Elaine White Kelton – Vail’s first social director | VailDaily.com

Elaine White Kelton – Vail’s first social director

Dick Hauserman
Daily file photoBecause there was no television and limited entertainment, Elaine White Kelton amused guests with movies and lengthy Monopoly games. She and her husband, Gary, later built the Ram's Horn Lodge, which opened in 1967.

She and her husband, Gary (they were married in 1963), moved to the Colorado ski area for the winter of 1963-1964. They both worked at The Lodge at Vail – Gary as a bellman and Elaine as social director. Because there was no television and limited entertainment, the social director had to amuse the guests with constant movies and lengthy Monopoly games.

After spending the summer in Jackson Hole, they moved to Vail permanently in the fall of 1964. Gary worked at the Christiania and Elaine had her first of two children, Courtney. That was the beginning of another exciting career. They acquired a piece of land between Bridge Street and Manor Vail and, with the help of Gary’s grandmother and a partner whom they met while he was staying as a guest at the Christiania, they built the Ram’s Horn Lodge.

The Ram’s Horn opened in 1967 and was a smashing success. The 19 rooms were designed and furnished to make guests feel as though they were in someone’s home. The formula worked, because they quickly built up a legion of returning guests, including many Venezuelans.

“One of our first guests was a mixed couple that was not married – shocking in those days,” Elaine White Kelton says. “She was Chinese, 5’10”, and had charcoal gray hair. She wore a sheepskin coat that was Yugoslavian. He was a black man – Gordon Parks – the author, composer, and photographer. He was the first black photographer hired by Life Magazine. Her name was Genevieve Young, and she was at that time vice president and editor of Little Brown Books. She was also Henry Kissinger’s editor.”

Elaine was involved in many local activities, including the start-up of the Montessori school, held in the basement of the Ram’s Horn.

“When it’s a small resort, you know every facet of every person,” said Elaine. “It’s a fish-bowl life. In another community, one may only know somebody through the country club or church. Vail was blessed by the fact that the few people who came and built originally had good taste. They were adventurous, unique, by and large well educated with sophisticated backgrounds and upbringing. Most of the women had an education, preparing them to compete in a man’s world. They were looking for a life in which they could participate.”

Elaine White Kelton became very important to Vail.

“People were always saying how brave I was when I came here,” she said. “It wasn’t like I was leaving something – I wasn’t there yet.”

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 121st installment, an excerpt from chapter 13, “The Women of Vail.” 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.

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