1961 – "Huge New Ski Area in Works’
One of the centerpieces of our sales talk was a silent, 15-minute black-and-white movie about skiing at Vail. We went all over the Midwest, the Northeast and the Southwest, always talking and showing that film. We made sales pitches in penthouses, suburban bungalows, motel rooms, yacht clubs and country clubs, at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, on a tugboat in Newport, Rhode Island, and in a prize-winning rose garden in Tyler, Texas.
skiers came to listen to us everywhere: Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Chicago, Kalamazoo. But not one person bought until early in 1961, when George finally sold our first partnership unit to a cousin of his in Detroit, a man who had never been skiing in his life. With that sale in hand, George immediately got on the phone to people we had already pitched and told them units were selling like crazy. A few people were thus encouraged to buy, but everyone else was reluctant, dubious, and uninterested.
By the summer of 1961 we had sold just 38 of the 100 units we needed to underwrite our ski area. George went into arm-twisting mode and pleaded desperately with five wealthy Vail Associates board members. If each one would promise to underwrite five partnerships -at $10,000 apiece – George would underwrite 10 of them. They agreed, and George put up his promised amount. That put us near our goal.
Finally, while driving through Texas on a sweltering August day, George and I came up with a dazzling new twist on our partnerships that brought in – and brought back – many new people, as well as dozens of those who had turned us down. As I mentioned, we had already promised four lifetime passes with every partnership unit. But now we realized that we could add something even more valuable to each investor – a piece of land for a homesite in Vail Village.
Price? – a meager $500 bucks. (Price today – well in excess of $1 million.
This unprecedented idea became the deal clincher for many, many investors. And it put us over the top.
“People in Texas and other places, too, had no idea what the value of lift passes might be worth, but they had no doubt about the value of land,” Caulkins said.
Everything had finally come together. We had the first million-plus dollars, and the other $500,000 was covered by the Small Business Association and by Denver bank loans. We threw a party to declare our victory, and the next day, Dec. 29, 1961, the The Denver Post ran the headline – “Huge New Ski Area in Works.”
The story that followed could only be called ecstatic:
“Colorado skiing took another giant jump forward Thursday with the news the state is getting still another ski area – this one to be the largest in the U.S. The Vail area, to be built on the west side of Vail Pass, sounds like a honey. It will have a large gondola lift, a pair of mile-long chairs, a 3,000-foot descent, wide-open bowls, an alpine village – the works!”
Ah, yes. The works!
On March 1, 1962 – just 16 days short of five years from the day Earl Eaton and I climbed the no-name mountain – I received and signed the final Forest Service construction permits as “Peter W. Seibert. General Partner for Vail Associates, Ltd.”
I was taking responsibility for 6,470 acres of land – seven square miles of spectacular skiing terrain. My dream now included:
– A 9,500-foot gondola.
– Two chair lifts, each a mile long.
– A 1,000-foot beginners lift.
– A village.
All I could think was that I had come a long, long way from those daily milk runs to the farm below the hill in Sharon, Mass.
Editor’s note: This the 39th 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.