1962 – Building a road down from Mid-Vail
On Labor Day weekend of 1961, it began to snow in the mountains of Colorado. There were still herds of sheep in the mountains, and there were loggers up high with their equipment – and it snowed, and snowed and snowed. It snowed almost 5 feet in the first week of September, which, although unusual, does happen. That snow never melted, and the men at the logging camp up Mill Creek had to leave all their equipment until the following spring. They had to snowshoe out.
This meant that in May 1962, when Vail was to start work on the mountain, there was still 3 or 4 feet of snow in the village. Larry Burdick, who built the Red Lion, had to have his site bulldozed so that it could be surveyed and staked. And in order to prepare the ski runs and the upper lift terminal in the Mid-Vail area, an access road had to be built first.
Leonard Ruder started to build an access road right in the middle of the village. He started pushing the snow and the dirt uphill, but it didn’t work – there was just too much.
“Let me tell you what we’ve got to do,” he told Pete Seibert.
They hauled the big Cat up to the bottom of where Chair 10 is today, which at that time was an old mill site. It was the end of ski road. In those days, “skid road” existed as an old logging road. It was on the mountain side and was about as wide as one of those little Cats.
Ruder bulldozed his way across the mountainside on that little road and cut a a ledge in the snow with just enough room for the bigger Cat. He painstakingly did this all the way to Mid-Vail, then started building the road downhill. This was in April, and it took a great deal of courage to get a big bulldozer perched on the little track that he had cut in the snow.
Every night Ruder would walk down and take fuel for the cat up the mountain with the little triple-seat Cat. He built the road from Mid-Vail down. Because he was pushing with gravity, it went much faster, and by May Vail was ready to take equipment up the mountain. It never would have happened if he hadn’t gone clear to the top and then started down. That was the type of teamwork evident everywhere.
Ruder is remembered today by a plaque at the top of Golden Peak, and Ruder’s Run is named after him.
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 86th installment, an excerpt from chapter 11, “The Corporate Team.” 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.