Before Staufer, Vail wasn’t even on the map
Joe became well acquainted with a frequent guest from America, a Mr. Luffa, vice president of the Pepsi Cola Company. Luffa took a shine to young Staufer and asked him how long he was going to stay at that hotel. Staufer replied that he would like to leave and go to an English-speaking country, because he spoke little English. Luffa was returning to London the next day and said he would see what he could do.
Three weeks later, Staufer was working at the Ritz in London. He really wanted to go to the United States but found out it would take five years to get a work visa. His friend told him that Bermuda was almost like the United States – the currency was British pounds, but everybody dealt in dollars, and there was no personal income tax. So, the next thing he knew, he was lined up to go to Bermuda and work at the Elbow Beach Club. There he met his future wife, Ann, and they were married. After five years, it was time to leave Bermuda.
Staufer’s dream was to own a restaurant. In Bermuda, however, the only way to own a business was to be a Bermudan and own 51 percent of the company. Staufer was not interested in that and therefore decided to come to the U.S. He had a friend at the Santa Barbara Biltmore, so he got papers to emigrate to the U.S. and a working visa and was ready to go to the Biltmore. His wife had to go to Canada to visit her parents over Christmas, but because Joe was one of the department heads, he had to stay in Bermuda until after the New Year. He left on Jan. 3, 1963.
Joe had a friend, Martin Mosshamer, who was the chef at the new lodge in Vail. Mosshamer wanted Staufer to see this new resort, and Staufer had to find a map to see where Colorado was located. There was no Vail on the map. He flew to Toronto, where he picked up his wife, Ann, and then on to Denver, where they rented a car and tried to find Vail. The Hertz lady at the airport said there was no Vail – just a Minturn and a Frisco. The town was so new it didn’t appear on any printed maps. Staufer and his wife drove up Vail Pass and down the other side, but they couldn’t see any Vail.
Finally, where the Vail Mountain School is now located, they saw chimney smoke coming from a log cabin. The man inside told them to keep going and that they couldn’t miss it. Eventually they arrived at The Lodge.
Martin had really built The Lodge up as a fancy hotel with a beautiful nightclub. He said Frank Sinatra was even going to perform. Coming from the Elbow Beach Club and then going into a cellar with a concrete floor and metal folding chairs, it was anything but a fancy night club. After a few drinks and some dinner, it was getting late and Martin took them to the Avon Country Store, where they were given an upstairs room with a light bulb on a string. They had lived in a beautiful cottage in Bermuda.
The next day, a Snowcat driven by Earl Eaton met Joe Staufer at the base and took him on a tour of the mountain. Eaton talked about the mountain and the future plans. When they got back to the room, Ann Staufer was freezing cold and very irritated.
“Thank goodness you’re here – let’s get out of this place,” she said.
“Look, sweetie, hold your horses – if anything’s going to make it, this place is going to make it,” Joe replied. “Let’s see how it goes.”
They stayed, and that’s how they ended up in Vail.
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 99th installment, an excerpt from chapter 12, “The Ever-Increasing “New Locals.” 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.