1963 – Minnie Cloud saves Vail’s second season
Nowadays, snowmaking has taken a certain amount of the anxiety out of the business. But we would have given our eyeteeth to have had just one snowmaking machine in the first years Vail was open. Snowfall the first season had started out weak, but built nicely. The second season, 1963-64, however, we had wall-to-wall blue skies throughout the fall.
We were worried we’d get a reputation for never having early snow.
One day around Thanksgiving a woman who worked in Vail Blanche, our first ski shop, suggested to Bob Parker that the Ute Indians might perform a dance for us that would stimulate a change in the weather. The idea was for them to do a tribal dance to bring snow. We contacted a man named Eddie Box, who handled ceremonial dances for the Bear Clan.
Parker asked him if they performed snow dances and was told, “no, only rain dances.” Could Eddie Box make an exception this time? Eddie said only Minnie Cloud, an ancient member of the Cloud Clan, had good enough contacts with the weather gods to answer that question. So Minnie checked with the gods and said a snow dance would be OK.
“The scheduled dance is actually a rain dance,” Parker told the press.” However, tribe officials have given approval to a temporary change of nomenclature, and the dance will be called a snow dance this one time only. Because of temperatures at Vail, we are very hopeful that the dance will produce snow rather than rain. Rain, of course, would be disastrous, but we’re willing to take that chance.”
About a half-dozen Utes arrived in Vail Village on Dec. 9. The entire group, including Eddie Box, who proved to be a short, powerful fellow, and Minnie Cloud, a tiny but majestic woman, emerged from his Cadillac. The whole party of Utes danced that afternoon at the lodge; the skies grew dark, and an icy wind blew. There was no snow, though, and the next day the sun blazed down from a perfect blue sky.
The Utes and some Vail officials then took the gondola up and joined an excited crowd of skiers at Mid-Vail. Minnie Cloud stretched her wrinkled hands to the sky and spoke in her own tongue to the weather gods. Eddie Box urged us and they gathered skiers to join in the dance. We all did.
The Utes left the next day in brilliant sunshine. Three days later, on Dec. 14, Parker called Eddie Box and mentioned that it was still sunny at Vail. The Ute replied that Minnie Cloud said she could feel a snowstorm coming. Two days later, clouds rolled in, dense and gray, and on Dec. 17 a blizzard slammed us. There was plenty of snow until late April.
The only sour note in the whole episode came from a fundamentalist church in eastern Colorado, which denounced us for using “heathen tactics” to make it snow.
Editor’s note: This is the 46th 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 9, entitled “Let it Snow.” The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.