Vail begins with a ranch
My fellow dreamer Earl Eaton and I were well aware that this simple fact would be one of Vail’s great advantages over Aspen, one that would never, ever change – neither would that marvelous “no-name mountain” we had climbed.
We knew we had something rare, something quite miraculous in our grasp. We also knew we had to move quickly yet cautiously, or we could lose it. Everybody and his brother was scouring the Rockies for a mountain to make into a ski resort, so Earl and I decided to be a little circumspect about this seemingly nondescript hill that rose from the junction of Gore and Mill creeks. God knows, we couldn’t go around trumpeting our plans to build a mammoth new ski resort, because land prices might skyrocket.
So we invented a fictional organization, the Transmontane Rod and Gun Club. The name was supposed to bring to mind a gentlemanly group of sporting enthusiasts trying to buy some land for a hunting lodge, from which they could engage in the private pursuit of trout, grouse and the occasional deer or elk.
My fellow club members were Earl, Denver lawyer Bob Fowler, and John Conway, a Denver real estate appraiser for the Small Business Administration. Did we fool anyone? I don’t know.
I do know, however, that under the guise of the Transmontane Rod and Gun Club, we went after a 520-acre slice of the Hanson Ranch. The owner, John Hanson, was reluctant to sell, and it took a great effort from John Conway to close the deal. His technique was to stop by Hanson’s place every month or so, preferably when the weather was bad and ranching was difficult. The two of them would stand around kicking tractor tires and spitting at beetles until they got to be on a first-name basis.
Finally one day, Hanson shrugged, shook hands, and let us buy his land. It was the single most important piece of real estate in the whole project – the future site of Vail Village. And it cost just $55,000, or $110 an acre.
Editor’s note: This is the 33rd installment of the Vail Daily’s serialization of “Vail: Triumph of a Dream” by Vail Pioneer and Founder Pete Seibert. This excerpt comes from Chapter Seven, entitled “Money to Buy the Dream.” The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.