It all started with the vision of Earl and Pete
For the first several years, it was easy working with one another. However, as Vail was making the transition from a small, unified and visionary group of initial organizers to the corporate world of dollar-based values and needs, it became necessary for more qualified control. That control was not forthcoming.
Although wwe had a strong board and creative management, differences of opinion began to emerge. A number of directors were troubled by the fact that top management was limited in experience and did not use the advice of the board or the second level of corporate executives more effectively. Several of the original directors and officers became disillusioned and found themselves in a situation in which they felt they should resign, myself included.
As a result, by 1970, most of the key original directors and executives were no longer with the company. The first to leave, in 1964, was George Caulkins. He departed because of differences of opinion in the way Vail was being managed. Some assumed Caulkins wanted to take over, but in reality, he wanted to avoid conflict.
The next to leave was Dick Bohr, the vice president, who decided to return to his business in Cleveland. With his love of skiing and living in the mountains, it is questionable why he left.
Chuck Lewis spent four years in Vail. His all-around strength and desire to become chief executive officer were thwarted, so he sought to achieve his goals elsewhere. Keith Brown left the board of directors in 1968 to devote more time to his businesses in Denver and to continue to build condominiums in Vail. He, too, had lost the enthusiasm he once had.
Fitzhugh Scott left in 1969 after continuing difficulties with management. Dick Bass, who became a board member in 1966, was asked to leave in 1972 because management felt that he had a conflict of interest from owning and developing the Snowbird ski resort in Utah.
As for me, I, too, was shocked and disillusioned when, at a board meeting on Oct. 5, 1968, I had no choice but to resign.
Hopefully, those of you reading this book will appreciate the tremendous vision, dedication, and ingenuity that the early pioneers gave to the fulfillment of their dreams. Little did they foresee what was going to occur. Today, more than a generation later, the little village that opened as a ski area on Dec. 15, 1962, is a megalopolis stretching nearly 50 miles long. The little acorn produced a large and productive oak tree.
It’s hard to believe that when Earl Eaton, who found Vail in the first place, showed his prize to the late Pete Seibert – the visionary who was the catalyst that brought other inventors – their rise to fame would not last forever. Others with more business experience and broader goals would take over, pushing boundaries beyond the founders’ fondest expectations.
Seibert and Eaton should be remembered for what they started and for giving the hundreds of thousands of visitors a chance to see and learn how Vail was formed.
On the 40th anniversary of the time Earl took Pete up the mountain for the first time, which was March 27, 1957, the newspapers were full of pictures of the two men reaching the top together, almost arm in arm. It’s too bad that at the top of Bridge Street there isn’t a statue of the two heroes – Seibert with his arm around Eaton, pointing to the mountain – and underneath it, a simple plaque explaining who they are and giving a short story of the beginning. It would be rewarding to the visitors who wonder how it all started.
Eaton, with all of his basic talents, was let go many years ago. That was a shame. There should always have been room for him in the organization until his retirement.
Pete, on the other hand, was replaced by professional administrators and given the title of chairman until he, too, was let go by then-owner Harry Bass. Not a fitting end.
Seibert died from cancer this summer, on July 15.
In one of my interviews with Eaton, he ended it with the provocative statement, “The sad thing about it is, in the end, we both got fired.”
Although many of the inventors resigned from Vail Associates for different reasons by 1970, they loved Vail and what they accomplished. Many of them still have homes here and enjoy coming often to the mountains. They marvel at how the cultural amenities have grown and how it is still fun to ski in the winter and hike in the summer.
But most of all, seeing what they have given to their grandchildren makes them feel especially proud that they were such an important part of inventing Vail.
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 140th and final installment, an excerpt from chapter 16, “Inventors Out … Corporations In.” 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