"Finder,’ "founder’ and "pioneers’
What would become Ford Park is in the lower left.|Daily file photo| |
The story of Vail unfolds with the original group who invented it, one by one, as they became involved.
The late Peter Seibert liked to say that he was “the founder” of Vail, that Earl Eaton was “the finder” and that the rest of us were “the pioneers.” But it really doesn’t matter. Finder, founder, pioneer, we have all been called one or the other at one time. A few years ago, an investor who was perhaps two hundredth on the list died in Denver. His obituary read, “Vail founder dies!”
Semantics aside, everyone worked very hard and with great care to create the resort of their dreams. Their goals were clear and their vision was unified. As a result, they succeeded beyond all expectations. And there is no doubt about it – for the first several years, Pete Seibert was the leader. He created the original vision. No one can take that away from him.
There were eight members on the first board of directors: Pete Seibert, George Caulkins, Bob Fowler, Gerald Hart, myself, Harley Higbie, Fitzhugh Scott and Jack Tweedy. Only one, Pete Seibert, had experience in ski-resort development and operation. The others were businessmen, many from other parts of the country. Their common bond was their love of skiing. Vail was an opportunity for them to combine business and pleasure.
It was the board that developed the master plan, arranged financing, and solicited investors. They contributed marketing ideas, too. In retrospect, the diverse, non-ski-industry backgrounds of these board members added much to the social and financial success of the resort. These people deserve special recognition. They will be discussed in more detail later.
Along with the board of directors came other entrepreneurs who settled, built hotels, and started restaurants, shops and other small businesses. Some were ski bums in the very beginning, but as they married and had families, they took life more seriously. Others were serious from the start. The lifestyle, however, and not greed, was the prime motivation for everyone.
There were Swiss, Germans, Austrians, and other Europeans who brought continental charm to their establishments. Some disgruntled outsiders complained that Vail’s architecture should be called “Swiss Shitty,” but the paying guests seemed to think otherwise. The European community added charm to the success of the resort. If ever a resort could be called a “melting pot” it would be Vail, and not just because of the numerous nationalities.
Wealth, for instance, was not a significant determining factor in the social structure, although many wealthy people were involved. How well you skied was just as important, or how interesting a life you led, or how much time you were willing to commit to community service, or to help out a friend who was just learning to cut turns in the powder.
In other words, Vail was a classic small town where everybody knew everybody else. The common goal of making their newborn baby resort a success brought everyone together. A Vail “spirit” evolved that was invincible, and it lasted for more than a decade.
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 sixth installment, an excerpt from chapter 1, “Before 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.