‘The Vail Way’ examines valley’s evolution
VAIL — In the beginning was Earl Eaton and Pete Seibert, and Vail grew from those two dreamers and others like them.
Vail was a blank canvas, an experiment in self-creation; as much an idea as a place, says Terry Minger, Vail town manager in the 1970s.
John Horan-Kates’ new book, “The Making of a Community: The Vail Way,” tells Vail’s stories.
Like the Disney way, the Marriott way, the Toyota way or any other way, “The Vail Way” is worth reading for the lessons it might teach. Horan-Kates, spent three years writing this book.
“I wanted to record what I’ve observed along the way and the lessons I’ve learned in Vail,” he said. “At first, I thought ‘The Vail Way’ might have applicability for other small communities, but that felt a bit arrogant; in fact, just the expression ‘the Vail way’ caused some people to comment that it sounded a little pompous. But still, I wanted to better understand how ‘good community’ is built.”
Building from scratch
While the glamorous story of Vail skiing has been told in book and film, not until “The Making of a Community” has anyone written the history of how it evolved from a business and organizational perspective.
The book is an effort to understand how people build a community from scratch, and what kinds of people are willing to try something like that.
“What motivated them and what entrepreneurial principles did they call upon?” Horan-Kates asked, and then answered in his book.
The book assumes that since the Vail Valley is still evolving, people engaged here ought to know how it happened and how they might move the community toward an even more vibrant place. It advocates that there is a “Vail way” that the community should continue to build upon.
“Vail is unlike any other place; it was not born from a mining history like Aspen, nor a cowboy ranching legacy like Steamboat Springs,” Minger said. “It didn’t erupt from bubbling natural mineral springs like St. Moritz. It was a new town, a blank canvas, an experiment in self-creation, as much an idea as a place.”
‘People ought to know how it happened’
Horan-Kates runs the Vail Leadership Institute, and they were studying entities to emulate as the community continues to move ahead.
They came across Disney University, and then a book “The Disney Way,” that Walt Disney had written when he wanted their people to understand how all that happened.
“I wondered if there was a Vail way?” Horan-Kates said.
“Absolutely!” came the constant reply from the dozens of people he interviewed.
At first, he wanted to document it for his own benefit, and for people coming up in the ranks. “They had a vague idea who Pete Seibert was, but they didn’t really know,” Horan-Kates said. “People ought to know how it happened.”
The idea took root during a tribute for Bob Parker, Vail’s first marketing guru whose media successes are legendary. Parker wrote a little for Horan-Kates’ book, including a short commentary about Seibert.
“Parker is a master of the media, how to tell a story and how to make oneself available,” Horan-Kates said. “If he told the truth and showed people around, they’d tell the story.”
Horan-Kates took over from Parker to run the ski company’s marketing in 1974, founded the Vail Valley Foundation, helped build the Vilar Performing Arts Center and then helped start Vail Christian High School. In 1997, he helped launch the Vail Leadership Institute where he served as president until 2013 and subsequently served as board chair.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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