Long life in Vail Valley won Doll storytelling job
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado When Frank Doll turned 70, he figured it was time to retire. Instead, he began another career as the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek storyteller. Frank was a natural for the job. Having grown up in the Eagle Valley with his grandfather helping to settle the Gypsum Valley in the late 1880s, Frank was born and raised there. He eventually married Imogene Nottingham, whose father owned much of the land that sits at the base of Beaver Creek Resort. When he retired from the Army in 1968 after serving 25 years, Frank returned to the Eagle Valley and worked at various jobs, including 11 years with the Eagle-Vail Golf Course and many years with Vail Resorts in purchasing. However, the base of the mountain was three miles from Highway 6, and a crusty rancher by the name of Willis Nottingham who happened to be Imogenes uncle owned the land and had no intention of selling it. Vail, on the other hand, had only a few small ranches at its base, and those owners were agreeable to sell.While Vail grew into a world famous ski resort, Beaver Creek was not forgotten. With Colorados hopes of landing the 1976 Winter Olympics, Vail Associates turned its eye on Beaver Creek and to the jeweled Birds of Prey runs, which started with a moderate pitch and nose-dived into drop-offs almost as steep as skyscrapers. Those runs would be the ultimate test to downhill skiers. When Imogene and Frank married, there was no such thing as skiing on Vail or Beaver Creek Mountain, but Frank was fully aware of Pete Siebert and Earl Eaton and their efforts to start a ski area in the Eagle Valley. ‘In fact, Earl and Pete had explored Beaver Creek as far back as 1957, finding undulating pine slopes, gentle meadows and heart-stopping steep drops. The shape of the valley was perfect for a ski area.
Pete Seibert returned year after year to that tobacco-chewing rancher, Willis Nottingham, and finally was able to budge the gentleman into selling. As Frank tells it: Imogenes uncle had grown tired of the development moving downvalley. He raised sheep and had constant problems with marauding dogs. So one day a bunch of men from Vail Associates knocked at his door and asked, Willis, how much do you want for the ranch? Willis named a price and the men nodded agreeably. “Imogene and I never did find out how much Willis got for the place. The newspaper said the deal included a trade of property and other considerations.Thus in 1971, the ski area and village of Beaver Creek was born. From Frank and Imogenes home along the banks of the Eagle River adjacent to the original Nottingham ranch house and close to the entrance to Beaver Creek Frank watched the ski area develop. The groundbreaking came in 1977, and in 1980 the resort opened for business. Some years later, the Park Hyatt shined as the resorts crown jewel hotel, a gathering spot for upscale visitors, royalty, ski instructors and movie stars.
Steve Dwyer, manager of the Park Hyatt, decided they needed a storyteller to add ambience to the hotel experience. Ads were placed nationally, and eventually the resumes submitted were whittled down to six applicants. At last a storyteller was chosen, and this gentleman lasted only about two weeks. For Dwyer, the search was on once again.Around this time, Frank thought he had retired and had devoted a lot of his time to the Eagle County Historical Society. He helped move the Chambers Barn to the historical site in Eagle, as well as the old post office at Beaver Creek. Today, you can mosey inside the old post office and see what it might have looked like some 50 years ago.While working with the Historical Society, one of his coworkers asked Frank if he had seen the ad for the storyteller at the Park Hyatt Hotel. He hadnt.Out of curiosity, Frank called and was put through to a woman who sounded young enough to be his granddaughter. He inquired about the job.Have you submitted a resume, he was asked.No, and Im not going to, Frank replied. And that was the end of the conversation.
Several months passed, and while Frank worried about raising funds for the Historical Society, it was decided he should go to the Park Hyatt and speak to Dwyer about a donation. Frank called Steves secretary to arrange for an appointment and was told Mr. Dwyer was a busy man, but she could schedule exactly 10 minutes on the following Thursday for Frank to meet the manager.That would be dandy, Frank replied, deciding he had better be on time for his meeting with Dwyer.On the day of the appointment, Frank arrived in Dwyers office five minutes ahead of time. Feeling out of his element in the giant hotel that catered to upscale tourists, Frank was ushered into Dwyers office, which was bigger than Franks living room. The men shook hands and Frank settled into a giant leather chair across from a monstrous walnut desk. Trying to relax, Frank told Steve about his work with the Historical Society.Beaver Creek is an important part of the county, and we need to preserve its history, he told Dwyer. Several times, Frank checked his watch to see that he had already run over his allotted 10 minutes. However, Dwyer seemed in no hurry to finish the meeting and continued to ask Frank questions.Your family settled Gypsum? Dwyer inquired.They sure did. My grandfathers brother Sam wandered into the valley after the Civil War and met Jake Borah, the mountain man who guided Teddy Roosevelt on a two-week hunt. My grandfather came to Colorado, joined Sam, and the two homesteaded a ranch that eventually comprised 1,600 acres in Gypsum.Thats incredible, Steve said. What else?Frank told Steve about his family and threw in a few colorful stories about cattle, horses, and prospecting. Several times Frank checked his watch. So what do you think?Sitting back in his chair, Steve smiled at Frank.Why the big grin? Frank said. Did I say something wrong?You said everything right, Steve said. I think you are my hotel storyteller.Frank protested that he knew nothing about being a storyteller, and Dwyer reiterated that Frank had the gift of storytelling; he had just proved that with his hour of telling stories. By the time the two men parted, Dwyer had been in Steves office for over two hours and had come away with a generous donation to the Historical Society.
Frank Doll was for 17 years the official storyteller of the Park Hyatt, where, he said, he met wonderful. As Frank told it, it was not unusual to see a woman in a floor-length fur coat next to a man in a ski sweater, next to a couple in white robes headed for the spa, next to a family with small children, next to a tan-faced ski instructor charming a beauty in skin-tight ski pants. All types of people mingled in the lobby of Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, and Frank Doll felt at home with all of them. From the outdoor fire pit, Frank spun yarns braided with the wool of truth about Indians, pioneers, stockmen, horses, miners and ski-area developers.