1960 – Vail’s road show begins
In George’s first foray into fund-raising, he visited a number of New York banks and businessmen. He found them all impeccably polite but genuinely puzzled at the idea of investing in a ski resort that didn’t yet have a lift or a lodge or a trail in place. The A-list underwriters gave him an undertaker’s smile and politely sent George on to the grade-B underwriters, who also murmured regrets and sent him on to the grade-C underwriters, whom no one had ever heard of.
Finally it got through to George and all of us waiting at home that no one in New York banking circles was going to put a dime into a pie-in-the-sky scheme from an alien land called Colorado, which seemed to be located somewhere west of the Hudson River.
So in mid-1960 George and I hit the road together in his sleek silver Porsche, bound for Chicago. We stopped in Fort Collins for coffee, and when we came out of the cafe a little old lady, dressed in black and sporting a long black cane, was staring at the shining car.
“Say, what is this little thing?” she asked.
“A Porsche,” said George.
“Well, it’s real cute.”
She walked around it once, then tapped the hood three times with her cane. She looked at George and winked: “You’ll always have good luck, sonny, when you drive a car like this.”
And she shuffled off.
Was this an omen of coming success? We decided we might as well assume that it was, and with renewed spirits we began the big push to sell Vail to friends, relatives, old school chums, country club pals, army buddies and others.
“I can’t tell you how many thousands of miles we covered,” George would tell someone much later on. “It wasn’t like raising money for oil wells. Putting together a ski area as a money-raising proposition had never been done before. If we hadn’t had a lot of good friends who came in on a questionable investment based on friendship, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
True enough. I think it helped that we always told potential investors up front that they had little chance of ever getting a return on their money. That kind of honesty appealed to a lot of people – don’t ask me why.
Editor’s note: This is the 38th installment of the Vail Daily’s serialization of “Vail: Triumph of a Dream” by Vail Pioneer and Founder Pete Seibert. This excerpt comes from Chapter Seven, entitled “Money to Buy the Dream.” The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.