Early life in Vail was fun, exciting and rewarding
Ryan Summerlin December 22, 2012
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 we saw the wonderful powder in the Back Bowls, we couldn’t believe it, and we wanted to ski. That was February ’63. We met with Rod Slifer, and he showed us the most beautiful lot in town – 30,000 square feet at $1 per square foot. They wanted us to start a boys’ camp, but we didn’t want that. We asked, “What does Vail need?” Lodging. “OK, we can do that.” We sat at The Lodge at Vail and typed out our Prospectus. VA called us, “Sorry, someone else has the first right of refusal on this land.” Ted said, “If you can’t let me know by tomorrow, the deal is off.” They called us right back. We came back in April and bumped into John McBride, whom we’d met skiing in Portillo, Chile. We met with architect Fritz Benedict in Aspen – he was not encouraging about finishing our building by Thanksgiving. He wanted us to build condos on the other side of Gore Creek. In walked Stein Erickson to The Lodge dining room; we’d skied at his first American ski experience, where he did the flip before people did them. Stein was having lunch with Fitzhugh Scott that day, and we met with him about our need to build. He said, “By November, yes.” He was wonderful. I found out there was no doctor, no nurse, no hospital and no school. I was up until 5:30 a.m. crying, “We can’t do this with these three little kids.” This was not good. We didn’t know what the future of Vail was going to be. Then, we just made up our minds we were going to move here. Later, when we went to parties – we always toasted Fitz – we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. We were in by early November and fully booked for Thanksgiving, but there was no snow. We told them not to come, but one couple showed up from Dallas and helped us get it ready. We loved VailThose early days were incredible. We just loved Vail. No one has really written the stories. We took horses way out. Our little girls loved it. We were renting rooms in the Christiania and decided to build our house. We rented a house from the Smiths on Gore Creek, and they adopted us. They were such great friends. Art taught Ted how to fly fish. They hauled in native trout off the deck, and we’d have them for breakfast. They were so good to us. Father Stone, the Catholic priest, was sent to Minturn for disagreeing with the bishop in Denver. Everybody adored him. They loved Father Stone because he had television. Our phone service was The Lodge at Vail; it was very primitive. Rod and his wife came for dinner one evening, and our daughter Amy fell off the railing just when they arrived and split her chin. We took her to Gilman Clinic. I held her head; Ted held her feet. The doctor turned off his hearing aid. We got dinner on the table somehow.School was in the bar at The Lodge with one teacher. We called it Vail Country Day but later changed it to Vail Mountain School. I started the Rummage Sale and the Home Tour fundraisers. Betty Seibert really started the school in the bar. When they moved school to her house, a goat met the kids at the door. Once, John McBride asked if we would babysit the goat, which chewed the chains on our cuckoo clock, and it cried all night long. When I asked if the goat was housebroken, he said, “Oh, that doesn’t matter, it’s just hard pellets.” I had the goat for a week! The kids thought it was great. Our house had seven rooms including a loft for babysitters, balcony off the master bedroom and a play area. Ted was the first mayor; he didn’t have much choice. Ted was involved in everything. We fought to get a golf course. The Denver people wanted to keep Vail their private ski area. Everyone was equalWe chose the name of Christiania for our lodge because of skiing – stem Christy, King Christian. We sold it the second year; Ted did not want to be an innkeeper. Hardest thing? Nothing – the only thing we thought about was, “Is Vail going to click?” I remember parking employee cars in front of The Lodge to make it look busy. We had use of facilities with Ted being on all the boards. Our property was in a prime location – they could never build in front of our house. We gave permission for the bike path and playground to be built. Marge Burdick took private lessons from Pepi; she was not athletic. He kept saying, “Steady locks.” She broke her ankle. “What were you telling me?” she asked him in the hospital. I was saying, “Marge, stay relaxed.”We who lived in Vail were equal. There was no discrimination. Joe Staufer had a party every Saturday night; the whole family/town went to Mid-Vail. We’d come down, put the children to bed and go to Bratskellar and party. We were best friends with everyone. The ski patrol ran the bad guys out of town. It was a great place. We had horses right in town and a pink jeep; we could ride our horses to the house and tie them up. The kids were never bored. We camped out and sometimes pitched a tent by the stream. That first year, I taught skiing to the Texas water skiers. They were big guys, and I introduced them to the Poma lift. I taught them how to get up and ended up lifting them up. I wasn’t a ski instructor, but one woman always requested me, even when it took us all day to get down the mountain. Ted and I both taught classes on Golden Peak. Ted worked with Rod at Slifer & Co. in real estate. A woman named Mrs. Knuckles was a basher; she skied with Ted in the Back Bowls, hit him and he broke his ankle. The problems made it more exciting. It’s not that kind of fun anymore. Looking for a docPenny Lewis was going to have a baby. There was a doctor from the Mayo Clinic here who hadn’t delivered a baby in seven years. He delivered the baby in a little room in the Red Lion. In 1965, the ski patrol drove the ambulance to Leadville and had a flat tire. We really needed a doctor, but the prospective doctors all wanted a clinic and a guaranteed salary, so I interviewed some doctors. One man was an MD and vet. I said, “That’s perfect.” Salary? No salary. Finally, John Murchison said, “Nancy, would you like me to take over?” Dr. Tom Steinberg was an industrial doctor in New Jersey. John brought him to Vail and had a party, and Vail had a doctor with an office in the Mill Creek Court Building. Tom made house calls; he did everything. He is a great citizen. We made bank runs to Eagle before we got a bank and PO. Ted fought hard for the first golf course. Golfers had to shoot over a chairlift. Dick Hauserman decided to have a golf camp and housed them in Avon someplace. We had to go to State Bridge to meet anyone arriving on the train. Everything was so primitive, including the roads. We drove fast and thought nothing of it, but it was a treacherous road. We went to the dentist in Denver; finally, he said, “Why don’t I just come to your house and see the children?” The whole life here was exciting and rewarding. You couldn’t have a more fun life. We left because we liked powder. The Back Bowls were being roped off, and the powder was being skied off. We wanted to learn to play golf, so we moved. Note from Elaine Kelton: Nancy Kindel died this past year, leaving a “Kindel legacy” here in Vail.”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.