Bill "Sarge’ Brown |

Bill "Sarge’ Brown

Dick Hauserman
Daily file photoBill Brown became famous not only for running the mountain, but for the many championship races he ran for Vail.

Being a perfectionist, there was a lot of cleaning up for “the Sarge” to do. The maintenance shop and the ski patrol headquarters were a mess. Although the summer was less stringent, the winter employees had to have their hair cut, be neat and presentable, and be on time. And their uniforms had to be clean.

Neither Pete Seibert nor Don Almond approved of what “the Sarge” was doing. It was still a good-ol’-boy program when he arrived. However, within a year, Almond and Brown became good friends and learned to respect each other’s differences. They needed each other and, by working together, they made Vail the No. 1 ski mountain in the country.

Other mountain supervisors at that time were Paul Bacon (trail crew), Bob Mayne (maintenance), Chan Weylan (ski patrol) and Jack Riggin (snowcats). They all reported to Don Almond.

Salaries were always a problem. The ski patrol tried to unionize under the leadership of Paul Testwuide. But Brown took charge and started cleaning things up. The patrol room became a priority. The patrollers would drink all night, then sleep in the mess. Several were soon fired. They didn’t get their raise, and they didn’t unionize. Sarge got things in order.

Along with the ski-patrol problems, Brown was confronted with the issue of the National Ski Patrol. Its members did everything but work, and most of them were freeloaders. They were given lodging, food, and free lift tickets, including tickets for their children. It was a great expense, yet one could never find them when they were needed. The ski patrol hated them. A meeting was held, and it was decided that they would keep the National Ski Patrol only one more year. That was in 1968.

The National Ski Patrol was started by a man named Minnie Dole many years earlier. It was, at the time, a good idea. It augmented the small ski-patrol staffs at most ski areas in the East. But, as ski resorts grew, their ski patrols became more professional and the National Ski Patrol system was no longer needed. It was a relief to have them out of Vail.

Next came the ski races. This was a large, complicated project. Paul Bacon, along with Bob Parker, wrote Vail’s first race manual. After sleepless nights, they reduced their thoughts to paper, and the first race manual became the standard in the industry.

“Now everybody does races the way we did, and we were the first to do it,” Parker said.

The manual was also used in the first international team races in 1965.

Brown’s next move was to become involved in putting on races. He refined Paul Bacon’s race manual to the point at which it is today – the format for major races all over the world.

It wasn’t long before Almond and his top aide, “the Sarge,” ran practically everything on the mountain except marketing, the ski shops and the ski school. Almond left the company shortly after 1970 (he didn’t get along with Harry Bass), and Brown became the manager of the mountain. He became famous not only for running the mountain, but for many championship races that he ran for Vail. The climax came in 1989 when the World Alpine Ski Championships were held.

Brown retired shortly afterward as a most popular leader with an international reputation.

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 80th installment, an excerpt from chapter 11, “The Corporate Team.” 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.

Support Local Journalism