Hall of Famer Hauserman talks of early days
VAIL- Almost half a century has passed since Dick Hauserman first heard of Vail, Colorado. But while the newly minted Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Famer still loves to talk of Vail’s founding, these days Hauserman is focused on promoting his new book, a travel guide titled “On the Road to Vail and Beyond.”The fact that he’d just been inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame was almost too much to take in, Hauserman said”I’m thrilled,” he said. “It’s such a great honor, but I’ve got so much going on. I’m not sure how I feel.”While many of the hall’s current and previous inductees include ski racers, mountaineers and other athletes, Hauserman’s involvement with Vail’s creation was very much on the business side of things. As one of the original eight board members of the company that created Vail in the early 1960s, Hauserman said his focus was primarily on marketing and architecture. At first, though, he begged off when founder Pete Seibert approached him.”Pete called me in Cleveland and said he wanted to interest me in a ski resort,” Hauserman recalled. “I said ‘no thanks.'”When Seibert later hit the road, traveling the country to drum up investors, he contacted Hauserman again in Cleveland and came by for a visit.”He had hardly anything to show,” Hauserman said. “My wife said ‘I’m not impressed,’ and I said “neither am I.’ But then I said, well look, it’s got all these open back bowls, skiing is in its infancy, so we went in and told him we’re on board.”Hauserman, now 89, went on to build Vail’s very first lodging in the Hauserman Building (later the Hill Building), saying he and his wife were the very first residents of the new town simply due to the fact that his building was done first. Hauserman acknowledged there was “tremendous risk” for investors in the fledgling ski area.”People would build homes, but no one would touch anything commercial,” he said. “So I said I’d build (a commercial building). I said I’d put in a sport shop, but I wanted three-years’ exclusivity. The board said ‘OK.'”Thus was Hauserman Vail’s very first ski shop owner – a distinction he’d have to himself for three years as a means of protecting his investment.Forever VailOne of only two of the original board members still alive (Harley Higbie is the other), Hauserman remains a tireless promoter of Vail. He has written two books: “The Inventors of Vail” and his new travel guide. He also has plans to put together a coffee-table book full of photographs from Vail’s early days, which he hopes to have out by Christmas. Splitting his time between West Palm Beach, Fla. in winter and his Arrowhead home in summer, Hauserman said he quit skiing only a few years ago at the advice of his doctor His main pursuits these days are writing and drawing. He and his wife were preparing last week to go to New York City, where they plan to spend two months studying at the National Academy.”I like to work in charcoal; my wife works in oil,” said Hauserman, whose original design for the Vail logo is still in use today. Not ready for historyIn addition to his help in getting Vail off the ground, Hauserman’s influence can also be seen in Steamboat Springs, where he was hired as a consultant to redevelop that ski area in the late 1960s. Hauserman brought in famed ski racer Billy Kidd to run the ski school, and branded the resort with the Western theme it still uses today. The biggest challenge, he said, was addressing the mountain’s overly steep runs.”It was too steep for intermediate skiers,” he said. “So we came up with the idea to triple the width of the runs so skiers could traverse. I called it a giant lazy slalom. We did all the major runs that way.”Hauserman went on to business ventures in Dallas and in California real estate, but returned to Colorado to open a chain of ski shops in the mountains. His Rec Sports outlets were used by thousands of skiers over the years looking to rent or buy equipment and clothing.With plans to continue improving his charcoal works of art and a book about the history of skiing in Steamboat Springs half written, Hauserman is one Hall of Famer not ready to be consigned to history. He writes, illustrates and publishes his own books, travels, studies and is always willing to slow down long enough to talk about the early days of Vail.”The development of Vail was unbelievable,” he said. “It’s amazing how popular Vail became worldwide, but you can’t believe how simple everything was at the beginning. We weren’t developers; we just wanted to build the village.”Emphatic about the fact that Vail’s creation was due to the work of many, Hauserman said he was nonetheless pleased that people like himself from the development side are included in the Hall of Fame.”I’m highly honored, but all those early people who did so much for Vail also deserve to be recognized,” he said. “I was just a businessman from Cleveland. All of us, mostly, we were just businessmen who loved to ski.”Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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