‘Women of Vail’: Becoming a ski bum
Ryan Summerlin August 24, 2013
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.bookworm ofedwards.com, the Colorado Ski Museum, Pepi’s, Gorsuch, Annie’s and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
I was born in Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska, receiving a BA in secondary business education. In 1964, I taught school there. During that school year, I met Linda Kottmeyer, who wanted to quit her job as a bank teller and move to Vail to become a “ski bum.” I was ready. I didn’t know what to expect, and when we arrived I was stunned by the beauty and serenity of the Vail Valley.
We drove to Vail the summer of 1965 in my ’64 yellow Malibu, sporting two speeding tickets. My first job was as a cashier at the Deli working for Phil Lamantia. I soon found another job at Casino Vail as a cocktail waitress. I sold lift tickets and babysat for John and Laurie McBride’s two small children. Linda and I lived in what was known then as “Chris’ Closets.” Our social life was centered around friends whom we met at work. We spent a lot of time at Casino Vail because it was the “place to go” in the evening. As I recall, Sheika Gramshammer was in charge of the disco music for dancing.
Linda had told me that she was an experienced skier and would teach me what I needed to know. Well, she took me to the top of the mountain and then took off and left me after a very brief “lesson.” I tried to ski, but a patrolman was watching my struggle and took me down in a toboggan. I searched for Linda and found her at the small medical clinic with Dr. Steinberg. She had multiple breaks in her leg. She spent the rest of the season working at the Red Lion Inn as a cashier. Downstairs at the Red Lion was a great place to hang out after skiing, and everyone would write their names in the ceiling using candles.
I returned to home ground at the end of the season. In 1969, my husband Jim Janske and I came to Vail after spending a year as traveling musicians. We had met shortly after my return to Nebraska. I shared so many stories about Vail that he was intrigued with the idea of spending time or making our home there. We rented a condo in East Vail from Jack Carnie. Jim worked at the Nu Gnu for Paul Johnston, and I worked at the Red Lion for Heinz Heite and Gunther Hofler. The Burdicks owned the Red Lion. It was great fun that year, and I met wonderful people including my dear friend, Sally Johnston. When she came from Boston to see Paul, she wore the latest in fashion — short dresses with beautiful stockings. Judy Gold and I had fun working together at the Red Lion. My favorite dessert was the Goldbrick Sundae — hardened chocolate with nuts on vanilla ice cream.
I was pregnant with my son, Jon, when Jim and I decided to move to Wisconsin, to be close to his family. We later lived in Longmont, where daughter Jayme was born. We eventually moved back to Vail. Life transitioned into single parenting and teaching at Battle Mountain High School. I now live in Redstone and am married to Jeff Bier, whom I met at a Vail reunion. Ironically, Jeff lived in Vail in 1962-63. Friends Chuck and Meredith Ogilby and Helmut Fricker introduced us. For many years, I sang with Helmut at the Christiania. He and his friend Art played Alphorns at our wedding.
“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.