Celebration of Vail pioneer Pepi Gramshammer has to wait a year | VailDaily.com

Celebration of Vail pioneer Pepi Gramshammer has to wait a year

Originally planned for Aug. 26, crowd size restrictions prevent holding a celebration for famed ski racer, hotelier

Sheika and Pepi Gramshammer.
It’s been a year Vail pioneer Pepi Gramshammer died Aug. 17, 2019. He was 87. He died at Vail Health hospital, surrounded by his family. His last words were, “I love you.”

An annual celebration of the life of Vail pioneer Pepi Gramshammer will have to wait a year.

Sheika Gramshammer, Pepi’s wife and fellow Vail pioneer, said she’d been planning a celebration for Aug. 26, the anniversary of his 2019 memorial service when Gov. Jared Polis officially declared Aug. 26 Pepi Gramshammer Day in Colorado. But the COVID-19 pandemic — and restrictions on the size of public gatherings —put those plans on hold.

Gramshammer said the idea is for a kind of one-night Oktoberfest, open to the public and with a big buffet dinner.

“We’d like to honor (him) every year,” Sheika said. “I’d like to keep his legacy alive — he deserved it.”

A Vail icon

Pepi, a successful ski racer from Austria, was recruited in 1962 to come to Vail. He continued racing on the professional circuit under the Vail banner to raise awareness of the fledgling ski resort in Colorado.

He and Sheika were married in 1964. The hotel they built, Gasthof Gramshammer, is the oldest business in Vail still under its founding ownership.

Elaine Kelton was another early arrival to Vail. Kelton said an annual celebration of Pepi’s life is a way to provide current residents with an “’institutional memory” of the resort’s founders and the passion they brought to the venture.

Kelton added that the Gramshammers, both immigrants from Austria, are proud American citizens and strong believers in this country’s promise.

Kelton noted that Pepi was an early advocate of a conference center for Vail as a way to boost business in town.

“His vision, and his ability to make those visions reality helped make Vail a very special place.

Kelton noted that Pepi and Sheika helped provide a number of hotel employees with a hand up to start their own ventures.

Merv Lapin is another of Vail’s earliest residents. Lapin said remembering Pepi, as well as a number of other people involved in the founding of Vail, should be remembered by those now in town.

“It’s not only to remember people, but the principles and values of what it was that made Vail popular,” Lapin said.

Pepi’s Plaza

While Vail will have to wait a year to honor Pepi’s legacy, there may be time to name the plaza near the Children’s Fountain in his name.

There’s nothing official yet, but there have been preliminary discussions about creating a “Pepi’s Plaza.”

If that happens, the plaza would join Slifer Square and Seibert Circle as places named for Vail pioneers.

Lapin said, “Why not? to the idea. But, he added, “It should probably be called Sheika and Pepi’s.”

Whatever happens with the plaza idea, Sheika is steadfast in her idea to honor her late husband.

“As long as I live, I want to do something so that his name will not be forgotten,” she said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.

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