Rod Slifer, one of Vail’s true Pioneers, says opportunity awaits anyone who stays here |

Rod Slifer, one of Vail’s true Pioneers, says opportunity awaits anyone who stays here

Stephen Lloyd Wood
NWS Rod Slifer 10-23 MK

Editor’s note: This is the last of eight feature stories profiling the individual candidates for Vail Town Council in the upcoming election on Tuesday.There’s something about Rod Slifer.It’s not a bad thing, but it does seem to take just a minute or two before he begins to seem like your dad.Slifer, 69, has been in and around Vail since, well, before there really was a Vail. In fact, he was one of the first employees of Vail Associates, hired in 1962 as “clerk in the works” when the Bridge Chalet, Vail’s first building, housed the company’s headquarters. His salary was reportedly about $400 a month.”I still live and breathe Vail every day,” he says in his trademark calm, smooth manner that obviously has won over many a friend since then. “My office is in Vail. I still love to walk up and down the street and just talk to people.”Now, Slifer’s a managing partner in the region’s largest real estate company, Slifer, Smith and Frampton Real Estate, with 17 offices and a hand in 65 percent of the property bought and sold in what’s now commonly called the “Vail Valley.” He’s served as a town councilman for a total of 12 years, eight as mayor. And his name is mentioned throughout books chronicling Vail’s history, including Dick Hauserman’s “Inventors of Vail” and “Vail: Triumph of a Dream,” written by Vail’s founder, the late Pete Seibert, who hired Slifer in the first place.Humble beginningsDespite all that, Slifer remains a truly humble man. Granted, he drives a Mercedes, but it’s of the docile, green station wagon variety with 107,000 miles on the odometer. His somewhat cluttered office, while on Bridge Street, is nothing outrageous and even though he and his family – wife, Beth, daughter, Alexandra, 13, and two cats – obviously could live in some slopeside monster home high on the mountain, they choose a relatively modest condominium in the heart of Vail Village, above Sweet Basil.”We love being right in the middle of town,” he says. “I mean, hey, we have three restaurants without even leaving the building – and they even deliver.”Slifer came from humble beginnings, after all, growing up in Brighton, northeast of Denver. A graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder, he was drafted into the Navy during the Korean War, moving afterward to Aspen where he “became a ski bum.” He taught skiing and waited tables in the winter, he says, and painted houses and waited tables in the summer. He first heard about Vail from Morrie Shepard, the first director of the Vail Ski School.Slifer has put that work ethic to good use in Vail over the years, too, first doing the ski company’s books, then showing the future resort to investors, then getting his own real estate license, going into business himself as Slifer & Co., and ultimately taking on partners Harry Frampton and Mark Smith … and Vail Associates.”Sure, in some ways I’ve been lucky,” he says. “But a lot of it has been persistence and hard work. I worked seven days a week for 25 or 30 years.””A nice little ski mountain’It all might not have to come to pass if Slifer wasn’t naturally optimistic – so much so it rubs off. He makes you feel at home, he buys you a drink, he offers advice – just like Dad – and you go away feeling optimistic, too.”I tell college kids, no matter what you do here, you’ll be manager in three years. All the hotels and restaurants here are run now by people who had nothing when they came here. I think those opportunities still exist,” he says. “Nobody, even Pete (Seibert), thought Vail would grow like it has, we just thought it would be a nice little ski mountain. All I did was stay.”Slifer has continuously served the community for nearly four decades, starting in 1965 with the Vail Metropolitan Recreation District, followed by the Eagle County Planning Commission the next year. He first was elected to the Town Council in 1977, taking on the role of mayor until 1985. Elected to another four-year term in 1999, he’s now running for a fourth term.”I feel one should give back to the community,” he says, breaking into what’s become a campaign slogan of sorts. “I love this place and I want to do all I can to make it No. 1 in every way.”A steady handOf course some people would say Slifer’s time has come and gone, that he’s part of the old guard and should give way to a younger generation. But he doesn’t see it that way at all, saying with all the redevelopment projects in the works – as well as a voter-mandated conference center – the town needs a steady hand.”I have as much experience here as anybody can offer, and the next four years are critical to turn the economy around,” he says. “I think I can make that happen.”Some people, too, like to bring up the appearance of a conflict of interest, as Vail Resorts literally is a partner in his real estate firm. While the issue rises above the political noise every once in awhile, he says all he can do is acknowledge there may be a potential conflict, recuse himself from any discussion or action when it’s appropriate, and move on. Fact is, Slifer has at times left the council’s chambers during discussions of and votes on ski company projects, not returning until they were over, or until a vote was cast without him. On occasion, he consults the town attorney.”Over the past four years, that’s come up only a few times,” says Slifer,”I think anybody in a small community, at one time or another, can have a potential conflict.”As for when Slifer thinks he may call it a political career, take a break or, God forbid, retire, he says that’s not going to happen any time soon.”I hope I never retire,” he says. “But I may change my schedule a little so I can ski and play golf more.”

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