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.bookwormof edwards.com, the Colorado Ski Museum, Pepi’s, Gorsuch, Annie’s and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
I am a farmer from New Hampshire, whose father (Selden Hannah) was a ski area designer and former Olympian. He had consulted Peter Seibert on Vail’s design and was responsible for recommending the front side of the mountain to go along with the Back Bowls.
I was on the U.S. Ski Team from 1959-1966 and a medal winner (bronze in 1962). After ski racing, I became a certified ski instructor at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. I was selected to be on the 1968 American Demonstration Ski Team in Aspen. The U.S. Ski Team was invited to train in Vail when it opened with only the gondola, Chairs 4 and 5 and a Poma lift at Mid-Vail. Here we ran Git-a-long Road in a tuck for downhill training and did other training off Chair 4. After Interski, I looked to the West for a job in ski instruction and chose Vail over Aspen. Sarge Brown found housing for me, and I knew the Swiss director, Roger Staub.
I came to Vail first with the U.S. Ski Team and liked the atmosphere and down-to-earth attitude, as opposed to the radical ideas of the youth I ran into at Aspen — “Like, I should have my hair long because, man, that’s the way I feel.” Vail expected a professional look for its ski instructors. I worked in the ski school 26 years and made pottery in the summers downvalley. I liked my job and bought a place in Red Sandstone. The ski school was a great family.
I wasn’t a very social person. I mostly had dinners with my customers and joined in all the ski school parties. I was always part of fundraising skiing events.
I continued ski racing in the pro circuit for a couple of years and went to “The Return of the Champions” when it was held, an event where medal winners were invited to make teams with the current U.S. Team members at the U.S. Nationals and compete. I took part in tennis at Vail but found, as a single person, I did not always have a partner — so I spent more time making pottery. For years, I joined Linda Meyers Tikalsky and her husband for summer backpacking trips. We went to many parts of the West. I joined Jack Eck and other friends for backpacking, also. I often fished in the Eagle River or up in the Piney River. Sometimes, I would join the Malloys on a bicycle trip over the pass or in the winter to cross-country ski to one of the huts. I joined the ski school on their various tours from Vail Pass to the Back Bowls and those from Vail Mountain to Minturn. Of course, there were the torchlight parades, too. Nightlife was mostly parties with my students and other ski school functions, besides the event gatherings I attended. I remained single but joined my family in New Hampshire a month in the spring and a month in the fall. My mother suffered from a disability from polio and was unable to visit me in the West, although my father did visit on occasion.
I don’t think I had thought much about what life in Vail would be like. I just needed a job with a longer ski season than Loon Mountain. At that time, the U.S. Ski Team was purely “amateur,” and we did not earn money as racers. It was time for me to earn a living. I realized after a time that a resort was not the best place to find a partner and settle down. I spent all my time with clients, summers at my studio and the offseason helping my parents. However, I enjoyed what I was doing. I visit Vail once a winter with some of my old racing buddies and see my Vail Village Teaching Team.
Most of my family is in the East so I see them much more often than I did when living in Vail, and that is nice. They are sorry that I do not have a place to stay in Vail anymore.
“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.