VAIL - For 80 years Pepi Gramshammer has not only been alive, he has lived.Professional ski racer, a pioneer of a fledgling ski resort - the list goes on and on.Today is Pepi's 80th birthday, and the Vail Town Council declared today, Aug. 6, 2012, as Pepi Gramshammer Day in Vail."The Vail Town Council would like to honor and recognize Pepi Gramshammer for his outstanding commitment and contributions to Vail, Colorado for the past 50 years," says a proclamation from Vail Mayor Andy Daly.Lucky manPepi was raised in Austria, was a member of the Austrian National Ski Team and a professional ski racer. It's possible that no one is more proud of being an American.He left Austria for the United States and is a classic American success story. He met his wife, Sheika, in Aspen in 1962 while he was training for that season's professional ski tour. He grins that if it wasn't love at first sight, "it came on really fast.""She was the best. She still is," he said smiling.When the couple came to Vail, they bought their Vail Village land for $2 per square foot and built Gasthof Gramshammer with the help of good friends and each other. "I could never have done this in Austria," he said. "You can't believe how lucky I am. No one is luckier than I."They made Vail home and never left."Vail became what I never had before - a home. It's my home, the only home I ever had. It opened its arms to all of us, embraced us with such a force, and such love, that you cannot help but being happy and in love with this town," said Sheika Gramshammer in her contribution to the book, "Women of Vail."Skiing starBefore Vail was Vail, Pepi skied here.Pepi was a huge star in international ski racing. Sponsors gave him equipment and cars, and he helped ensure success for the International Professional Ski Racers Association.Pepi was young and good looking - he was a hot commodity.That's how Vail pioneer Dick Hauserman found him.In the late 1950s and early '60s, Hauserman was like a traveling revival preacher, and Vail was his Promised Land.Vail was a wide spot on U.S. Highway 6 - a decade and a half before Interstate 70 was built - and Pepi was being recruited to join the fledgling ski company. Pepi agreed to ski Vail on April 17, 1962, eight months before the resort opened and two days after winning the final race in the professional ski racing season at Loveland."Lots of dirt and one snowcat was about all they seemed to have," Pepi said on the 50th anniversary of that legendary run.Pepi climbed into that snowcat with Vail pioneers Pete Seibert, Bob Parker and Morrie Shepard. Pete drove. Vail's first lifts wouldn't be built until that summer."I had never seen so much snow," Pepi said. "It was the most beautiful day we've ever had in ski country."They launched themselves down that south slope. Pepi didn't stop until he hit the bottom, his first tracks now followed by millions of others.What goes down must come up, even if you have to hike."That took forever," he said smiling when he climbed out, and that's how the run was named.Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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