‘Women of Vail’ serialization: An active life in the mountains
Ryan Summerlin July 18, 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.bookwormofedwards.com, the Colorado Ski Museum, Pepi’s, Gorsuch, Annie’s and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and attended the University of Texas at Austin, where I studied voice and interior design. I met my future husband Keith L. Brown there. After practicing law in San Antonio for seven years, we moved to Colorado, where he joined Caulkins Oil Company. Together, he and George Caulkins started raising money to start Vail in 1959. My family and I were one of the first families to be involved with Vail. I was here and living in our new house on Mill Creek Circle by opening day 1962. I formed a partnership with Gerry Cohen, also an early Vailite, and we opened the first interior design business called Vail Interiors. We did very well, being the only design center in town. Keith built many of the condominiums still in use today, and for many of them I had a corner on the decorating business.
Keith and I built one of the first ski chalets in 1962 and used it every weekend when it was possible to drive the mountain passes. We had many a scary moment going over Loveland and Vail Pass. The children loved it when we had to turn around and spend the night in Georgetown where they could watch TV.
Our social life was quite active, and we knew nearly everyone who moved in or built. It was a fast-growing little community, and we made wonderful friends. Our nightlife was quite busy; we went to the Lodge of Vail, the Red Lion, Gasthof Gramshammer, and Casino Vail (no gambling, just music and food). There were many beautiful parties in private homes.
Mainly, we skied, but several tennis courts and a golf course were built the first few years, and we used them. We also had a horse that we kept in the backyard, and the kids rode all over town.
Family life was more active than our nightlife, having three children of skiing age and one about to turn 4. Our house was built for fun so there were always many guests. I loved my house. Lots of picnics and the 19th hole of the golf course ended up on our deck. Because we were ski-in/ski-out, our place was a convenient landing spot for après ski. Every holiday found us entertaining: Easter egg hunts, Christmas caroling with visits from Santa Claus, and the Gold Peak fireworks were right over our heads. Keith and some of the ‘bad boys’ in town, would buy the fireworks in Denver, set them up, put the kids under a tarp, and light the fuse. Thank God no one was ever hurt. We also did many picnics on the mountain, had horse pack trips over the mountains, and even spent one night in an ice hut that had been dug into the mountain. A snowcat pulled us on skis.
All we expected to find here was a little cabin in a small get-away ski area to visit on weekends. Our perspective of Vail changed with its growth as it spread up and down the valley. It was an incredible thing to see. We have loved all of our years in this beautiful part of the United States. I hope other families have had the fun we did.
“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.