Vail finder Eaton turns 85 |

Vail finder Eaton turns 85

Special to the DailyEarl Eaton, "finder" of Vail Mountain, turns 85 Monday. He hopes to get back on Vail Mountain by the end of the year.

VAIL ” Earl Eaton, widely credited as the discoverer of Vail Mountain, turns 85 Monday.

It was 50 years ago that Eaton led Vail founder Peter Seibert up the nameless mountain that looked like it could be a good ski resort.

Eaton was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, and is now getting treatment, said his son Carl. He’s aiming to be back on Vail Mountain by the end of the year, Carl Eaton said.

“His goal is to be able to get on the ski bike by the end of the ski season, and it’s looking like that might be a possibility,” Carl Eaton said.

Earl Eaton is the only person allowed to take a ski bike on the lifts during normal operating hours of Vail Mountain.

The Eagle resident was born up Squaw Creek, where the entrance to the posh, gated neighborhood Cordillera is now. He grew up there during the Great Depression.

“It was a pretty hard life back them,” Carl Eaton said. “To see it go from a depressed, farming-ranching valley with not a lot in its future to turn into a resort area, it’s blown away everyone’s wildest dreams, including his.”

As a young man, Earl Eaton became familiar with the wide-open bowls in the Two Elk Creek drainage that would become Vail’s famous Back Bowls.

At first, Earl Eaton was really more interested in the slopes of the area that would become Beaver Creek, Carl Eaton said.

Carl Eaton is now the lift maintenance supervisor at Beaver Creek, the mountain that his father explored more than 50 years ago.

In addition to the desire to get back on Vail Mountain, Earl Eaton wants to get back to the prospecting that he’s done in the hills above Eagle.

Many years ago, Earl Eaton’s brother found some gold ore in a certain spot near Eagle. At 85, Eaton is determined to find it again.

“He knows exactly where to go,” Carl Eaton said. “He wants to get up there one more time and see if he can’t find that spot.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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