The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater: A Vail Valley Presidential History
The Vail Valley’s rise as an international ski destination is often credited to one man: former President Gerald R. Ford. His frequent visits to Vail captured the world’s attention during a time when the resort was still relatively new. Ford and his wife, Betty, loved Vail and Vail loved them. Their legacy is apparent throughout the Vail Valley and their name will always be remembered. The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, located just east of Vail Village, is a spectacular outdoor venue that hosts concerts and cultural performances.
Ford, the 38th President of the United States, visited Vail when the resort was in its infancy. As an avid skier, Ford brought his family to the area in 1967, a few years after Vail Mountain was established. The following year, the family bought a condo and made annual ski visits while he was still a congressman from Michigan.
The Western White House
When he became President in 1974, Ford moved to a more secure residence in Vail Village. He continued to regularly ski the resort with the Secret Service by his side. Visits to Vail were frequent during his time in office and his local home was nicknamed “the Western White House.”
Ford drew international attention to the Vail Valley and paved the road for Vail to become one of the world’s premier ski resorts. The new ski destination regularly received positive press coverage during the President’s visits. Additionally, Ford frequently hosted high-profile politicians, businessmen, and celebrities for events and conferences, boosting visibility for people to visit and settle.
The Rise to a Renowned Destination
Summers in Vail were never busy until Ford created an event that drew people in from around the country. Top professional golfers were invited to participate in the Jerry Ford Invitational, a charity golf event that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local nonprofits. The annual pro-am golf tournament, started in 1977, ran for almost 20 years.
The American Enterprise Institute World Forum, hosted in Vail, Colorado, was established by Ford in 1982. International politicians and business leaders gathered annually for thought-provoking discussions about current affairs. When world leaders descended on the resort, it elevated its profile. Vail and Beaver Creek grew in popularity with influential executives.
The Fords fell in love with the mountain and the community. They participated in local events and donated their time to nonprofits. Ford was one of the founding board members of the Vail Valley Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing arts, culture, and athletics to the Vail Valley. During his time volunteering with the VVF, he helped raise the funds to build the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, an intimate outdoor concert venue.
In 1987, the Amphitheater opened its doors for its first concert with Willie Nelson as the headliner. Over the years, numerous musical and dance performers have passed through the gates, including the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival beginning in 1988 and the Vail Dance Festival in 1989. Both festivals still take residency for several weeks at the Ford Amphitheater each summer.
The AMP Today: A Big Lineup
Today, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, also known as “The Amp”, is a premier concert venue that offers an intimate experience for 2,500 people in an open-air environment. The beautifully landscaped venue has spectacular views of Vail Mountain and the Gore Range. Guests can purchase reserved seating in the pavilion or first-come, first serve on the tiered grass lawn. Attendees in the lawn are encouraged to bring a blanket and/or low lawn chairs for comfort throughout the show. Pack a picnic, but leave the beverages behind. If you don’t want to bring your own food, concession stands throughout the venue offer snacks, grill items, and a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Après at the Amp is a new winter concert series coinciding with Vail Mountain’s 60th ski season. This is the venue’s earliest opening in its history. Crews will be de-winterizing the Amphitheater to prepare for the first concert, Polo & Pan, on Friday, April 7th. The French duo’s style mixes electronic music with inspiration from international influences and tropical island vibes. Haasy and Lewis of Man will open the show.
Big Gigantic will take the stage the following night, Saturday, April 8th. Born in Boulder, Colorado, the duo has created a unique sound by blending electronic and house music with live instruments. Producing high energy shows that blend music across genres, including hip hop, funk, and jazz, Big Gigantic’s performance is a fun way to celebrate the end of ski season. Alana English and DJ Pee Wee, playing an all vinyl set, will take the stage before Big Gigantic.
Gates open at 4:30pm and the show starts at 5:30pm on Friday and Saturday. General admission tickets range from $89.50 to $99.50.
Partnerships & Involvement
Strategic partnerships and subsidies are responsible for creating unique winter experiences by bringing big names to a small town. The Vail Valley Foundation works closely with AEG Presents, one of the largest live entertainment producers, to secure sought-after musical talent. Additionally, the Town of Vail and Vail Resorts approved $250,000 in funding to support the operations to de-winterize the Amp, including extensive snow removal. The show goes on regardless of weather. Attendees should plan to dress warmly to stand and dance outside for winter shows.
Minutes Away From The Inn
The Inn at Riverwalk is the perfect place to post up for the end of season celebrations. With modern amenities and laid-back vibes, The Inn is an independent hotel close to all the adventure, yet away from it all. Wake up and enjoy a complimentary coffee from the 24-hour self-serve Lavazza coffee bar and relax at the end of the day in the riverside pool and hot tub. Take advantage of discounted room rates when you book more than one consecutive night with their Stay & Save Program.
Book your stay at The Inn and come experience all that the Vail Valley has to offer today.