1961 – Roger Brown films "Ski Country U.S.A.’
Brown is now the famous owner of Summit Films.
After studying filmmaking at the University of Southern California, in 1961 he was hired by Vail Associates to make the first promotional film about the resort. Bob Parker had seen a lecture film that Brown had made and asked him if he would make a film for Vail. This was the break Brown needed.
Brown moved to Vail and established his base operation. His film was such a success that Don Fowler, United Airlines passenger representative in Denver, cornered the president of United Airlines in the men’s room and told him that Brown should make a film for United called “Ski Country U.S.A.” It featured Vail but included other resorts.
The film was the turning point that enabled United Airlines to change the winter traffic flow from east – to Europe – to the mountains of the West. United Airlines and then Hertz car rentals really started promoting Colorado.
That also was the beginning of Bob Parker’s idea – “SKI COUNTRY U.S.A.,” a big push to promote skiing in Colorado instead of letting the traffic go to Europe. Brown said it was the most important turning point in the promotion of Vail.
The second most important impact was when Congressman and then President Gerald Ford came. It was Vail’s luck that he came in 1968.
Roger Brown, through his films, went on to international fame. He received four national sports Emmys and numerous international awards for his work. Brown’s 1969 film, “Ski the Outer Limits,” is a classic.
On a trip to Taos, N.M., in 1963, Brown met a famous Bogner skiwear model, Monica Shultz-Lidl, a ski instructor who starred in his film. Five years later they were married.
Always a rugged outdoorsman who loved to fish, hunt, and climb, Brown was an avid environmentalist. Several years ago, the Denver Water Board planned a water diversion around the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness above Vail. They had enough legal rights to virtually dry up Vail’s water from the town, all the way up Gore Creek. The diversion ring would have started at Piney River and would have continued all the way around the high mountains, tunneling into Dillon Reservoir. It was an atrocity that had to be stopped. Not only would it have destroyed Vail, it would also have destroyed all kinds of mountain parks and wilderness areas.
The Denver Water Board’s plan was to reduce the size of the wilderness areas. A decision had to be made. Denver had convinced the people who held the votes that the wilderness areas should be smaller. Roger Brown, in a last-ditch effort, took President Ford on a helicopter trip and showed him several diversions with their dry creeks.
“Gerry, this is what Vail will look like,” he told the president.
At the last moment, Sheika Gramshammer also appealed to the president, and he made the historical decision that he would not support the diversion.
If it hadn’t been for Roger Brown and others like him, we might not be enjoying the Vail mountain area today. Brown’s contributions to saving the environment will be remembered for years to come. And the story of Summit Films is another example of the many business opportunities for those who want to succeed.
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 113th installment, an excerpt from chapter 12, “The Ever-Increasing “New Locals.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.