New Rod Slifer biography to be launched Friday at Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail

The new book, "Rod Slifer & the Spirit of Vail," by David O. Williams, will be released on Friday at 4 p.m. at an event at the Colorado Snowsports Museum.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Rod Slifer’s life is an American success story, and you can now read that story thanks to a collaboration between Slifer, local journalist David O. Williams, and the Vail Daily.

The new book, “Rod Slifer & the Spirit of Vail,” will be released on Friday at an event at the Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail. All proceeds from book sales at Friday’s event will go to the museum.

Rod Slifer will be on hand to sign books from 4 to 6 p.m. along with Beth Slifer and Williams.

Beth Slifer said Williams’ writing expanded on a brief book that had been created for the Slifer family by Cherry Gallagher.

“We had 10 copies printed and distributed to our family only,” Beth Slifer said.

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Journalist Al Hunt was staying with the Slifers during a recent holiday season and came across the book, encouraging the Slifers to expand upon it. They contacted Williams, who took what he called a “journalistic memoir” approach to describing Slifer’s life.

Hunt wrote the foreword, saying Slifer’s character is deeply embedded in the history and culture of Vail.

“After reading this, you’ll never think of Vail again without thinking of the man who has dedicated his life to making it such a special place,” Hunt writes.

Rod Slifer, left, and Pete Seibert, from the new book, “Rod Slifer & the Spirit of Vail,” which will be released on Friday at 4 p.m. at an event at the Colorado Snowsports Museum. All proceeds from book sales at Friday’s event will go to the museum.
Courtesy image

The story of Rod Slifer is the story of Vail itself, as Slifer was here in the summer before the mountain opened and has remained ever since.

Williams captures that history through Slifer’s journey and the relationships he makes along the way with well-known Vail pioneers and notables such as Pete Seibert, President Gerald R. Ford, Mark Smith, Harry Frampton, and Elizabeth Walker Sullivan, now better known as Beth Slifer.

Much of Rod Slifer’s story overlaps with Seibert’s story, and Williams uses material from Seibert’s book, “Triumph of a Dream,” in some of his scene setting.

But Seibert’s book was published in 2000 and doesn’t mention what was about to happen in town, the era known as the Vail Renaissance, when more than $1 billion flowed into Vail in public and private investment, funding makeovers of the Vail and Lionshead ski lift loading portals.

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“Rod Slifer & the Spirit of Vail” tells the story of that era of Vail’s development, which Frampton calls “one of the best things that ever happened to Vail.”

Frampton credits Slifer and former Vail Resorts CEO Adam Aron with ushering in the Vail Renaissance.

“Adam kind of looked at Vail and, with Rod, said ‘This damn place is ugly, it’s tired, it’s an old resort, and we gotta redo it,” Williams writes, quoting Frampton.

Rod and Beth Slifer by their namesake sign on Vail Mountain on March 19, 2023. This image is from the new book, “Rod Slifer & the Spirit of Vail.”
Mark Wurzer/The Vail Daily

Williams interviewed Aron, as well, who said Slifer helped him become a local after he was brought into Vail from his previous stint as CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines.

In a hilarious twist, Aron tells Williams that the local newspapers were hounding him during his time as Vail CEO from 1996 to 2006, wanting to know the every move of the company that had recently been taken public. Williams was the editor of the Vail Trail newspaper during that time and remembers being among the journalists covering Aron.

Williams also unearths a humorous story from Rob Katz, another former Vail Resorts CEO, in which Katz recalled Slifer’s first visit to the new Vail Resorts offices in Broomfield. Slifer told Katz, as the story goes, that his office had a nice view, but you can’t see Vail.

“Which was true, and a fair point,” Katz said.

Williams reprints, in its entirety, a long interview with Katz in which Katz recalls his first meetings with Slifer as he was becoming connected with Vail in 1991 while working under Leon Black at Apollo Management.

Katz said Slifer perfectly blended the business and the experience of Vail Mountain, combining his early ski instructor and real estate agent background.

“He also saw himself as a steward of the Vail Valley,” Katz said, “with him and Beth always engaging in anything that would be important to make Vail better.”

Amid all the interesting interviews and work that went into the book, however, Williams said his favorite part in creating it was, simply, skiing with Slifer last season.

“He’s still making beautiful turns at 88,” Williams said. “It was inspiring to watch.”

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