"Stevie Stowe’ – "another ski instructor who started with nothing’
Steve “Stevie Stowe” Haber was sitting in the famous Yankee Tavern in Stowe, Vt., with a few other ski instructors, moaning about the snow conditions. He told his friends he was sick of the rain. He called his friend Marvin Morriarty in Aspen and decided to drive to Aspen that night. That was in the winter of 1963-1964.
“I never quite made it to Aspen,” Haber said. “My VW went off the road on the top of Vail Pass. After I made it into Vail, wearing my Stowe Ski School jacket, I met Rod Slifer. Spotting the jacket, he suggested I stay in Vail and try out for the ski school in the morning. I did, and thank goodness it was hard-packed snow. I got the job and they paid me $22 a day. I stayed at the Short Swing, a small, inexpensive lodge that was located where the athletic club is today. I was thrilled. I called up everyone at Stowe and said, “You won’t believe these guys. They will pay us twice as much as we are making at Stowe!’ That further prodded the Eastern contingent to come out West.”
The Easterners could ski the packed snow but were weak in powder. Thanks to help from other instructors like Tom and Bob Jacobson, however, it didn’t take them long to learn.
Through his friend and fellow ski instructor George Rau, Haber met a man who was to have a great impact on his life.
“I had no idea who this gentleman was. From the way he dressed and acted, I thought he was kind of poor – as if he was saving up his money for the lessons. I bought him a sweater and used to give him extra time. He turned out to be Dan Searle, owner of G.D. Searle and Company, the inventor of birth-control pills and later Nutrasweet. He was one of the wealthiest men in America. He really influenced me, because I could see how he acted with people. He referred me to some very interesting clients, including the head of the space program. But he himself was down-to-earth and liked to help young people.
“I was in an avalanche a couple years later, at Alta, with Bill Peterson from the ski school, and luckily escaped with my life. When Dan heard about it, he sent me to graduate school for a year, which changed my whole life. I learned that it’s very important to help people. And now that I’m the retired founder of Bolle and have had a mountain of success myself, I try to give back to young people, whether they be ski instructors or fishing guides. I’m always interested in young people and their careers and try to influence them the same way Dan Searle influenced me. I found out that you can give back if you get lucky enough to get fairly successful in life.
“Vail, in its earliest days, was so much fun. The camaraderie of the few ski instructors who were there was something I will always cherish. I became best friends with Pepi and Roger. Vail had some great, great people. And the ones who came who were great skiers really helped those of us who were still learning to become great skiers.”
After graduate school, Steve Haber set new goals for himself. When he was in France many years ago, he visited the Bolle Company, which made private-label glasses and goggles for several European companies. After convincing the owners, he was given permission to use their name and start his own company in the United States. He built it into a highly visible and successful business. When it was sold recently, Haber became a man of leisure – well, maybe, but he’s busy taking a lead from his friend Dan Searle and doing nice things for young people.
I was talking to Haber recently about his life, and he said jokingly but with pride:
“Not bad for a ski instructor who started with nothing!”
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 111th installment, an excerpt from chapter 12, “The Ever-Increasing “New Locals.” 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.