50 Years of Fun: Women mark five decades of friendship, fun and fast skiing in Vail
VAIL — It’s Chamber of Commerce weather on Vail Mountain. Blue skies, warm temperatures. The snow is fantastic.
Members of the self-proclaimed Ladies Ski Therapy Group has been coming to Vail for 50 years, and they’re having as much fun as humans can without arranging bail money in advance. In their case, therapy means the number of wine bottles under one arm matches the number of ski poles under the other, and that the laughing never stops, which it has not for 50 years.
On this day the ladies find themselves at the top of Ramshorn, gazing at the blue sky, the Gore Range and the Sawatch Range. They smile at each other and shoot straight down. Turns are for other people.
They’ve lived through all kinds of wonders and wars. They figure the worst that can happen is a couple of yellow jackets might waggle a finger at them for skiing too fast, which gets a collective, “Yeah? So?!?
These women are awesome.
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Bow Mar Beauties
They started coming to Vail in 1967 from Bow Mar, Colorado, where they all lived at the time. They crashed in Peggy Buchanan’s Skal condominium that she and her husband had purchased the year before for $18,500.
“Little old Bow Mar produces some amazing humans,” said Phoebe Smedley.
They’d leave the kids with their husbands, which did not appear to do any permanent damage.
“We’d get home and try hard to pretend we had not had a great time, but we always did,” they said.
Before Vail was Vail
Before that first official 1967 gathering in the Skal condominiums, the ladies would ski Loveland during the week and make the trek to Aspen for weekends. They remember when Interstate 70 was built, and when the Eisenhower and Johnson tunnels opened and they didn’t have to traverse Loveland Pass any longer.
“It was a haul to Aspen, and the tunnels made it so much easier. We had some hellish drives,” they said.
Some of them skied Vail before there was a Vail. Lucette Larkin and her husband were among those chauffeured around the mountain by Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton in Earl’s homemade Christi Cat. They skied Vail’s Back Bowls in 1961.
They all skied Vail with family and friends during that opening year, 1962-63.
“We parked in front of the Red Lion,” they said. “There was a time when parking was not a problem in Vail.”
More than once they’d get a flat when a tire picked up a nail from a Vail Village construction site. Their priorities were straight, though. They skied all day before changing the tire that afternoon.
Their imprint runs through Vail’s colorful history. They helped launch Ski Club Vail, where their children competed and some of their grandchildren do now. They were gatekeepers for the 1989 and 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships. They changed diapers on the ski tuning table in the Gorsuch ski shop in Vail Village. They swam in the Holiday Inn pool — sometimes when they weren’t supposed to. One of them dated a guy who was with the Dutch underground during World War II … the list goes on and on.
A couple of them live here. Some still live in Bow Mar or other parts of the Front Range. Three have traded NASTAR gates for the Pearly Gates.
“We appreciate each other. Good friends are forever, and it’s all about friendship,” they said.