Vail Pioneers Weekend set for Sept. 20-22 |

Vail Pioneers Weekend set for Sept. 20-22

Randy Wyrick

And what, exactly, constitutes a pioneer?

Local real estate superstar Rod Slifer, who qualifies no matter what your definition, thinks pioneering is more a state of mind than a state of longevity – a little like people from the East Coast who start looking for the buffalo herds as soon as they head west across the Pennsylvania state line.

He contacted some people who might help.

“If you’ve been here a week and you think you’re a pioneer, you can come if you want to show up and think you’re a pioneer,” says Slifer. “There are no hard and fast rules. … It’s just a gathering of old friends.”

Memories will get swapped – some of which might even be true, like the legend of the ski company’s early days, when the Powers That Be stood at the top of the stairs in their Vail Village offices, threw bills down the stairs, then started down the stairs writing checks until they ran out of money.

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Not true, they insist, but it makes a great story.

There’ll be others.

The spirit that sold the West

On the other hand, before his recent passing, Vail pioneer Charlie Gersbach used to tell the story about that summer of 1962 when everyone almost starved.

In a former life, Gersbach was in hotel marketing and sales, a function he helped fulfill in Vail’s early days. No one was here the summer after the inaugural winter, and no one was coming.

Gersbach said they had a meeting with a few of the original investors who decided the place needed to be an active resort and not a private enclave. For that to happen, they had to put some butts in beds.

So Gersbach strapped on a suit and tie, drove to Colorado Springs and walked into the Broadmoor’s sales department like he worked there. A bunch of people did, so they didn’t know any better.

In those days, Gersbach said, a hotel’s group clients were listed on a chalkboard in the sales department – both those signed and prospects.

Gersbach strapped a studious look on his face, strode over to that chalkboard and started writing down the names of the Broadmoor’s prospects.

He drove back to Vail and started working the phones, convincing several of those Broadmoor prospects that they’d be better served with a trip to a quaint ski resort nestled in the Rocky Mountains.

“Trying to market summer Vail is nothing new,” said Gersbach.

The business helped the new ski area weather some lean early years.

Still seeking sponsors

Vail Pioneer Weekend organizers are still looking for sponsors, and hope to have enough nailed down to cover all the costs, and maybe even buy a round or two of drinks.

“We have no idea how big it’s going to get,” said Slifer. “A lot of people who will come already live here. We’ve also been contacts by people from all over who say they’re coming.”

Right now, Vail Resorts and the town of Vail are helping, along with a growing list. The Vail Business Chamber Association is handling the thing. The costs are $25 a head.

Vail Pioneers Weekend Sept. 20-22

– Friday, Sept. 20, registration from 4-9 p.m., at the Crossroads Center in Vail Village. A Vail Village Block party runs from 5-7 p.m.

– Saturday morning golf. Right now, there’s room for 48 golfers. The greens fees are $50, which includes a golf cart.

– Saturday afternoon block party is Lionshead from 4-6 p.m. with live music.

– Saturday Pioneer Party at the Kaltenburg Castle, 6-11 p.m.

– Sunday morning service atop Vail Mountain. Vail Resorts is providing complimentary gondola rides. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Vail Resorts is co-sponsoring a mountain picnic. It’s $5.

To register, compile the following information: name; address; phone; number of people attending.

Mail it to: Vail Pioneers Weekend, c/o Vail Chamber and Business Association, 241 South Frontage Road, Suite 2, Vail, CO 81657

For more information, visit and click on Vail Pioneers.

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