1963 -1976: The "glory years’
In the 1970s, a favorite spot for after-ski sunning was out front of the Trail’s End Restaurant, below the Lionshead gondola.|Courtesy Vail Resorts| |
I don’t think there has ever been a period in my life more filled with good luck, good news, and all-around good vibrations than the first decade or so of Vail’s existence. Those were the glory years.
They raced past like a mad river roaring down a great canyon, and every morning I awoke before dawn, so excited by the prospect of facing another set of unknown rapids that I couldn’t sleep.
I remember standing on my skis at the summit one morning in the winter of 1968. I had gone up with some members of the ski patrol, who were going to test a new batch of avalanche charges. It was just getting light. The boys on the patrol headed toward the Back Bowls in fresh powder, and for a moment I was alone. I looked up at the waning stars and thought of the day in 1957 when I had brought my dreams up here and changed my life forever, to say nothing of the lives of thousands of other people who worked or played or prospered because of Vail. The “no-name mountain” had turned into the most successful ski resort in North America, and I was on the pinnacle of success.
But as with everything in those busy, productive years, I had no time to savor the moment. The patrolmen were calling “Pete! Pete!” and I charged after them through the powder.
There were lots of milestones that marked our success. In the third season, 1965-66, we started racking up more skier-days than any of our Colorado competitors. By our fifth year we were pulling in 250 percent of our initial projections. An article in SkI Magazine in 1969 called Vail one of the “super-resorts of American skiing.”
“Vail has everything a vacationing skier could want,” the magazine wrote the following year.
Even business writers were paying attention to Vail. In December 1963, the business editor of The Denver Post, Willard Haselbush, wrote:
“Two years ago this new Colorado boom town was a sheep pasture. Now it has $8,480,000 worth of new construction – homes, apartments, restaurants, lodges, nightclubs, shops, and ski facilities – with a minimum of $3 million in construction already set for 1964. Construction in Vail Village began just 19 months ago. Since then 50 private homes have been built, many in the $100,000 bracket, and one that cost $500,000 without landscaping and furnishings.”
Yes, we were in boom times right from the start, and it was not just because of the sale of individual houses. In large part our real-estate success was due to a Colorado law passed in 1963 that allowed condominium ownership without ownership of the land. This fueled the condominium boom, opening up space that could be purchased for a fourth the price of a house.
Because the land in our narrow valley was limited, prices rose astronomically throughout the 1960s, and a condo in Vail soon became a national status symbol.
As Rod Slifer told June Simonton when she was researching her book, “Vail, Story of a Colorado Mountain Valley”:
“It was incredible in those years. There was no negotiation on price. Bang! If one guy didn’t take it, the next guy would.”
Editor’s note: This is the 48th 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 10, entitled “The Glory Years: 1963-1976.” The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.