Ski racing a vital part of Vail’s history
The man who had an uncanny skill in arranging and putting on ski races was Bob Parker. As a result, he has contributed much of this chapter covering one of the most important phases of Vail’s development. He gives credit to others, but he was the guiding light.
There were two main influences behind ski racing at Vail – founder Peter Seibert, and plain and simple economics. Seibert, a ski racer from his teen years in New England, thought that a ski resort without ski racing was like a great golf course without tournaments.
And so, from its first season, Vail hosted racing events that generated more publicity than its meager marketing budget could possibly have paid for in the form of advertising, news photos and news releases.
Vail’s first racing event was the 1962 U.S. Alpine Ski Team training camp. The team featured a galaxy of current and future skiing stars, such as Billy Kidd, Jimmie Heuga, Suzie Chaffee, Spider Sabich, Buddy Werner, and Barbara and Chuck Ferries. Within a week after Vail’s opening on Dec.15, both ski and general media correspondents were sending news flashes about Vail and the U.S. Ski Team across the nation. Although the snow was thin, the team received a serious week of training.
In January 1963, Seibert initiated the first Vail Cup, which was to serve as a practice exercise for major races of the future.
With top race officials borrowed from the Southern Rocky Mountain Ski Association, and under the banner of the newly created Ski Club Vail, the Vail Cup proved that Vail could produce a serious ski race, even though every available adult village resident had to learn new officiating skills and endure Arctic cold on the slopes to bring off the event.
One of the Vail trail crew who worked on the Vail Cup was Paul Bacon, a young New Englander who had grown up with ski racing. In the spring of 1963, Bacon drafted a ski-racing procedural manual that laid out everything a ski resort should do to conduct a first-class alpine event. With input from all the mountain crew, the manual was completed and printed through the auspices of the SRMSA. This pioneering effort became the bible for ski racing in Colorado and eventually across the nation and the world.
Unfortunately, a summer construction accident resulted in Paul Bacon’s death before he could witness the universal acceptance of his work.
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 53rd installment, an excerpt from chapter 7, “The History of Ski Racing in Vail.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.
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