Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “Women of Vail,” by Elaine Kelton and Carolyn Pope. The Vail Daily is serializing the book as Vail celebrates its 50th anniversary. Books are available for purchase at www.bookwormofedwards.com, the Colorado Ski Museum, Pepi’s, Gorsuch, Annie’s and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
I was a child of the ’60s born and raised in Massachusetts, attended The Walnut Hill School, and graduated from a small liberal arts college in Boston. I was 21 when I arrived in Vail, so my only work experience was summer jobs at a gourmet grocery store and restaurant on Cape Cod.
After graduation, I took a road trip across the U.S., zigzagging the country in a camper van with my prep-school roommate. We were “flower children,” or so we thought, and were headed ultimately to San Francisco. We stopped to spend a few days visiting a cousin of mine in Boulder who convinced us to head into the mountains to see Vail and Mesa Verde before leaving the state.
Arriving in Vail, I became infatuated with the idea of being a ski bum for a season. I interviewed for a job at the Red Lion, was hired, then left with my friend to complete our tour of the U.S. After checking out the scene in San Francisco, she went home to be married, and I came back to Vail. I skied, waitressed, made wonderful friends and fell in love. But I left at season’s end and went back home. The following November, I landed a job with Brooke Franzgen, Doris Bailey and later Dale McCall at the Vail Resort Association, sitting in the circular information booth in the Golden Peak House, wearing a head set, while operating what had to be one of the last PBX phone boards (think Lily Tomlin’s “Laugh-in” operator sketch) that linked callers with lodges in Vail where they booked their Saturday through Saturday stay. From there, I went to the Talisman Lodge and eventually to Ski School booking private lessons at Mid-Vail.
Marriage and family came along, and I stayed home for 10 years after our son Joe and daughter Martha were born.
It was my husband Fred who lured me back after that first season, telling me what we all know, “Winter is why we come, but summer in Vail is why we stay.” There was never any question of leaving after that. Vail was our home.
In the early years, it was the crew from the Red Lion, “red beers” at Donovan’s between shifts and girls at the VRA. You knew everyone then, regardless of age or station. Freddie Felton (owner of “The Hand Maid’s Shop” in the Casino building) was famous for his parties, inviting everyone in town, regardless of age, job or social standing in the community. Before we had children, our co-workers and ski buddies comprised our social life. When the kids came along, it was the couples in Lamaze class and families in the original Vail Babysitting Co-Op who became lifelong friends. We raised our children together and celebrated birthdays and holidays together.
Skiing has been at the heart of my “sporting life” since the beginning. I would never call myself an athlete, but participating in outdoor activities has been a huge part of life in Vail. Downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking, biking, walking and swimming. I’m happiest when outdoors, and if the activity affords some aerobic benefit, all the better.
Never one to spend the night in bars or out “on the town,” we preferred family gatherings, summer nights eating out under the stars on our deck along Gore Creek, impromptu dinners with friends, nights at the movies or a concert.
“Women of Vail” was produced by a team that includes Elaine Kelton and Carolyn Pope, publishers; Joanne Morgan, designer and production; and Rosalie Hill Isom, writer-editor.