Vail Valley Voices: A magical serendipity
Ryan Summerlin December 29, 2012
During the past two years, I have had the privilege of being a member of the Vail 50th anniversary planning team. As a committee member I wore two hats – first as a representative of Vail’s Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum, the idea hatched on a trip up the Lionshead gondola in 1975 by Bob Parker, Terry Minger and Bill Lucas; and second as a representative of the Vail Town Council, along with my fellow council member Kerry Donovan. The museum is Vail’s community history and heritage museum as well as the ski museum for the entire state of Colorado, as first envisioned by Parker, Minger and Lucas. Portions of the museum’s vast photo and artifact collection have been on display as part of Vail’s 50th public celebrations and advertising, but the bigger role the museum has played has been the research and storytelling of Vail’s trailblazers. Our community is extraordinarily lucky to have so many of its original trailblazers still living and working among us. As Vail looks toward its next 50 years, I hope it will always keep an eye on its past. The following tribute was inspired by the collective stories of Vail’s trailblazers; a special thanks to Diana Donovan for the title. serendipity (ser-uh n-dip-i-tee), noun 1. An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. 2. Good fortune; luck:Vail is the story of a mountain valley transformed by a handful of courageous World War II veterans with nothing more than a vision and the indomitable spirit to bring it to life.A sheep pasture in 1961, Vail is now among the world’s premiere mountain resorts. Pete Seibert, a veteran of America’s legendary 10th Mountain Division, and a handful of early pioneers were there to ski. Echoing a now familiar story, they never left.They were joined by similarly bold souls from all over the world, rich and poor, coming together in this wilderness valley with little more than a dream. They were Vail’s trailblazers, and we recognize and honor them today on the occasion of Vail’s 50th anniversary.You could call it serendipity.It was the driving force in this uncanny confluence of the perfect people crossing paths with the perfect mountain at the perfect time. Vail’s trailblazers were daring. They took risks. They were adventurers and dreamers and lucky losers who heard about a perfect mountain and were willing to pull up stakes to start a new life.It was the mountain where all the stories converge. Unique, majestic, bold in its expansiveness. These early pioneers arrived, glimpsing the ridge that overlooks those vast treeless Back Bowls. It wasn’t hard to make a personal decision of a lifetime, that now familiar story of coming to Vail and never leaving.It’s affected all of us – the emotional gravity and pull of Vail Mountain and its majestic environs.It started with Pete crossing paths first with Earl Eaton and later with George Caulkins. Earl knew the perfect mountain, and George knew the way to raise money. The dream was born, and along with it was Vail’s serendipitous rise.Vail’s trailblazers arrived here to live and work during the first two winter ski seasons, ’62 and ’63. Some came with just the money in their pocket. Some stumbled upon the mountain after making a wrong turn. But all arrived with a shared dream, a belief in the idea that anything was possible. Guided by their belief, the trailblazers, with determination and adventurous spirit, built the mountain and built the town from what was a sheep pasture with little more than a construction camp with muddy streets, a few buildings and a kind of distance from the outside world. Their spirit and resolve set a path for all of us to follow, allowing Vail to become what it is today.We’d call it serendipity.The Vail community and Vail Resorts thank Vail’s trailblazers.Fifty Years. Dec. 15, 1962. Susie Tjossem is the executive director of Vail’s Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and a member of the Vail Town Council.