1963 – Vail almost loses Bob Parker
Courtesy Vail Resorts|Daily file photo| |
Bob Parker was born in 1922 in Evanston, Ill. In 1930, when he was 8, his family moved to Rochester, N.Y., where he learned to ski on the slopes of a local park – when there was enough snow. He attended St. Lawrence University, where he was on the freshman ski team.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Parker joined the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, the first regiment of the 10th Mountain Division. He was in the 10th for more than three years. After marrying Barbara in 1947, they went to live in France. There, Bob attended the University of Grenoble for a year and worked as an education advisor with the U.S Army in Austria. They returned to the United States in 1955, and Bob went to work for Skiing Magazine, where he soon became editor.
Parker had a great knack for publicity, although his marketing skills needed developing. In his first year at Vail, while preparing materials for advertising and publicity, he came up with the slogan, “Vail Colorado – Ski Country USA.” That slogan was used the first two years. In the fall of 1964, at a meeting of the Southern Rocky Mountain Ski Area Operators Association, it was decided that the organization would become not only an operational entity, but a promotional and marketing entity as well. Several members had heard of the slogan and asked Pete Seibert if he was willing to give it up so that it could be applied statewide. It was determined that, for the greater good, Vail would give it to them, and it became the official name of the organization – Colorado Ski Country USA.
Parker created the first two-page ad ever used in Skiing Magazine. Hal Shelton, famous for mountain ski-area maps, did the artwork and became famous for Vail’s first brochure, first poster and early advertisements.
“We always felt his beautiful map had a great deal to do with informing people what Vail was going to be like,” said Parker.
Parker said the marketing budget that first year was $80,000, which included his salary of $18,000, his secretary, brochures, advertising (radio, television, print), and office incidentals. Most of the budget was eaten up by printing brochures and posters.
When Parker presented a proposal for a two-page advertisement in Skiing Magazine, the board was reluctant to spend the money. The ad cost an unbelievable $3,000. Today it would cost a minimum – for one page – of $50,000. Today’s advertising budget at Vail is now in the millions.
The management staff of Vail was limited from the beginning, and those who were on board had to put in long, tiresome hours. Parker was hired to handle publicity stories that would promote Vail, to supervise the advertising, and generally to put Vail’s name on the map. However, because of staff shortages, he became involved in many phases of the corporate operation. He was named general manager and publicity director, but he wasn’t really ready for that responsibility. His work was beginning to suffer, and the directors became aware of it.
Parker was a publicity and advertising star – but not a seasoned marketing man, in which the directors were the most interested. There were a couple of other things that bothered the directors, too. We laugh at it today, but this is true. In the early days, there were many small social gatherings – cocktail parties, dinners, and so forth –and most in attendance would arrive with ties and coats.
Parker usually wore a sweater. This kind of irked the others. It was silly, but it became a problem.
At a special meeting of the board of directors on Monday, Sept. 30, 1963, the problems with the marketing program became so serious that the decision to dismiss Parker was unanimous – except for one board member. I was the last to speak. I stood up and made an impassioned plea that they were about to let go one of their most valuable assets.
Parker had so many good qualities, and he was invaluable to the corporation, I said, offering to take him under my wing and make him successful in marketing.
Quoting from the minutes, “RESOLVED: That Mr. Hauserman be employed by Vail Associates Ltd. for a period of four months at a fee of $500 per month as director of marketing with the responsibility of reporting to Mr. Seibert, and with Mr. Parker to be employed as marketing manager.”
The next day, at a meeting in my office, I went over all of the problems with Bob Parker and asked him what he thought.
“When do we begin?” Bob wanted to know.
He later recalled, “The directors questioned my ability to market the product the way it should be marketed, and, in spite of some early successes, appointed Dick, because of his marketing experience and his total support for me, to work with me on current marketing strategies. After some very positive and productive meetings, an organized marketing program was underway. The resort grew from there.”
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 72nd 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.