Marketing magician Bob Parker put Vail on the map, before there was a map |

Marketing magician Bob Parker put Vail on the map, before there was a map

Bob Parker, Vail Pioneer and Vail's original marketing magician, will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday, Se[t. 22, in Vail's Gerald Ford Amphitheater
Special to the Daily |

Celebrate Bob

A celebration of Bob Parker’s life is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 22, at Vail’s Gerald Ford Amphitheater.

VAIL — Vail’s 50th anniversary was easy. The first one was tough.

It was Sept. 18, 1962, three months before the resort even opened, when Vail’s marketing magician Bob Parker announced tentative plans for Vail’s first anniversary celebration. The lofty goal was to “establish Vail as the finest winter resort in the Western Hemisphere.”

Job descriptions did not exist in early Vail. Everyone worked together, and they worked all day every day.

“We were working at something we enjoyed,” Parker said. “These were guys who had never worked on a ski resort but had in common a belief in the project.”

Parker died June 29 in Grand Junction at age 94. A celebration of his amazing life is at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 22, at Vail’s Gerald Ford Amphitheater.

Marketing magician

Here’s why Parker was a marketing magician.

On Feb. 18, 1962, the New York Times ran a full-page story about the new Vail Pass Ski Area.

Bear in mind that February 1962 was 10 months before the area would open and three to four months before the first shovel of dirt would be moved.

Nine months later, the New York Times was back for another full-page story. The Nov. 18, 1962, edition gushed that the new ski center “emerged from the chaos” and that “the mountain sits near the center of awesome topography.”

On July 15, 1962, with Vail in complete construction/chaos mode, Parker managed to get Ski Magazine to do an extremely friendly photo session. Photographers spent four days in Vail amid that chaos, shooting the magazine’s fashion edition. Ski Magazine used some of those photos for a feature about new resorts, led by Vail.

Parker convinced Sports Illustrated editor Ezra Bowen to do a complete color photo story about Vail. Bowen included Vail in his new ski book to be published in the fall of 1962.

On Nov. 7, 1963, the Denver Post reported that “one of the West’s most fabulous resorts is developing here.”

Which brings us back to Vail’s first anniversary Parker was planning well before the ski area ever opened.

He wanted to get Pete Seibert on “The Today Show” with Hugh Downs, invite movie stars to town, have stunt-skiing exhibitions by professional skiers, invite the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior, Joey Bishop, Dean Martin), invite Bobby Kennedy to town, convince Lowell Thomas to do a broadcast from Vail, develop a new gimmick like a torchlight parade to become a Vail tradition akin to cliff divers in Acapulco, get the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to perform.

But no matter how good things are, they can always go wrong.

Parker implored people to “Remember the Squaw Valley debacle at the (1960) Olympics. Don’t allow them to say, 1. They caught cold in an open bus, 2. They lost their luggage.”

Bob Parker quotes were drawn from previous Vail Daily and Vail Trail articles. Some information for this story came from “Tales from the 10th,” by Lauren Moran, and John Horan-Kates’ book, “The Vail Way.” Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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