Feeling frisky at 40
You just turned 40. You’ve been both the belle of the ball and the object of spite most of your life. Now you look in the mirror and spot a few wrinkles nothing a little Botox won’t fix.But your name is Vail, and when your friends turn out to celebrate the big 4-Oh this weekend (Nov. 13-15), with all the events and festivities to keep them entertained, selective memory sets in and all that aging is forgotten. This weekend it’s only the good times people will be talking about as they watch parades, ski races, torch light ski downs and fireworks."(Vail) keeps changing but to me, when you’re in Vail Village, it’s the same place," says Pete Seibert, Jr., son of Vail’s late founder, Pete Seibert. "And the mountains, well the lifts get faster, but it’s still the same great mountain."It’s the same great mountain that, along with friend Earl Eaton, Seibert ascended those many years ago, realizing that the vertical feet, the view and that backcountry would make a ski resort worthy of an incredible investment of both time and money.Standing atop what is now known as Vail Mountain, Seibert may not have foreseen the eventual growth of the valley, or the ups and downs that come with those growing pains. And he may not have thought about a day more than 40 years into the future when a village would gather to celebrate its success. But he did have enough vision to plant a seed that is this weekend bringing both old-time locals and newcomers together for a party worthy of the founder’s memory."It started out with a Street Beat concert Wednesday night by Herman’s Hermits, a band very popular in the ’60s when Vail first opened," says event promoter Joe Blair of Untraditional Marketing.So what began in the middle of the week runs through this weekend, celebrating the great mountain and the people who helped make it to 40. From the retro concert, the events move on through a Ute Indian snow dance, a treelighting, a founder’s dinner, a parade, races, walking tours and a torch-light ski down by the Vail Ski School at Golden Peak Saturday night (see box for a detailed list of events and times).Blair says any of the events would be enough to celebrate the anniversary and the memory of Seibert, but that the whole package will truly honor his legacy.Seibert died last July after a battle with cancer that son Pete Jr. says had his dad setting simple life goals to be accomplished during his last days, leading up to this celebration. And although Pete, Jr. says Seibert wasn’texactly setting those goals with the 40th anniversary in mind, he wouldn’t have minded the fanfare a bit."He was proud of the mountain. And I think it comes through in the way he wrote his book," Pete, Jr. says of Seibert’s locally best-selling book, “Vail Triumph of a Dream."Back in 1962, the word of Seibert’s dream spread across the land. With Vail in its infancy, the resort offered opportunity to any ski bum and budding entrepreneur willing to sleep in the lobby of the Lodge at Vail for a season or work double duty as both inn keeper and postmaster.All through the ’60s, families with names like Gorsuch, Grammshammer, Staufer, Moritz and Donovan landed in this alpine valley, beginning long-standing Vail Village traditions like Gorsuch, Ltd., Pepi’s, La Tour and the Vail Village Inn."It was a place a ski bum could come to town and make good," says Diana Donovan, Vail Town Council member and wife of John Donovan, founder of what was thenknown as Donovan’s Copper Bar.Now Vendetta’s, the Copper Bar opened in 1966 and lasted 16 years. It was for locals and tourists, rich and poor, Donovan says of the infamous haunt on Bridge Street. Donovan recalls that at one end of the bar President Gerald Ford would sit, while at the other end it was the town drunk."We were all in it together. We were all friends," says Donovan. "It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor. We were here for the lifestyle."Being a contributing part of a unique and growing community is a theme that pops up often when talking to Vail’s pioneers about the last 40 years. Dr. Tom Steinberg was Vail’s first full-time physician and a longtime council member. He says when you talk about the good old days, you talk about a bunch of people pulling together for a common cause, Vail."In the ’70s, we had grown enough that everybody was pulling together and they were interested in Vail and what was best for the community. I think we’ve lost some of that," Steinberg says.But that was a different time. As Vail aged, it grew a sort of pot belly, expanding to Lionshead and across what would become Interstate 70 into East and West Vail. And with that growth came more and more people and a few wrinkles. So Vail got its share of facelifts along with new chairlifts. And while the old-timers might be more apt to notice the scars that have accumulated over the years, it seems there are still enough folks around whoare interested in coming to town to celebrate the original dream. All those vertical feet.Additional information on Vail’s 40th anniversary celebration can also be found at http://www.vail.com.