Vail Daily obituary: Gretta Burdick Parks, Oct. 8, 1928, to March 16, 2017
Gretta was already a licensed pilot when she was still a teenager growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. That independent streak drove her life.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, she took off for Europe alone, determined to learn to ski, a sport she had only seen in pictures. After only a few weeks, she departed her sinecure in Paris to live full time in Kitzbuhel, Austria. With that beginning, the “skiing thing” took and she devoted much of her adult life to skiing.
She ran tours to Kitzbuhel every winter to keep skiing there and maintain the friendships from the first winter. Running those tours, she met many of the other individuals who would, as a group, come together to share the dream of founding Vail.
Even though involved as a seed round investor in Vail, she committed what few other founders could, and moved her family to Vail in the fall of 1961, before the lifts were built the following summer, lending critical mass to the vision that there would be an operating ski area in a year.
The ski area did open, in December 1962, as did her boutique, The Gondola Boutique, founded with her close friend, Lorraine Higby.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Her enthusiasm for this new community lured her cousin Larry Burdick to town, and he built the Red Lion Inn. He lived upstairs from his fledgling bar and restaurant, and she lived across the street upstairs from her boutique.
She stayed in Vail, even as a single mom raising two boys, and met her second husband, Bud, and had two more sons and raised all of them (and a few of their friends, too). Her passion for skiing was undiminished during her life, and she added a passion for tennis (especially doubles) and windsurfing.
Her passion for Vail was also evident; she spent much of her life in the Vail Valley, remaining involved in many causes and living in her home on West Gore Creek Drive.
She is survived by her sons, William Burdick Whiteford, of Denver; Gustavus Mitchell Whiteford, of Vail; Christopher Lowe Parks, of Vail; and Michael Dominick Parks, of Hollister, Missouri; and her grandchildren, Nicholas Paul Whiteford, of New York City; Ethan Dominick Parks, of Hollister, Missouri; Maxwell William Whiteford, of Vail; and Lilah Marie Parks, of Hollister, Missouri; and friends and admirers too numerous to count.
There is a celebration of her life on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. on Pepi’s deck, one of her very favorite places.