March 19, 2011
If it weren’t for the 10th Mountain Division, many of Colorado’s ski resorts would not have been founded and taken off after World War II. When Pete Seibert returned from fighting in Italy with the 10th, he and Earl Eaton founded and created one of the top ski resorts in the country: Vail.Pete Seibert learned to ski in local meadows growing up in Massachusetts. From an early age, Seibert knew he wanted to start a ski area. Coming to Colorado to train with the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale, he fell in love with the state, like many others. He was wounded while fighting in the war, spent 17 months in the hospital and began skiing again, despite doctors’ predictions. With love for the mountains, Seibert joined other 10th veterans at Aspen, racing and working. He spent three years in Europe learning hotel management and European ski resort expectations, determined to develop a similar resort. Upon returning to Colorado, Seibert became general manager of Loveland in 1955 and explored the state, looking at potential ski areas, including Telluride. Finally, in 1957, fellow patroller Earl Eaton showed Seibert a mountain west of Vail Pass, home to sheep herds. Eaton and Seibert trekked up old logging roads until they reached the top of Vail Mountain and looked at the future Sun Up and Sun Down bowls. Vail was perfect: 100 miles from Denver, skiing terrain for all abilities on the front, treeless bowls in the back. Dick Hauserman, who dedicated his life to establishing Vail as a town and resort, was an original investor and resident. With Hauserman and others, Seibert purchased 500 acres on Vail Mountain at $125 per acre.An attorney for Vail Associates Ltd., Jack Tweedy was also part of the 10th, and trained at Camp Hale before he moved to the CIA. Tweedy “helped greatly develop Vail Associates Ltd.” and set up everything for a limited partnership.With investments, Forest Service permits and equipment, Vail opened in December of 1962 with the most ski terrain nationwide, serviced by a gondola and three chairlifts. Lift tickets were just $5.Like Aspen, Vail attracted many 10th veterans. Bob Parker, editor of Skiing magazine from 1955 to 1962, knew Seibert from the war, but quickly became involved with Vail. “[Seibert] came into my office, sat on the corner of my desk and said, ‘I’ve found the perfect resort.’ I said, ‘Oh? Where did you find that?'” So with Eaton and Seibert, Parker hiked up Vail and was “convinced that this would be the next great ski resort.”Bill “Sarge” Brown also joined Vail’s ranks. After serving in the 10th, Brown was at Dartmouth, organizing winter warfare ROTC programs, but came west. Hired as trail crew manager in 1967, Brown supervised the trail crew, and “half the time I couldn’t find them.” Brown earned his nickname as “Sarge” by setting new rules and firing lazy workers, quickly became mountain manager and “introduced all kinds of improvements to make Vail the perfect ski mountain.”Benjamin Duke also served in the 10th and moved to Colorado following the war. Serving for nearly 20 years on the board of directors of Vail Associates, Duke encouraged Vail to host the 1989 World Championships. He ensured that Vail was family-oriented, emphasized the importance of ski school, children’s programs and grooming.To continue reading about Vail’s incredible growth, look for the second part of this article next week.Sources for this story included:• David Leach’s 2005 senior thesis for Middlebury College, “The Impact of the Tenth Mountain Division on the Development of a Modern Ski Industry in Colorado and Vermont: 1930-1965.”• Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum archives & interviews with Pete Seibert, Jr. and Robert Parker.