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.
In February 1963, we stopped by Vail on our way home from our annual Aspen ski trip. After coming out of the Back Bowl and seeing what looked like midgets skiing where we’d come from, we stopped at The Lodge at Vail to look at a table model of the ski area on display in the lobby. A ski instructor appeared from out of nowhere to explain the layout and said he was also a real estate agent. His name was Jay Utter. He invited us to come up again, from our home on Lookout Mountain west of Denver, to ski with him and look at real estate. Jay and his wife, Graham, did not have kids, so when we arrived one weekend with three, I’m sure they were a bit surprised, but took it all in stride and became close friends. Jay owned a little red cottage in Minturn, and that became our 1963 weekend home for our first winter in Vail.
Our first reaction to Vail was that it would be a good place to invest in property, but we would always spend our ski vacation in Aspen, as we had done, when we lived in California. That idea lasted for about one week after feeling the excitement of the possibility of joining the adventurous pioneers in Vail. We did just that when Jay learned that a Chinese investor got cold feet on the 50-acre easternmost parcel of the Kaitepes Circle K Ranch. We went to look at the property on snowshoes and had to cross Gore Creek over a snow bridge because there were no bridges — or even roads — in that very remote part of the valley. We could not afford the whole 50 acres, but Jay convinced Bill to sell us 13 acres right along the south bank of Gore Creek where Main Gore Drive eventually crossed the Creek. Everyone thought we were crazy for buying way out there in the boondocks, but as soon as the bridge was built we started construction. Roger went to the courthouse in Eagle to inquire about a building permit and was met with the response, “A what?” and the rest is history.
We built four fourplex condo buildings on 3 acres, finishing with a duplex for ourselves in 1968, and then sold the remaining 10 acres to Art Kelton and Tim Garton. Our plan was to build a fourplex, sell two units, and move on to the next building. To our pleasant surprise, even in that remote part of the valley, it worked.
Our first sale was fun and unusual. Don Lilly had a horse corral where I-70 is now — across from the entrance to Main Gore Drive. He loose pastured his horses about where the East Vail Park is and gathered them on horseback and move them up Main Gore Drive to his corral. We were pioneering the building of some condominiums, just south of Gore Creek Bridge on Main Gore Drive, and were showing a unit to a person who had just moved to Denver from somewhere in the east. Don was dressed up with hat, boots and a 6-gun in a fancy holster. As we stepped out the door, Don came by whooping and hollering behind his band of galloping horses. Our customer turned to us and said, “Hot damn — I’ll buy it!” That was our first sale. I’m so thankful to have been part of those early days.
“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.