Ski School – from 10 instructors to 1,500
Instructors showing off! Bill Duddy, Bill Peterson, Bob Gagne, and George Rau. The ski school parka was so simple and so timeless.|Daily file photo|
Morrie Shepard left Vail in 1965 when his three-year contract was not renewed due to a misunderstanding about the percentage of the ski school’s gross as compared to gross ticket sales. He then joined the start-up Lange Boot Company.
Shepard was succeeded by Roger Staub from Arosa, Switz. Staub came with excellent credentials and was a gold medal winner in the Squaw Valley Olympics in 1960. Like Stein Erikson, he had his own distinctive skiing style. He always wore a white wool cap with a wool visor and was filmed extensively for promotional footage for Vail. He was very popular and ran an excellent ski school. He was particularly adept at bringing in top-notch instructors, which helped develop the Vail Ski School into one of the foremost and highly recognized ski schools in the world.
After the third year, as the ski school continued to grow, Jerry Muth was hired as financial director. Two years later, Muth was made director of the ski school and Staub became director of skiing. It was a sad day when, a few years later, there was shocking news that Staub had fallen to his death over his native town of Arosa from a hang-glider at an altitude of about 600 feet. Muth then became the “head man” and was followed by Bob Gagne from 1973 to 1978. He was then succeeded by Ludwig Kurtz, who joined the ski school in 1965. Kurtz is now mayor of Vail and director of community relations of Beaver Creek Resort Company.
From that simple beginning in 1962 with 10 contract ski instructors, the ski school is now a major part of the resort operation with more than 1,500 instructors who speak at least 50 languages. Similarly in the first few years you could ski for days in untracked powder. Today you have to get up early if you are to get in one exciting run.
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The ski patrol
At about the same time the ski school was being formed, the ski patrol was also being organized. Again, Morrie Shepard depleted Aspen. He brought Don Almond, a long-time friend, to head the ski patrol. Almond was an organized, detail-oriented man with considerable ambition. Under Almond’s leadership, the ski patrol became a model for other resorts to follow. Many of its members who were in Vail that first year still live and thrive in the Vail area and have attained success in business.
That first ski patrol consisted of Jim “J.C.” Clark, Milt Wiley, Johnny Adams, Mike Erwing, Russ Brann, Chuck Malloy, and Dave Williamson. The second year, some more notorious names were added – Paul Testwuide, Joel Fritz, Larry Benway, Steve Boyd, B. J. Brittan, Bill Sears, Jack Carnie, Bill Petersen, Dickie Petersen, Dennis Mirottes, Al Read, and Bob Shanks. They worked, played, and left many lasting impressions.
Oh – if the walls of Donovan’s Copper bar could talk. …
Ski Club Vail
As in most ski resorts, a ski club is a necessary part. The club at Vail was organized in 1963. I wanted it to be patterned after the Sun Valley Ski Club, which was more socially oriented than sponsoring ski-racing development.
Bob Parker, on the other hand, proposed that the club concentrate on training ski racers and sponsoring ski races. His idea was the right one. From the first year, the ski club has been a valuable asset. It has developed some of America’s foremost World Cup and Olympic prospects. It has become an integral part of helping the ski-racing program. Today it assists hundreds of aspiring youths.
The ski-club logo was designed the first year. It’s the only logo that has not been altered.
Cross-Country and telemarking
When Vail opened on Dec. 15, 1962, all attention was paid to downhill skiing. There was, however, an instructor, Steve Rieschl, who was also an expert in both cross-country and telemark skiing. Little by little, he convinced those running the ski school to add a ski-touring division. Steve ran that isolated division of the ski school, and it is he who should be thanked for the ever-increasing popularity of this sport, not only in Vail but around the country.
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 43rd installment, an excerpt from chapter 6, “It’s Now a Ski Resort.” 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.