Howard Head – Vail’s revolutionary inventor
Howard Head did just that. Shortly after it was introduced in 1949 and 1950, the Head ski dominated the ski industry. In 1974, Howard designed and introduced the Prince tennis racket, which, like the skis, soon dominated the tennis world.
At one time I made arrangements for Head to be interviewed on the “Today Show” as a man who revolutionized the world in two sports. But Howard, being quite shy, declined the invitation.
When the inventors of Vail were trying to sell the 100 limited partnerships, Head was not interested. We had known him for several years in Sun Valley, Idaho. In 1961, on the chairlift ride from the Round House to the top of Baldy Mountain, my wife, Blanche, told Howard that if he didn’t invest in Vail, she would never speak to him again. That did it – he bought a quarter of an interest at $2,500. When the mountain opened in 1962, he realized how lucky he was that he had been threatened into participating.
When Pepi and Sheika Gramshammer built Gasthof Gramshammer, Head invested $25,000 into the project. Later, when the Prince racket became so successful, he bought a beautiful condominium facing the mountain at the site of the original gondola. Howard was a fixture in Vail. He began spending more time in the mountains, married the gracious Martha, and became a generous benefactor. The Vail Center for Physical Therapy in the Vail Valley Medical Center is named for him.
As an aside, when Howard went to Sun Valley in 1949 with 11 pairs of his new metal skis, the Austrian-dominated Sun Valley Ski School didn’t like them. They said the skis were cheaters. They felt that wood was the only answer for ski material. It was a case of blind stubbornness. However, a very smart Swiss instructor named Walter Haensli, who we knew very well, thought the skis were great. They were so easy to turn!
Haensli asked Head if he could represent the Head Ski Company in Europe. When Howard said “yes,” Haensli quickly became a main source of sales for the company, with unheard of volume. Haensli was soon a millionaire.
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 130th installment, an excerpt from chapter 15, “The Rich and the Famous.” 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.
It’s a big deal when the governor pops in for a visit, especially if he traveled to the other side of the world to do it.