1980 – a bare-bones Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

1980 – a bare-bones Beaver Creek

Peter W. Seibert
Photo courtesy Vail ResortsAfter a rough start in the 1970s - and some $500 million in investments, primarily from real estate sales - Beaver Creek had begun to lose its rough edges. The village took shape in the 1980s, and spectacular homes, many owned by famous people, lined the new Beaver Creek golf course.

Vail Associates tried to be open-minded and listen to the changes demanded by environmentalists and other ostensibly hostile forces. As Bob Parker said to Seth H. Marx, author of “Mountain Vision, The Making of Beaver Creek”:

“We were broad-minded enough to recognize the right of the public to participate, the right of environmental groups to be involved, and we were willing to sit down and work things out. There are very few owners who have ever been willing to take that position and sort of live that philosophy. I think that is one of the unique things about Vail Associates.”

Ultimately, the Forest Service issued the permits, and on July 28, 1977, the ceremonial ground-breaking took place on the site of Beaver Creek Village. Among those present were Harry Bass; President Gerald Ford; Jack Marshall, a California developer whom Bass had hired as president of Vail Associates; and White River Forest Supervisor Tom Evans, who had ruled for Vail time and again in those embattled years.

Evans was an enthusiastic fan of our environmental attitudes, and he said that day: “Vail Associates has responsibly participated for two years in the most thorough and sensitive analysis involving winter resort planning that we have ever seen in Colorado.”

Also present was Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, a tenacious, charismatic fellow who had led the environmental protesters in killing the Olympic Games and who had fought against Beaver Creek from its inception. But Lamm had been forced to knuckle under to federal regulation in the Beaver Creek case, and he now prided himself as being highly instrumental in persuading Vail Associates to come up with an inspired model of environmental development for Beaver Creek.

“Like Tiffany is to jewelry, like Gucci is to luggage, like Cadillac is to automobiles, that’s what Beaver Creek is going to be to ski areas in this country,” he said.

To us these remarks seemed hypocritical, considering all the years Lamm had spent fighting Beaver Creek.

Despite the triumphant ceremonies ushering in the Tiffany/Gucci/Cadillac era of ski resorts, trouble lay ahead. Beaver Creek opened in 1980 without a single shop, restaurant, or bed to rent. The main structure for skiers was a tennis bubble.

Vail Associates’ owner, Harry Bass had instituted an exhausting dash to the opening, and the place simply wasn’t ready. Thus Beaver Creek didn’t generate anywhere near the kind of money necessary to finish it.

Vail Associates boasted that some $500 million would be spent in the 1980s to bring Beaver Creek to its dazzling finish. That first season attracted only 111,000 skiers and produced paltry real estate sales – profits from which were to be the ultimate source of the money needed to complete the resort.

Editor’s note: This is the 61st installment of the Vail Daily’s serialization of “Vail: Triumph of a Dream” by Vail Pioneer and Founder Pete Seibert. The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.

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