Getting ready for opening day |

Getting ready for opening day

Dick Hauserman
Daily file photoVail in the fall of 1962, before opening day. Note the dirt roads.

Morrie Shepard was hired as the first director of the ski school. During the summer of 1961, he was given the assignment to cut the trails with a budget of $50,000.

Cutting the trails and installing the lifts and the gondola required incredible effort, but with the ingenuity of the early crews and with constant pressure on the manufacturers for on-time deliveries, the gondola was completed in time for the opening of Vail on Dec. 15, 1962.

Fortunately, there was little cold weather or snow during the fall months of 1962, enabling construction to proceed on schedule. However, as opening day approached, there was fear that there would not be enough snow. In fact, a special director’s meeting was held Dec. 13, two days before the scheduled opening, and it was determined that if there wasn’t enough snow in the next two days, the gondola would remain open but no skiing would be allowed. This would at least give visitors an opportunity to see what Vail looked like. Fortunately, it did snow during those two days and the resort was opened with minimal snow conditions on Dec. 15.

Also scheduled for the opening was training for the U.S. Ski Team. It was quite a coup to have the ski team training on Vail Mountain at its opening.

In spite of the difficulties, the lifts opened at 9 a.m. Tickets cost $5.

The few runs that were open were Swingsville, Ramshorn, Riva Ridge, Lodgepole, Git a’long, Pickaroon, Giant Steps and Bear Tree. Vail was off and running.

Yes – there were critical times later on, but the ingenuity of the founding group prevailed and Vail continued to develop at a spectacular rate.

The official opening of Vail took place on Jan. 19, 1963. Governor John Love presided at the ceremonies, which were marred by temperatures of more than 25 degrees below zero. It was a cold start, but it was the initial step toward becoming the No. 1 ski resort in America.

Lost Boy Run

Naming the runs was always a lot of fun. There was a little humor in almost every name.

One run, Lost Boy, was named after an Eagle Scout from New Trier High School in Evanston, Ill, who failed to return at the end of the day. It was the spring of 1963. An all-night search was organized, to no avail. The entire town was in grief and no one spoke. A pale came over everyone.

Finally, at 4 p.m. the next day, the boy arrived at the ski-patrol headquarters on top of the mountain. He had lost his way and ended up halfway down an undeveloped bowl, later to be named Game Creek. He had fallen in the deep snow and lost his skis. Being a resourceful Eagle Scout, he had broken off some pine branches and slept in the well of a tree. It took all the next day for him to climb out.

There was jubilation and celebration when the town heard the news that he was safe. When the Game Creek runs were developed, it was only natural to name one Lost Boy.

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 32nd installment, an excerpt from chapter 5, “Creating a Plan to Make it Work.” 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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