Dreaming of a real ski resort
During the days we worked to serve the trickle of skiers – only a hundred to 200 on weekdays, perhaps a thousand on weekends – who dared to drive the slick, twisting 50 miles on U.S. Highway 6 from Denver to Loveland. Nights we spun dreams around a potbelly stove in Buckley’s Store, down the road in Silver Plume.
Always the talk was of skiing – how to do it, where to do it, how to build a money-making ski resort.
At the time, there were only a handful of functioning ski areas in Colorado, including Aspen, Winter Park, Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Howelson Hill in Steamboat Springs, and Berthoud Pass. But in those days every ski bum, every snowplow driver, every ski patrolman in Colorado firmly believed that if he could only find the right mountain with the right contours and the right weather patterns he could quit his job, raise some money and build a ski resort that would make him rich and famous.
Of course, I was possessed by the same dream – only I had been hooked on it for a lot longer than most. My vision of finding and developing my own ski area first came to me when I was a little boy living in New England. In that part of the world, the mountains were smaller and the ski runs were shorter and generally covered with hard ice. But I didn’t care. Any hill I could ski on became part of my imaginary resort.
One of the runs I liked most was my daily “milk route” between my family’s farmhouse and our neighbor’s cow barn, a distance of maybe 500 yards.
Each afternoon I set off from my house carrying an empty one-quart milk bottle in each hand. I reached exciting downhill speeds as I descended to the barn and even managed to land a 10-foot ski jump near the bottom.
Climbing back up was something else, however. Burdened now with bottles full of fresh, warm milk, I laboriously “herringboned” up. I tried to ignore the effort involved by imagining I had my own rope tow. I had heard that in Woodstock, Vt., someone had opened a ski area with an uphill tow powered by a Model T Ford engine. He had invited the world to share this little mountain. That’s what I wanted to do. And as I grew older, the dream only grew larger.
The following is the second installment of the Vail Daily’s serialization of “Vail: Triumph of a Dream” by Vail Pioneer and Founder Pete Seibert. This excerpt comes from Chapter One, entitled “Up the no-name mountain.” The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”