.”

For gifts, you can buy wooden nickel ice cream tokens at the cafe, redeemable for one ice cream. “We also hide the nickels in parks and at schools,” Perkins adds. 

Keep your eyes peeled this summer, and you might just score a free scoop. Another sweet childhood dream come true.

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Where to ride the trains in Colorado Part 4 of 4

colorado trains

Photo by Kenneth Cratty

If you need more Colorado Train Info here are a few more options.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway:

This train takes you by cog railway to the 14,114 foot summit of Pikes Peak, from which you can see four states at the top. Adults are $36, kids age 3-12 are $19.50. Visit or call 800-PIKESPEAK.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad:

This historic train, originally constructed to haul silver and gold ore from the San Juan mountains, has been in continuous operation for 127 years. Tickets start at $85 for adults, kids age 4-11 are $51.Visit or call 888-872-4607.

Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad:

Trains leave every 40 minutes from mid-May through mid-October from a 1894 depot in Cripple Creek for a four-mile, 45-minute roundtrip train ride. Tickets are $12.25 for adults, kids age 3-12 are $8.25. Visit or call 719-689-2640.

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad:

See the Rockies on the longest and highest standard gauge railroad in Colorado. There are three excursions offered via this train: Alamosa to La Veta, Alamosa to Antonito and Alamosa to Monte Vista. Tickets for Alamosa to La Veta (first class) are $99 for adults, $89 for children ages 2-12. Alamosa to Antonito or Monte Vista (standard class) are $19 for adults, $9 for children ages 2-12. Visit or call 877-726-7245. 

• Ride Amtrak’s California Zephyr train from Denver’s Union Station to Glenwood Springs. This six-hour ride tours some of the most beautiful scenery around. Prices range from $54 to $251 for a family bedroom.

BOX: Be sure to bring:




Jackets and other warm clothes, especially if you’re sitting in an open-air rail car. 

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Royal Gorge Route Railroad

To get an up close view of Colorado’s version of the Grand Canyon, book a ride on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, located in Canon City.

This line carries more than 100,000 people through the Gorge each year. Other than rafting the tumbling Arkansas River, this is the only way to see the canyon up close and personal.

What you’ll see: The train covers 24 miles roundtrip in two hours. It goes through the Gorge to Parkdale and back. Be sure to watch for the Hanging Bridge, which is suspended at the narrowest point in the gorge (30-feet wide) and considered one of the marvels of 19th century railroad engineering.

The train stops underneath the Royal Gorge Bridge so that passengers can snap photos. The bridge is 955-feet above the river and held the record of highest bridge in the world from 1929 to 2003.

It’s also home to Royal Gorge Park, a theme park owned and run by the city. Be on the lookout for some of the wildlife that is native to the canyon  — big horn sheep, blue heron and bald eagles. 

When to go: The train departs from the Santa Fe Depot daily March through December. High-season daily schedule begins May 24, which includes departures at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and runs through Jan. 3, 2015.

Special trains: The train’s popular Murder Mystery Train offers gourmet four-course dining service and will run from May 24 through Oct. 31. Catch the Santa Express Train throughout November and December, and the Holiday Train from late December through early January.

Cost and more information: Tickets start at $39 for adults and $28 for children age 3-12 for coach class.

Visit or call 888-724-5748.

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The Georgetown Loop Railroad was one of Colorado’s first visitor attractions. It was completed 130 years ago, in 1884, and was considered an engineering marvel for the time because of the corkscrew style route, which included horseshoe curves, steep grades and four bridges across Clear Creek.

Abandoned in 1938, the Colorado Historical Society began restoring the railroad in 1973. Just more than a decade later, in 1984, the entire reconstruction of the Georgetown Loop was completed and opened to visitors. 

What you’ll see: Over the course of an hour and 15 minutes, a steam-powered locomotive takes visitors on a loop between Georgetown and Silver Plume, which is two miles apart by I-70 standards, four miles by train.

The train ride includes an optional walking tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine (only accessed from the coach section of the train). The mine is located at the halfway point on the railroad, where visitors can walk 500 feet into a mine tunnel bored in the 1870s, with guides pointing out once-rich veins of silver and relating the history of the mine.

Opting to do the mine tour will double the time of the trip to 2-and-a-half hours. 

colorado trains

Gerogetown Loop Railroad

When to go: Trains depart May through January. At the height of the season, there are nine departures from two stations each day. During the summer season, trains start at 10 a.m. weekends and holidays. There are dinner trains on select days.

Special events: On the fourth of July, the train departs from the Silver Plume station at 7:30 p.m. A barbecue buffet is served on the patio at Devil’s Gate and then guests will re-board the train and watch the Georgetown fireworks from atop the Devil’s Gate High Bridge.

Come December, be part of Santa’s North Pole Adventure, which is a one-hour roundtrip train ride with Santa, complimentary hot chocolate, cookies and candy canes. Bonus: kids all take home a jingle bell ornament.

Good to know: At the Silver Plume Depot, there’s a new car building with railroad-related exhibits. There’s a slide show theater located at Devil’s Gate Station in Georgetown. To learn a detailed history of the line, read The Georgetown Loop: A Capsule History and Guide.

Cost and more information: Train-only, open-coach seats start at $25.95 for adults, $18.95 for kids. There are also first class seats with drinks and snacks available. Dinner trains are offered most Fridays and Saturdays from June through October.

Visit or call 888-456-6777.

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Trains are an integral part of Colorado’s history. For a unique family getaway with a history lesson incorporated into the fun, consider taking a day trip from Eagle County, Colorado to ride on one of these historical railways. 

Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad

A ride on the Leadville Scenic Railroad offers more than pretty vistas near the highest incorporated city in North America.

Passengers also get a history lesson as they look out at the San Isabel National Forest, learning about the railroad and colorful Leadville characters like Molly Brown, Baby Doe Tabor, the Guggenheims and Doc Holiday. The railway was built in the 1800s.

Be sure and get your photo taken with the engineer at the depot, built in 1896, and take a look at the old steam engine #641. 

What you’ll see: After departing from Leadville, the train travels north along the Arkansas River Valley, gaining 1,000 feet in altitude and giving passengers views of Fremont Pass and the two tallest peaks in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert.

The train stops mid-way at the water tower, which is a good time to snap a few pictures, and again at an overview of the Climax Molybdenum Mine. 

When to go: The train departs daily May 24-June 13 at 1 p.m. From June 14 through Aug. 17, the train departs at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. From Aug. 18-Oct. 5, the train departs 1 p.m. weekdays and at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekends. A special three-hour trip to Devil’s Tail is offered Sundays June 15-Aug. 10. 

Package deal: Make it a real adventure and opt for one of the special tours offered, which include a half-day rafting Browns Canyon with Noah’s Ark Colorado Rafting company in the morning, followed by lunch at the Leadville Railroad Train Station.

Next up, enjoy a scenic 2-hour-and-30-minute train ride. Available May 25 through Aug. 19 for $99.95 for adults and $70.45 for children. 

Good to know: Well-behaved pets are welcome. Guests can move between open and enclosed cars during the ride. You can also reserve seats to ride in the engine or the caboose. There is a bathroom on board.

Cost and more information: Tickets are $35 for adults and $20 for children age 4-12.

Visit or call 866-386-3936.

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photo by Stewart Miles-freedigitalphotos.netIn Vail Village, there’s a handful of places to get ice cream, including Marble Slab near the Covered Bridge and at Fuzziwigs Candy Factory, strategically placed near the Children’s Fountain on East Gore Creek Drive. 

At Joe’s Famous Deli, located on Bridge Street, the ice cream is made in house. There’s always 24 flavors available, and the choices rotate often.

The most popular flavors, according to manager Norma Almanza who helps make the ice cream, include blueberry cheesecake, caramelized white chocolate, Oreo caramel fudge and salted caramel.

During the summer months, expect to see “refreshing” sorbets, including peach (made with Palisade peaches when in season, Almanza said), key lime, mango and watermelon with chocolate chips. 

Along with single and double scoops, you can score banana splits, brownie sundaes, milkshakes and ice cream sodas.  

While you’ll find the giant teddy bear inside the store now rather than beckoning to passersby from the front of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s new location on Gore Creek Drive, employees are still scooping up Blue Bell ice cream, which is made in Brenham, Texas, and lauded as being one of the top three selling ice creams in the country.

Chocolate chips reign at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory — mint chocolate chip and chocolate chip are two of the top selling flavors.

Other VAIL Ice Cream locations

Joe’s Famous Deli, 288 Bridge Street, 970-479-7580.

Fuzziwigs Candy Factory, 223 East Gore Creek Drive, 970-476-4401.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, 158 Gore Creek Drive, 970-476-7623.

Marble Slab, 242 E. Meadow Drive, 970-479-1705.


Rimini Gelato, 675 Lionshead Place, #140, 970-476-1712.

Haagen-Dazs, 675 Lionshead Place, #476, 970-476-1441.


Benderz Burgers, 20 Nottingham Road, 970-949-1423.


Marble Slab, 56 Edwards Village Boulevard #110, 970-766-7522.


Rimini Gelato, 45 West Thomas Place, 970-949-6156.


HP’s Provisions, 1160 Capitol Street, 970-328-5280.


The Ice Cream Lady ice cream truck is available for special events. Catch her at the Minturn Market on Saturdays and at Freedom Park in Edwards on Sundays. Call 970-470-2691 or email

Scoop Vail, available by the pint at Village Market in Edwards, Sim’s Market in East Vail and by delivery. Call 708-752-1349.

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Photo by rakratchada torsap courtesy of freedigitalphotos.netIt doesn’t matter how old you are, on a hot summer day, Gelato is the perfect sweet treat. Thankfully, you can get your fix in both Lionshead in the Vail area and Beaver Creek Village.

Gelato, which means frozen in Italian, has less fat than traditional ice cream.

“Ice cream can have up to 45 percent fat; it is made with milk, heavy cream, and eggs, as well as other fillers,” says Michele Huyke co-owner of Rimini. “Rimini gelato is made from milk and has less than 8-percent fat.” 

Rimini Gelato has two locations — in Lionshead and Beaver Creek Village.

The traditional gelato flavors on the menu make you feel as if you walked into Italy;  Pistachio, tiramisu and stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate shavings), along with unconventional offerings like mimosa and peanut butter and jelly.

Every day it’s the kids’ favs that sell out — cookies and cream and birthday cake. 

Because gelato is slow stirred, there’s less air whipped into it than ice cream, and so it has a denser, creamier, fuller taste, Huyke said.

New this summer, Rimini will offer a gelato panini, which is like an ice cream sandwich, but better.

“I am using a soft, sweet brioche bun filled with gelato, and I heat it from the outside, so you end up with a warm toasted brioche bun that when you bite into it, your favorite flavor gelato is frozen inside,” Huyke says. “Another positive aspect is that when the gelato starts to melt, the brioche soaks up the drippings, (so there’s) no mess!”

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