VAIL, Colorado - Fifty years ago, the founders of Vail were wrapping up a nearly impossible construction season in which crews created an entire ski resort in just a few months.Vail Mountain opened Dec. 15, 1962, and while founders Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton had dreamed about building the resort for many years already, the building didn't happen until the summer and fall of 1962.The ownership of Vail Mountain has changed hands many times since those early days, but the work to make the resort one of the greatest ski resorts in the world has never slowed.From terrain expansions to development booms to upgrades in infrastructure and technology, Vail - both the town and the resort - has evolved into one of the premier ski resorts in the world. "Every season is exciting at Vail, but since the mountain opened 50 years ago, no season has been anticipated more than this one," said Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot. "Looking back to the spirit of those who started Vail 50 years ago has provided extra inspiration for us as we get this season started. More than ever, we want to make this year an experience of a lifetime for all of us who are here and for our guests who will visit us so that 50 years from now, Vail will look back fondly on us."Vail Resorts, the public company that owns Vail Mountain, is hosting a slew of celebrations this winter season to honor the resort's 50th birthday. The company has invested in special concerts, events and a documentary film by Roger Cotton Brown, "Vail: The Rise of America's Iconic Ski Resort," which is set to premiere Dec. 14.The Snow Daze lineup includes Wilco, The Shins and Michael Franti & Spearhead.The resort's brand new gondola, One, opens Friday ceremonially and is expected to start running full-time next week. Vail Mountain will offer free hot chocolate and cookies, as well as commemorative pins, to those who show up for the grand opening this morning at 8:30 while supplies last. The gondola is the icing on the cake of the 50th anniversary season. The resort announced last week it would be named One, after the original gondola once in its place. Epic Mix photographers will shoot special 50th edition photographs for skiers and snowboarders all season, and anyone turning 50 this season can ski free on their birthdays. The New Year's Eve celebration at Dobson Ice Arena has also been kicked up a notch this year with headlining act Thievery Corporation, who performed at Snow Daze last year. And just about everything that Vail does already will have some sort of 50th anniversary component this season, with celebrations lasting well into the spring and summer of 2013."It's a year-long celebration and it should be," said Vail Town Councilman Kevin Foley. "You only turn 50 once."Foley added that snow is going to be key to a truly wonderful 50th anniversary season. After ski resorts across the West suffered from poor snowfall last season, Foley thinks we're due this season.Regardless of snow, though, Foley said there's a lot to celebrate. The ski industry as a whole looks to Vail for inspiration, and this year is no different."That's what we want - we want to be a leader," he said.For Kerry Donovan, a Vail Town Councilwoman who was born and raised in Vail, the 50th anniversary is personal. Donovan's father, John Donovan, moved to Vail in 1962 and got a job at the Vail Village Inn as the coffee shop manager. He also worked for what was then Vail Associates on the trail crew. He and his wife Diana Donovan have each served on the Vail Town Council and Kerry Donovan now carries on her family's legacy in Vail."Often when you celebrate the anniversary of something, I don't think the history is as tangible as ours is," Kerry Donovan said. "With myself, being able to look back on the impact my parents had, personally that's why I think (the anniversary) is really special for me."Kerry Donovan said a year-long celebration is necessary because Vail is a guest resort. She said everyone who visits and enjoys Vail this season and next summer should be able to take part in the celebration."This year should be a time for people to acknowledge the great things that we've done and where that will bring us as we go forward," Kerry Donovan said. "And to appreciate the serendipity and the spirit of how Vail the town and Vail the mountain was brought to this point."Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.
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