Longtime Vail locals ready to move on
Ryan Summerlin December 14, 2012
VAIL, Colorado – If you ever worked for Vail Resorts, skied for Ski Club Vail or worked as a volunteer for the 1989 or 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek – or worked at many of the Vail Valley lodges over the past 25 years – chances are you wore a Descente jacket. Bob and Kitty Seemann, longtime Vail locals and sales reps for Descente, are the reasons why. Together, they have the credentials that make for the dream of any ambitious ski bum, combining their avocation of the outdoors and adventure with their vocation of building one of the most storied brands in ski soft goods.Bob, a Massachusetts native with an alpine racing background, became team manager and coach for Team Rossingnol in the early ’70s, running the logistics and for the likes of Jean Claude Killy and spending summers running racing camps in Zermatt, Switzerland. From there, he started his sales career with Olin Skis. He moved to Vail in 1975 and headed the alpine program for Ski Club Vail from 1975-79 becoming Vail Town Champ in 1977. Kitty, a Chicago native, attended Regis College in Denver before managing to create a completely new degree for herself at Western Washington State College in aviation and English. She earned her private pilot’s license in ’74 at the age of 21 and headed to Alaska. There she began flying for Talkeetna Air Taxi as a glacier and bush pilot, landing climbers on Mount McKinley, hunters and fisherman on remote Alaska lakes and in the wilderness and flying float planes. Urban legend has it that she was the inspiration for the character “Maggie” in the ’80s show “Northern Exposure.” As a certified flight instructor, she taught John Denver to fly float planes.Kitty started K2 Aviation in Alaska with a partner, Kimball Forrest, in 1979.A strong teamBob and Kitty met on a chairlift in Vail, married in 1985 and started to represent Descente in 1987. Descente was gaining recognition in the U.S. partially due to sponsoring the U.S. Alpine Team and with the success of team members, Phil and Steve Mahre in the Olympics. Descente’s product was evolving rapidly and becoming a dominant upper-end brand at retail in the ski business.”Bob and Kitty’s involvement with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has spanned decades,” Aldo Radamus, executive director of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. “As a recently retired professional racer in the mid ’70s, Bob dominated the Vail Town Series while coaching the top kids at Ski Club Vail to berths on the U.S. Ski Team. After landing a ‘real’ job with Descente Bob and Kitty created a relationship that has spanned 20 years with the club and continues today uniforming our coaching staff, athletes and Leadership Council members. For more than 35 years Bob and Kitty have been an important part of our ‘family’ at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.”The combination of Bob’s racing history and Kitty’s connection to the outdoor climbing world through Alaska Aviation made for a strong sales team. Many of the ski shop employees, managers and owners were mountain climbers whom Kitty had flown onto Mount McKinley. Many had ski racing backgrounds and knew of Bob and his notable career. Business in the territory grew and they were No. 1 in the North American territory for the preponderance of their years with Descente. Both were involved in product development and were instrumental in the design and launch of the cooler, younger DNA line. Since 2000, they also represented Neve Designs out of Boulder, a line of high-end designer sweaters and layer pieces with alpine charm. Kitty and Bob have become very close friends with the owner, Tom Irvine and his associate, Jennifer Tille. Next stop: WisconsinBob and Kitty are fixtures in the Vail community and throughout the retail establishment, particularly in the western Rocky Mountain States. “Pepi and I want to say congratulations to Bob and Kitty. They had great success with Descente,” Sheika Gramshammer said. “They are very happy people with excellent taste which made it easy for us to sell. They’re hard working, fun to be around and we wish them the best!””Bob and Kitty are truly part of the fabric of the Vail Valley and the ski world,” said John Garnsey, president-international of Vail Resorts. “Their work on behalf of the Vail Valley Foundation, Ski Club Vail and so many other nonprofits in the community has been remarkable. And, they are dear friends – both personally and to so many of us in the ski community.” Along the way, Bob and Kitty raised Michael (Mick), 23, and Corey, 21, who now attend Montana State in Bozeman, Mont.Everyone in the family is now a certified pilot with both Kitty and Mick each with flight instructors’ certifications. A new addition to the family is the two-seat aircraft, Scout.A book about Kitty’s life and career, written by Women in Aviation specialty writer Ann Cooper is due out this spring.So what’s next? Bob and Kitty are moving on to fly, travel and spend time with their sons at their beloved Wisconsin summer home of Three Lakes, Wis.The community of Vail will miss the unbridled energy of the Seemanns and the tremendous impact they have made. Vail is a better place for their generosity and commitment to the community and is certainly better dressed for their being here.Taking over the Colorado territory for Descente is longtime Vail local Jerry Larson, who currently works for Descente covering the southwest territory.Taking over the Colorado sales position for Neve is Jeff Heid from Utah.