Who was Charley Vail?
Vail, however, started with little more than a beautiful valley and an idea in the minds of a few people. On the one hand, it was the answer to that dream everyone has – “I can start from scratch and do it right!” On the other hand, it was a monster, a giant puzzle where one missing piece could cause a chain reaction that would collapse the whole.
Fortunately, the inventors were all highly motivated. For them, Vail probably wouldn’t have been as much fun without the crises that popped up almost every day. It was a simple choice much of the time – either laugh or cry. We laughed mostly and corrected our mistakes as we went along.
There are two major points to consider in building a ski resort from scratch: first, a great mountain on which to ski, and second, private land at the bottom of the slopes where a town can be built. As one of the original investors put it, “I was part of a group who bought 550 acres for $55,000. We designed a town, put in some lifts, and after thinking about it, called it Vail.” It sounds simple, but it wasn’t.
Many people know the story about how Vail came to be in 1962. What they don’t know are the stories of the men and women behind the scenes – the characters without whom this world-class ski resort would not have been created. It was developed in what was then a pristine valley 14 miles west of the summit of Vail Pass – hence the name – and many miles from any other place that appeared on maps.
Several names were considered for the resort. “Vail” was chosen because the name was short, it was easy to remember, and it had a nice ring to it. And Vail Pass was on the road maps. It was named after Charley Vail, a Colorado state highway engineer. He built the dirt road over the pass in 1940.
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Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the fifth installment, an excerpt from chapter 1, “Before Vail.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.