Before 1960, sheep out-numbered people
In 1959, there were six landowners in the Gore Creek Valley: John Hanson, Gust Kaihtipes, Pete Katsos, Henry Anholtz, Newell Buffehr, and Jay Pulis. Hanson raised cattle, the Greeks were sheepherders, and Anholtz and Jay Pulis were summer-vacation landowners. Warren Pulis and his wife Helga raised their family in Vail.
The Fleming Lumber Company, owned by John McAllister and his wife Penny, was also there. John invested in Vail and later sold his land to the developers of the Potato Patch.
Chris Jouflas is a member of the Greek shepherding family that has substantial properties in western Colorado. He spent every summer of his life in Wolcott, twenty miles west of what is now Vail. He describes the sheep migrations that occurred in the Vail Valley up until the mid-1960s, when the growing resort made it difficult for the sheep ranchers to continue.
“It was quite a sight every fall to see 20,000 sheep come swarming down what is now the ski mountain and onto the highway, where we moved them to the railroad stockyards in Minturn. In peak years we would run about 27,000 sheep in the Gore Creek Valley and the surrounding mountains during the summer months.”
The Jouflas family had a grazing permit on the national forest land that is now Vail Mountain and Game Creek Bowl. They also owned 200 acres of homesteaders’ land. After some serious negotiating, they agreed to sell the 200 acres to Vail Associates. In order to cement the deal, Chris Jouflas offered the Vail negotiators a bottle of a Greek liquor called Ouzo, made from fig leaves. They all joyously celebrated the sale. The Game Creek Club is built on the site. Ouzo Run was named because it goes down hard. It is a tradition now that every time the Jouflas family has business with Vail Associates, they bring a bottle of Ouzo.
The Jouflas family also had a sheep-access driveway that went directly through what is now the center of Vail. When Vail Village started to grow, there were problems with the dogs and the sheep. It’s an unwritten law that ranchers have the right to shoot “domestic” dogs that kill their livestock. It’s a law that the new residents of Vail had to learn painfully. Shepherding can be a lonely business. I used to run into the Basque sheepherders who worked for the Greeks up in the old cook shack area at the bottom of what is the Avanti Steep today. They would ask me to take their mail to the Minturn post office. The first Vail Post Office was opened in the Hauserman Building in 1963.