Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: Giving credit where it is due
Ryan Summerlin September 24, 2012
I apologize, but I must interrupt my weekly diatribe exposing the intricate details of hypocrisy found in worldwide politics and its perpetual sidekick, religion, to talk about something much closer to home and infinitely more entertaining — Vail’s 50th anniversary.The official flags are now flying, and last week’s Vail Pioneer Weekend (for those who lived here at some point between 1962 and 1980) kicked off the first of many celebrations over the next nine months.Although I would have loved an invitation, I missed the cut by four years, having not been convinced to leave the real world for Happy Valley until 1984.While I have always been fascinated and intrigued by those responsible for transforming quiescent ranch land into internationally renowned alpine splendor, nothing prepared me for the lessons I learned beginning back in 2009 when I was asked to conduct an interview with Vail’s very first director of ski school, Morrie Shepherd.The town of Vail had the foresight to fund video interviews with as many of Vail’s original pioneers as they could, yet not only in anticipation of the 50th, but because reality made it clear that we were losing more and more each year due to mother nature and time.Morrie and I had been friends for a few years, mainly through golf, yet this was the first time I had really talked with him, and what an amazing talk it was. Two hours of fascinating Q&A left me salivating for more, but it took another year or so before I truly had the opportunity of a (Vail) lifetime.The town called again and asked if I would view all 17 two-hour videos and pick out a few minutes of highlights from each. Slifer, Gramshammer, Gorsuch, Donovan, Brown, Simonton and Higbie were among the names, and it was truly an honor to be asked (although yes, we all know the town put together a list of local hacks with too much time on their hands, and after the professionals turned them down they settled for moi).But of course I said yes anyway.It took me over three months to complete, and in between viewings I re-read the books by Hauserman, Siebert and Simonton. Though the pictures are wonderful, this time I really paid attention to the words.What I learned is immeasurable and cannot possibly be appreciated in a few paragraphs, but suffice it to say I no longer walk through the village with the same mindset that I possessed upon my arrival.Every building, every bridge, every street corner holds some remnant of cool historical relevance, and I find myself being nostalgic for a time and place where I was not even a participant, yet still miss.Anyway, I could be exceptionally sappy and corny here, but to spare you from such sentimental self-indulgence, I would like to propose that every person living here who boasts of being a true local watch as many of these videos as they possibly can. And surprise, surprise, they will soon be available in one form or another at the Colorado Ski Museum on top of the village parking structure.In fact, we should take it a step further and make it mandatory viewing for living within town borders, for that’s the only way I see that people can really and truly appreciate what Vail’s founding fathers accomplished. The risks they took, the innocence they approached it with, and the success they achieved is the stuff of which legends are made.So watch the videos, enjoy the 50th, and appreciate the founders’ trials and tribulations that we so easily take for granted.You’ll never look at Bridge Street the same again.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.