Miller: It’s the roots, not the branches | VailDaily.com
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Miller: It’s the roots, not the branches

Steve Miller
Valley Voices

They were anxious for freedom and opportunity. With the excitement of gold, land acquisition, and the possibility of improving their lives, so came the pioneers. Settlers moved into the Gore Creek Valley in the mid-1800s. As explorers, pathfinders and trailblazers all wanting to inaugurate their dream for a new life, they would face many challenges.


The same could be said for the many pioneers that toiled to hone, refine and protect what is now Vail.

Named after a highway engineer and incorporated in 1966 after the ski area opened in 1962, Vail lies in a locality once occupied by the Ute Indians.



But, what about those pioneers?

With tears in my eyes, I am attempting to write this while streaming the funeral service of one who had an impact on the Vail Valley, a pioneer. Sometimes, we just have to let ourselves be sad, but it seems to be coming more often. We are losing more and more of our pioneers while missing out on their true significance and influence in what you are calling “home.” Most of you simply don’t know.



My family and I lived in the valley for 33 years and were blessed to have known many of the powerful and influential people whose energetic and ambitious actions walked that thin line between success and failure.

Many of you don’t know some of these icons of fairness, rationality and goodness they used in their creation. Taking the beautiful surroundings of the 2.3 million acres of the White River National Forest, their first concern was to steward these lands on your behalf. This forest is now a world-renowned recreation destination, with more than 12 million visitors per year. The White River is the most visited recreational forest in the country.

I want you to know these people, yes — these explorers and innovators of what they saw as something new. Most have passed away, others still live to tell the story.

Check out Camp Hale, a training center established in 1942. Between Minturn and Leadville, the facility taught soldiers the technique of Alpine combat.

Pete Siebert, one of the soldiers, would return in 1957 to begin studying the possibility of raising the ski mountain.

Emmy-winning film producer Roger Brown would say; “They harnessed gravity, flying down the mountain.”

Further, and as one of the founders, he said; “Vail was built by skiers, for skiers.”

Bob Parker, Morrie Shepard, Leonard Ruder, Rod Slifer — do you know their impact? How about Tom Steinberg, Vail’s first doctor? Two wonderful books, “Vail,” and “Vail: Triumph of a Dream” are in your library, written by the Presbyterian minister’s wife, the other by Seibert.

The Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame — do you know where it is located? Who was the first volunteer fire department’s chief, and how were the volunteers summoned? Where was the Holiday Inn located, with Gary VanAuken — its manager — having a well-known brother? Abe Shapiro, Ben Kruger, Dave Gorsuch, Frank Doll — do you know their impact? Longtime residents of Eagle County, the Troxels, whose son Keith owned what, located on a corner of the main Vail entrance?

You have much work to do if you are going to further enjoy living your life in Eagle County’s Vail.

Embrace the history while embracing the hard work of just some of the pioneers that I have mentioned above. Receive enthusiastically their being, and wholeheartedly identify their innovative spirit and hard work.

Please, don’t let them show up in this newspaper’s obituary section before you get to know them. Since December 2015, we have lost about 30 or so of these wonderful, vibrant pioneers of the greatest winter and summer resort in North America.


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