Lonely ride provides inspiration
But thanks to this “product,” I’ve had a marvelously varied life, met many remarkable people and had some unlikely experiences. I became friends with the Shah of Iran in 1974 when I spent several weeks on Mount Toschal, outside of Tehran, advising him on building a ski area. He was a pleasant enough fellow, not imperious at all.
I also number among my friends President Gerry Ford, Massachusetts Governor Francis Sargent, tennis star Rod Laver, golfer Jack Nicklaus, Congressman Jack Kemp, and some of the greatest skiers of them all, including Jean-Claude Killy, Stein Eriksen, Annemarie Proell, Ingemar Stenmark and Dick Durrance.
I came within a whisker of being on the cover of Time in 1972, when the magazine ran a feature about the world boom in skiing. Time photographers took several dozen rolls of film of me, and a correspondent interviewed me day and night for what seemed like a month. However, when the magazine hit the newsstands, on the cover was a beautiful woman who sold skis in Seattle.
I was disappointed, but it made me feel better when I saw they had described me in the story as “Peter Seibert, 48, a well-muscled, jovial fellow who has dreamed of building his own ski town ever since he was a ski-crazed little boy in New Hampshire.”
I have received many awards and trophies over the years. I’ve been elected to both the Colorado and National Ski Halls of Fame; was picked as one of the “25 Most Influential People in Skiing” by Skiing Magazine; and was third on SKI Magazine’s list of “The 100 Most Influential Skiers.”
The most unforgettable trophy I was ever given is a bronzed deer penis from the Chinese government, whom I had advised about building a new ski area in northeastern China. They told me it symbolizes manhood and outdoor expertise. I have kept it on my fireplace mantle ever since.
It has been a long and wonderful ride through all these years. In 1996, Vail Resorts was going to replace the Lionshead gondola after 25 years, and since I was the one who had had it installed, I was asked to be the last person to ride it up. I was alone in the car. It was an odd and melancholy trip. I couldn’t get the images of the 1976 accident out of my mind. I looked out the window to the ground – it seemed a long way to fall.
I had been thinking for a couple of months that I’d like to write a book about my life, but I couldn’t seem to get started. I thought of my sons and my grandchildren, my friends from the 10th Mountain Division, my friends from Aspen, and my friends who had come to help me build Vail when it was nothing but a big empty mountain.
I watched as the gondola car entered the gloom of the Eagle’s Nest terminal. I exited into the sunshine and looked around me at the magnificent views.
And I decided then and there that I would somehow produce a book about Vail and my life. Just then I looked up to see an airliner heading west. The contrails looked like two fresh ski tracks streaming across the sky.
The following is the ninth installment of the Vail Daily’s serialization of “Vail: Triumph of a Dream” by Vail Pioneer and Founder Pete Seibert. This excerpt comes from Chapter One, entitled “Blue Sky Basin.” The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.