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.
When the authors asked Jebbie Brown to share her early days in Vail, she showed up with a fat album of photos that told the story of how she spent the ’60s. The album is filled with page after page of kids learning to ski, swim and ride horses. Jebbie is there, too, teaching and supporting children.
My first job in Vail was as a cocktail waitress at the “Golden Ski” in The Lodge at Vail. To get to work, we walked from the “Malincrodt House” up Beaver Dam Road, which was an unpaved, muddy, slick mess. We had to wear boots up to our knees, and they often came right off our feet.
I spent many afternoons sitting on the roof sunbathing and drinking Fresca and Bacardi rum. We would then slide down the roof into a gigantic snow pile, which had come off the edge of the roof onto the ground.
When Elaine White had the Montessori School at the Rams-Horn Lodge, I started giving swim lessons at their pool. From there, came the first 3-to-6-year-old ski class. Bob Gagne, our ski school director at the time, allowed me to organize ski classes for the local Vail kids. At 9 a.m., the Vail mommies brought the afternoon kindergarten kids to Gold Peak to ski. There were eight children in the class, and it lasted until 11 a.m. The kids came in for lunch, supervised by one of the moms, and at 11, eight 3- and 4-year-olds arrived for their ski lesson. The moms made sure all the morning skiers got lunch and were ready for the school bus to pick them up for afternoon kindergarten. This bus also dropped off eight morning kindergarten children, who were met by a Vail mommy. They ate lunch and got dressed and ready for their afternoon class from 1 to 3 p.m. This was the original Tiny Tot ski program in Vail. After a couple of seasons, it got so popular that we had to get another ski instructor to help out. Joanne Savoie and I would go to the Learning Tree preschool on the North Frontage Road and start many of the toddlers out sliding around in the parking lot. From there, we would go out to the Vail Golf Course and have them slide down small hills to get used to sliding with skis on. Kara Heide, Susan Bristol, Drex Douglas, and Jill Napolitan were the other instructors who helped with this ski program.
We had our own race at the Chair 12 Bunny Hill called the Sloppy Slalom. It was an obstacle course, with a limbo bar, hay bales and an inner tube to slide down in with skis on. They had lots of fun, and there were balloons and prizes for all. Ernst Larese from our Haagen Dazs ice cream store invited everyone for free ice cream cones. Several kids who skied with me went on to race — among them Sarah Schleper and Sacha Gros.
There were many Adventure Trails on Vail Mountain, which were barely wide enough for little kindergarten kids to ski through. A favorite is now called Chaos Canyon. On a snowy powder day, a man saw us duck into that area on our “secret adventure trail” and followed us in. He was not a particularly good skier and fell in some bushes. I believe he broke his leg, and the ski patrol had a difficult time getting a toboggan in there to get him out.
One afternoon, there was a lot of fresh powder, and I decided to ski my group down the International run. The kids loved it, skiing a Black Diamond run. I was so proud of them I told their parents, and some were very upset that I had taken their 5-year-old on such a hard ski run.
I still wonder where the Vail local kids’ parents came up with ski boots and skis for the kids. They were so tiny, and no ski company made kids’ equipment back then. Skiing has changed so much.
“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.