Before there was Vail, there was Mauri Nottingham and his family, pre-dating even Vail’s Pioneers |

Before there was Vail, there was Mauri Nottingham and his family, pre-dating even Vail’s Pioneers

Editor's note: The quotes from Mauri Nottingham were pulled from media stories about him and his family, as well as Nottingham family history.

AVON — Maurice Myles "Mauri" Nottingham would sit back, fold his arms, smile softly and in his glorious and gravelly voice recount some of his family history.

His smiling eyes twinkled behind his trademark glasses, under a baseball cap that would shade his face and the story would unfold often about the years before Vail and Beaver Creek were a twinkle in anyone's eye.

The history of the Nottingham family is a huge piece of the Vail Valley's history. If you were lucky enough to be within earshot when Mauri was recounting pieces of it, then it's an investment in time that will pay dividends the rest of your days, as it did Mauri's.

There's the story about the covered wagons that ambled toward his grandfather's homestead more than 100 years ago.

"Grandfather packed up a covered wagon, as the story goes, and hauled his family into Red Cliff in 1882," Mauri said.

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At the turn of the 19th century, William Nottingham settled the part of the valley now known as Avon.

It's fitting that in Avon, almost everything that makes you smile carries the Nottingham name: Nottingham Lake, Nottingham Road, Nottingham Park, Nottingham Rock … Mauri named Avon's Hurd Lane after his grandmother, Nancy Angeline Tracy Nottingham Hurd. She died in 1927.

Avon native and Vail Pioneer Mauri Nottingham died peacefully in his sleep early on Wednesday morning, Feb. 28, at his home in Avon. He was 88 years old.

Eagle Valley original

Mauri was proud of his family and its history, and authored the book, "A Nottingham Family History" that chronicles his ancestors in the early Eagle River Valley. It's in the rare book section of the library.

Some of that history goes like this:

Mauri was born in 1930 and lived in the Avon area until 1947 when he left the valley and the county and joined the Air Force, a lifestyle he said he "didn't particularly care for."

After the Air Force, he headed to the University of Colorado Boulder to study mathematics and electrical engineering. He also studied Nancy Waring, who he had the very good sense to marry in 1956, the year he graduated CU. They wandered off to southern California where Mauri found work as an aviation engineer, but soon returned to Boulder where he worked on his graduate degree in applied mathematics while teaching math at the university.

Mauri loved to ski — he taught himself on an eastern hillside of the Buck Creek ranch in Avon with equipment he bought through the Montgomery Ward catalog.

In 1960 he and Nancy moved to Aspen. They built a small home with close friends from Boulder, and moved in. Mauri worked as an electrician and Nancy ran the home as a makeshift bed and breakfast, charging 50 cents per meal to help make ends meet.

Kim, the eldest of their three daughters, was born in Aspen.

In 1961, they were back on the Front Range where Mauri became one of the country's first computer engineers. Their second daughter, Tamra was born in Denver in 1964, while Mauri and Nancy were finalizing plans with college friends to build a home on Forest Road in Vail, the fledgling ski area.

They sold that hand-built home to help finance, along with 31 business partners, the Talisman lodge in Vail Village. Mauri's dream of owning a ski lodge came to fruition on Christmas Eve 1968 when the Talisman opened to guests. Their third daughter, Shelley, was born in 1969.

Building their future

As much as he appreciated his past, Mauri Nottingham's vision was set squarely in the future. The family lived in and ran the Talisman until they sold it and moved back to Avon in 1974. Mauri then began developing custom software for local businesses, such as lodging reservation and payroll systems, timeshare exchanges and other needs of a growing resort.

In an era before personal computers, Mauri built, developed and coded a sophisticated computerized inventory and point-of-sale system for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail's annual Ski Swap, the first of its kind. He later developed a bar code and tagging system that was well ahead of its time.

Mauri was an active gatekeeper and FIS-certified starter for Nor-Am and World Cup ski races. By the time the 1989 Alpine World Ski Championships rolled into Vail, Mauri was lead gatekeeper for the event.

In the early '90s, Mauri founded We Recycle, the valley's original recycling program. He could occasionally be found dumpster diving, separating recyclable materials and explaining why it matters.

"Recycling or reusing have always been important to me. It just is," Mauri said.

Someone once asked why he stayed in the valley all these years. He looked dubious and asked, "Where else would I go? I was born here."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

Celebrate Mauri

An open house celebrating Mauri Nottingham’s life will be held at his home on Saturday, March 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. All who knew Mauri are welcome.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests any donations be made to Eagle County Historical Society, PO Box 192, Eagle Colorado 81631, or HomeCare & Hospice of the Valley.