Vail Daily columnist Warren Miller: How Keystone decided to buy Arapahoe Basin
November 8, 2012
In the early 1970s, I was producing a movie for my old friend Bob Maynard, the president of Keystone, Colo., at the time.
I had met Bob in 1944 when I was skiing at Badger Pass in Yosemite. I was in the Navy and stationed in San Francisco at the time. I had hitchhiked to Yosemite for the weekend and paid my $3 to rent skis and boots for the day.
Bob Maynard handed me my rental ski boots of soft leather with turned up box toes. I stood in line in the cold early morning shade while I waited my turn to be handed a pair of skis, which I think had been used by Hannes Schroll when he taught there in 1937. I didn’t know the difference, if in fact there was any difference, when it came to my ski ability at the time.
I had started making Bob’s promotional movie the year before, when the hotel windows still had visqueen in them and I had to wait for the wind to stop blowing so I could make the windows look like they had glass in them.
During the time I was filming the ski action, the talk in the lift line was that the nearby Arapahoe Basin ski resort was for sale. Bob Maynard had gone on record as not being the least bit interested in the purchase because it was too high above sea level, the lifts were worn out, the lodge was in almost total disrepair, and besides, the owner, Joe Jankowski, wanted too much money for it.
On a day that was too overcast to film, Bob Craig, who had led several expeditions to the Himalayas on Annapurna and Everest, took me on a tour of the Basin, as it is called. Unlike the semi-flat ski runs at Keystone, I found A-Basin a perfect site for a major expansion for Keystone if they bought it.
By the time we took our last run, we went down the back of the Basin and wound up in Keystone’s ski lift parking lot. I thought Bob Maynard was making a major mistake in not buying the place.
Forty years ago when this was all happening, I had a couple of friends who wanted me to be on the lookout for a ski area they could buy. They just thought it would be wonderful if they owned their own ski resort. So after I took all of my gear to my room in the almost new Keystone Hotel, I walked down to Bob Maynard’s office. I stuck my nose in the door and asked him, “Is it OK if I shut the door?”
I sat down and asked Bob, “Why don’t you buy A-Basin?” He had a dozen reasons why he shouldn’t, then he asked me “Why should I buy it?”
I replied, “Because your waitresses are ugly. And that’s because the skiing that you have to offer here at Keystone would not appeal to any self-respecting, trim, blonde or brunette, beautiful, young, Southern California lady. If they are going to spend the winter working in a ski resort, they at least want good ski runs to carve up on their time off. And besides that, if you don’t buy A-Basin from Jankowski by Friday, I will.”
“Miller” Bob said, “If tickets around the world were $3, even you couldn’t get out of sight.”
“I know that, but I have some friends who have me on the lookout to buy a ski resort for them.” I concluded my suggestion with a request, “If you are able to buy A-Basin at a low price, how about giving me a commission of an acre of land somewhere here at Keystone?”
As it turned out, Ralston Purina owned Keystone at the time and the president was coming to Keystone the next day for a little skiing and a board meeting. The purchase was made on Friday. My request for the acre of land as a commission on setting up a multi-million dollar deal never happened.
Today you can ski down some wonderful runs from Arapahoe Basin to Keystone, and their waitresses are really good looking, as well. Bob Maynard and his wife, Nancy, are neighbors of ours on our Island in the Northwest, and we meet occasionally for dinner when we are all here in the summer.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more, log onto Warren Miller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warrenmiller.org.