Time Machine: 40 years ago, United States reopens Eagle County to Soviet diplomats, citizens

Eagle County was reopened to Russian citizens in November of 1983 after a travel ban which had been in effect for 20 years was lifted.
Vail Trail/Vail Daily archive

30 years ago

Nov. 26, 1993

Vail Mountain’s new Pride Express chairlift, the resort’s eighth high-speed quad and 25th lift, was up and running for its first season of operation.

The new lift was part of $7 million in capital improvements that included new snowcats, snowmaking, uniforms, ticketing systems and “a computerized welcome center,” the Vail Trail reported.

Quoting Chris Ryman, vice president of mountain operations for Vail Associates, the Trail reported that Pride Express will double the lift capacity at the base of Lionshead. The increased availability of terrain led to an increase in snowmaking facilities in Lionshead, with additional snow guns upping the mountain’s snowmaking capabilities to 332 acres, Ryman said.

“Vail will now be able to provide one of the best early-season products in Colorado with top-to-bottom runs serviced by high-speed quads and increased snowmaking,” Ryman said.

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Vail Mountain also purchased four new snowcats for the season, increasing the grooming capacity on the mountain by 40 percent, the Trail reported.

“The new cats increase the total Vail fleet to 24, more than any other mountain complex in the world,” the Trail reported.

“Our guests told us that we weren’t grooming enough, so we’re responding to that,” Ryman said.

40 years ago

Nov. 25, 1983

The U.S. State Department reopened Eagle County to Soviet travel, the Vail Trail reported.

Eagle County was one of about 500 counties across the U.S. that had been banned to Russian citizens since the 1960s.

“Why Eagle County was ever placed on the list and why it was just as mysteriously taken off is known only to officials in the State Department,” the Trail reported.

Eagle, Summit and Larimar counties were lifted from the list, while the previously open cities of Boulder and Denver were added to the list to be closed.

“In addition to the previously restricted counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Elbert, El Paso, Pueblo and Weld, the State Department added Teller, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Las Animas, Prowers, and Logan counties,” the Trail reported. “State Department officials wouldn’t comment on the reasons for the odd selections.”

50 years ago

Nov. 22, 1973

Vail Mountain was able to open for the 1973-74 ski season on Thanksgiving Day thanks to a snowstorm that rolled in the night before.

“While Mother Nature provided the necessary ingredients, the key roles were played by the Mountain and Food Services Departments, the Ticket Office, and the other Operating Departments who contributed to pulling things together on very short notice in order that we might open,” the Vail Trail reported. “Prior to Wednesday night’s snowfall, the Mountain had been packed wherever snow conditions permitted, and in certain areas offered fair skiing even without the new snow. So, this early preparation, plus immediate response on all fronts to Wednesday night’s unexpected snowstorm meant that all Vail Associates personnel to be affected by the opening day’s program had been alerted by midnight and were standing by.”

Snow continued throughout the night, the Trail reported.

“The snowcats (packers) were manned and went into action at 4:00 a.m.,” the Trail reported. “This active and enthusiastic response was followed up early Thursday morning (5:00 a.m.) with calls to the lodges, ski shop owners, etc., to alert them to the fact that we were opening at 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning. These local steps, plus telephone calls to all regional and national news sources at 6:00 a.m. served to alert the skiing public near and far that Vail had started its 12th season, more or less on schedule.”

60 years ago

Nov. 21, 1963

The first storm of the season was responsible for a number of highway accidents, the Eagle Valley Enterprise reported.

“Within fifteen minutes, four accidents occurred on Vail Pass — three in the same spot at Polk Creek,” the Enterprise reported.

Floyd R. Johnson of Grand Junction, driving a truck pulling a mobile home, was headed east when the mobile unit skidded sideways off the road pulling the truck with it.

“They skidded down a steep embankment 100 feet, with the truck and mobile home jackknifing,” the Enterprise reported. “Johnson jumped clear on the road.”

Five minutes later, Brian Pechin of Arvada, also traveling east, failed to negotiate the icy curve and also skidded off the road down the deep embankment, the Enterprise reported.

“His passenger car went 125 feet and landed in Polk Creek — at the same spot where Johnson met his tough luck,” the Enterprise reported. “Like Johnson, Pechin jumped clear on the road.

Ten minutes later, Rodney DeVore of Denver came upon the same spot, driving a truck and semi.

“The trailer slid, pulling the vehicle with it down a 125-foot embankment,” the Enterprise reported. “The trailer broke loose and struck Pechin’s car, demolishing it. As in the two previous cases, the driver jumped clear on the roadway — so did DeVore’s relief driver who had been asleep in the back — however he didn’t have time to grab his clothes, and landed in the snow in shorts and a T-shirt.”

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