1962 – a pair of Olympians goes into business
Bridge Street has a generous mixture of restaurants, gift shops, small hotels and outstanding sports shops. The intersection of Meadow Drive and Bridge Street is the hub of off-mountain activity and the site of Vail’s most famous sports stores.
The list of outsiders who became new locals grew constantly from the beginning. In 1966, Vail became an official town. It was run by the new locals. Vail Associates became a secondary entity, concerned mostly with running the ski area – the on-mountain activity. A new sports shop, destined to become nationally famous, opened its doors on May 1, 1966. It was called Gorsuch Ltd.
Renie and Dave Gorsuch were both Olympic skiers. They met in Jackson Hole, Wyo., at the National Junior Olympics when they were 15 years old. Two years later, they had fallen in love and started “going together.”
It was a love affair then and it’s a love affair now. Just like many of the young couples who came to Vail, Dave and Renie made not only their fortunes, but their mark as insiders. Diane and Bob Lazier, John and Joan Carnie, Larry and Marge Burdick, Warren and Helga Pulis, Ted and Nancy Kindel, Jim and Daphne Slevin, and Vi and Byron Brown are some of the other wonderful couples who came and call Vail home.
Dave Gorsuch was from Climax. His father, Jack Gorsuch, a native Coloradan as well, moved to Climax in 1935 and worked in the mine as a carpenter. He found that he could make more money as a carpenter than he could as a teacher. In 1938 he was making $6 a day.
Jack Gorsuch became interested in skiing at an early age. With three friends, he built a rope tow at Climax and put in lighting for night skiing. The night lighting became very popular with the ski troops training at Camp Hale. Dave started skiing at about 18 months of age on skis made by his father. That was the early start that led to an outstanding racing career.
Renie Gorsuch was born in upstate New York and learned to ski at Snow Ridge under the guidance of a European instructor named Otto Von Allman. Under his direction, she became an Olympic prospect.
Von Allman later went to Sun Valley and then to Vail, where he was a popular member of the Vail Ski School. Von Allman’s wife died tragically of cancer, and Von Allman never recovered from the loss. He began drinking heavily, and although Renie and Dave Gorsuch tried diligently, they could not help him. Sadly, he drowned in a bathtub in a flophouse in Denver. He left all his trophies to Renie Gorsuch.
Renie and Dave Gorsuch were married at the age of 21 in 1960 after the Olympics at Squaw Valley. Dave attended Western State College in Gunnison, worked part-time as a janitor and graduated in 1964. Renie had a job teaching first grade. Those were lean times for the couple.
In 1961, Crested Butte, located near Gunnison and Western State College, began skiing operations. Because of his skiing experience, Dave Gorsuch would help many of the college students with their equipment and would assist in mounting their bindings. As Renie recalls:
“One day everyone had brought their skis in to be mounted and all the skis were lined up against the wall. We only had three nice things in the house at that time – Tiffany candlesticks, a hollow skier, and one other thing. The skis came crashing down and broke all our nice things. That was it. If we were going to mount bindings, we were going to charge.
“We talked about it and decided to start a business. Then we went out and rented a garage. We lived in a little apartment above it. We covered the walls with burlap and barn board. We went to our first ski show in April 1962. That summer I knitted about 100 ski hats, and when we opened, we didn’t even have enough skis to fill the ski rack. So we put some of our old skis on it, too. Everybody helped out. We carried Bogner and Head. The first year we made $25,000. We lived on my teacher’s salary. Dave would open at noon and run the shop until I got home at 4:30 p.m. and then he would go to training.”
That was the start of the Gorsuch sports-shop business.
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 107th 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.