Vail’s early years spurred many a success story
For years I had been the unofficial dog-catcher, operating sans salary or budget. When stray dogs appeared in town, I simply locked them up and charged their owners for room and board. Obviously, this couldn’t continue forever.
So Vail Associates hired a city manager, Blake Lynch, to take the necessary steps to form an incorporated town. Our goal was to create a partnership with the community based on goodwill and common interests, a relationship that would stand the test of time. I think we have succeeded wonderfully.
Compared to some other Colorado resorts, where the resort company and the elected town officials are often at loggerheads, the relationship in Vail has mostly been one of cooperation and mutual respect.
In 1966, the town of Vail came into being, with a mayor and a Town Council. Our first mayor was Ted Kindel, who had taken a leadership role in the community almost as soon as he arrived. He and his wife, Nancy, built one of the earliest lodges, and he served as both fire chief and on the board of the first school.
The second mayor was John Dobson, who served from 1966 to 1976. When he and his wife, Cissy, arrived in Vail in the early 1960s, they had opened a general store on Bridge Street. It was the first store in the village to carry hard-to-find items, like men’s and women’s underwear, and was an instant hit.
A Vermonter by birth, Dobson also built Vail’s famed Covered Bridge. And when people began complaining about Vail’s various troubles, he delivered the best line ever:
“Vail has problems other towns would pay to have.”
Dobson was also an aspiring playwright, who served his muse by writing long melodramas under the nom de plume Gregory Beresford Skeffington. His characters usually bore remarkable similarities to local people.
In the 1960s, it was common for ski resorts to hire famous ex-racers to run the ski school. Our choice was Roger Staub, a Swiss skier who had won the gold medal in giant slalom at the 1960 Winter Olympics.
A great athlete as well as a charismatic host at apres-ski parties, Staub became a Vail icon, appearing in thousands of photographs and dozens of films wearing his signature white hat. He and a fellow-Swiss skier, Art Furrer, plus American freestyle pioneer Tom LeRoi, did flips in Vail’s early promotional films, setting the stage for the birth of freestyle skiing in the 1970s. Vail went on to host many of those early freestyle events, further bolstering our image as a “happening” place.
Dramatic individual success stories also bloomed like wildflowers in that early time. For example, there was Gerald Gallegos, a native of Minturn, who started working during the summer of 1968, a high-school student turned stonemason with one old wheelbarrow and a rusty concrete maker. He was such a quick and careful worker, however, that he was able to start his own business in 1970, specializing in small jobs, particularly fireplaces. He then founded Gallegos Masonry, Inc., and the number of employees grew to 20, then 100. Today Gallegos has 400 people working for him, with branch offices in Aspen, Telluride, and Sun Valley.
Editor’s note: This is the 49th 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 10, entitled “The Glory Years: 1963-1976.” The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.