December 1963 – the Minnie Cloud "snow dance’
We had not opened the resort yet but were hopeful to get it started by Christmas. One day in Vail, we were all moaning about how bad the weather was. One of our employees, Kathy Johns, who had moved here from Ignacio (the home of the Ute Indians today), mentioned that they had a wonderful dance team that would put on rain dances in full regalia. She thought they might put on a snow dance.
I asked her to get them up here. She made the arrangements, and with the help of Bob Parker, a group of them arrived in a big car. After spending the night, they put on a dance between The Lodge and the Gondola Building on Saturday afternoon. The next day we took them to Mid-Vail, where they put on another dance. The group was led by a wonderful woman named Minnie Cloud. The skies were still clear blue.
“It won’t snow tonight or tomorrow, but in two or three days, big storm coming,” Minnie said after the ceremonial dance.
In approximately two days we received 2 feet of snow, and it made the winter. The story hit all the newspapers and television shows – and was specially featured on the Huntley-Brinkley news program. The national publicity had such an effect that it has been talked about ever since.
The First Nature Walk
During the summer of 1963, the town was a construction camp – muddy roads and just a mess – but some nice things did take place.
One of our enterprising women suggested we contact a lecturer from the Denver Botanical Gardens to come up and guide nature walks once a week. At that time, such an idea did not appeal to me, but I went on the first nature walk anyway.
There were about 15 to 20 people, mostly women, and we walked over to the base of what is now Golden Peak, then along the edge of the meadow just below the steep slopes filled with pine trees. We learned that there were literally hundreds of species of various wildflowers and shrubs. It was fascinating!
From that moment on, I, like so many others, became a nature lover. I thought those nature walks were a real asset. Today it is a must for visitors to take a trip during July and August to see the unbelievable wildflowers.
Vail’s First Newspaper
In the summer of 1963, George and Ella Knox moved to Vail from Kansas.
George was designing low-cost condominiums for a developer in the Big Horn Subdivision, which is now East Vail, and became familiar with what was going on in town.
The Copper bar was the popular local gathering place for the ski patrol, the ski-school employees, and other young locals who would meet there for Happy Hour. Rumblings and jealousy began to develop toward the founders and more affluent people, and the situation was becoming unhealthy.
It was known as “the haves and the have nots.”
George Knox came to me in early 1965 and said, “This town needs more communication. I’m an old newspaperman and I would like to start a paper. We need to let everyone know what’s going on, but I don’t have the money to start one.”
I loaned him the money, and Knox started The Vail Trail, with the first issue appearing in September 1965. The uneasiness quickly disappeared because of the increased communication. One of the biggest mistakes I made was to have Knox pay back the money that I loaned him. I should have taken a 20-percent interest in the publication.
Meanwhile, Ella Knox, was known as “Green Thumb Ella” for her articles on gardening.
George Knox died on April 7, 1975.
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 51st installment, an excerpt from chapter 6, “It’s Now a Ski Resort.” 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.