It’s story time for Vail’s originals |

It’s story time for Vail’s originals

This was the gondola out of Vail Village in 1962, just after the mountain opened. The Vail Symposium is hosting a Vail Founders panel discussion Thursday.

VAIL, Colorado – People want Vail’s stories, and that’s what they’ll get Thursday.

History is stories and the thing about a place like Vail is that those stories are told by people who lived them.

And that’s why, during Vail’s 50th anniversary, we begin to understand that there’s no place quite like it.

The Vail Symposium is hosting a Founders of Vail panel. Rod Slifer, Elaine Kelton, Merv Lapin and Terry Minger will tell most of the stories fit to tell.

For example, in May 1962, before there was a Vail, Rod Slifer moved here from Aspen to help Morrie Shepard start the ski school. Slifer was to be paid the princely sum of $500 a month for his efforts, which did not begin or end with the ski school.

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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

There were no job descriptions. Everyone did everything.

Slifer, you’ll be interested to know, was not only Vail’s first Realtor and mayor for 16 years, he took Vail’s first pay cut. In May 1962 before he even arrived, on that original, short Vail Associates corporate roster, someone erased Slifer’s $600 monthly salary and penciled in $500.

“It was still the most money I’d ever made,” Slifer said.

Elaine Kelton and her husband Gerry White moved to Vail in 1963. Soon after, they built the Ram’s Horn Lodge.

Elaine was involved in many local activities, including starting the Montessori school. She later married Art Kelton.

In the summer of 1971 Elaine was one of the 600 people at Eagle’s Nest for the first Vail Symposium, and served on its first board of directors. New York City Mayor John Lindsay was the first Symposium speaker.

Merv Lapin was a Harvard Business School student on his way to Aspen in 1966. He stopped at the Vail Village Inn for a quick breather and they hired him.

Lapin launched Vail’s first accounting firm, first securities company, first trash company, and first venture-capital fund.

Then there’s Minger, Vail’s first town manager. While the ski mountain opened in 1962, the town wasn’t founded until 1966, and Minger was hired to get it off the ground.

Minger wrote the town charter and helped push through 33 bond issues.

In 1971, Minger and Mayor John Dobson helped create the Vail Symposium, which brings us back to Elaine Kelton, who served on its first board of directors.

Vail and the Vail Symposium grew up together, and both turned out just fine.

“We are not la la land, but we are a slice if heaven,” Kelton said when the Symposium celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Change comes with growth and during those early years Vail was growing 25 percent per year.

“If we were still charging $9 for a hotel room and $7 for an all-day lift ticket, none of us would be here,” Kelton said. “Nothing remains constant but change.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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