Thank Pete for the powder |

Thank Pete for the powder

Cliff Thompson
Daily file photoPete Seibert, who learned how to ski in his back yard as a kid, fought as a member of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. He later founded Vail, fulfilling his dream of building one of the world's greatest ski resorts. He died a year ago at 77 years old.

During the memorial service a year ago Tuesday for Vail’s founder, Pete Seibert, his son Pete Seibert Jr. told those gathered that his father’s remains would be scattered by seeding them into some clouds the coming season – and they should expect, “a hell of a powder day.”

And that’s just what happened. On St. Patrick’s Day, Vail Mountain got 12 inches of snow and locals and visitors got to whoop it up. Better yet, Denver, in the grip of a drought, got buried.

At the cloud-seeding generator, one of the grandchildren asked a question, the answer to which perhaps best illustrates Seibert’s legacy.

The child asked if anyone had ever had their remains scattered by a cloud-seeding generator.

“Your grandpa did a lot of things that nobody else did,” the operator told the child. “This will be the last.”

A rare breed

Seibert, 77, died July 15, 2002 after a battle with esophageal cancer, and some say his passing marked the end of the golden era of skiing when entrepreneurs – not corporations – ran ski areas. Seibert was a rare breed who combined humility and great vision.

In 1957, when Earl Eaton showed Pete Seibert the as-yet unnamed mountain that shouldered Gore Creek, with its huge “back bowls” and cascading hills on the north side, Seibert knew then that he wanted to build a ski resort here. It changed the faces of skiing and Eagle County.

The mountain, which opened in 1962, last year hosted 1.6 million skiers. Twenty years later, he also helped develop another mountain he had been eyeing – Beaver Creek.

“A great visionary’

“Peter was a great visionary,” said friend and 10th Mountain Division comrade in arms Bill “Sarge” Brown after last summer’s memorial. “Peter took a mountain and built it to what it is today He had the greatest impact on skiing of anyone in North America. He never did get enough credit for what he did.”

Seibert’s family distributed most of his ashes Christmas Day atop Vail Mountain’s Ptarmigan Ridge and the remainder was saved to be sent skyward in the cloud-seeding generator.

“It definitely felt right (distributing the remains),” Pete Seibert Jr. said this week.

After seeding the clouds, Pete Seibert Jr. and family took some runs and just enjoyed the fresh powder.

“I got on the lift and people kept saying, “We’ve got Pete to thank for this,'” he said. “I just kept my mouth shut. It’s hard to have (my dad’s death) settle in and understand what’s going on.”

During the public memorial last year, there was standing-room-only at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, and the attendees ranged from former presidents to waitresses and waiters.

Seibert learned to ski in his back yard and was a decorated veteran of during World War II with the elite 10th Mountain Division that saw action in Italy’s Appenine Mountains. He lost a kneecap in battle, yet returned to race skis in Aspen, where in 1948 he met Eaton, who shared a dream of building a ski area.

“Half the people in Aspen wanted to put in a ski area,” Eaton said last summer. “I was one of them. (Pete) had a dream to do something, and he got it done.”

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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