Winter 1962-63: Vail finally pumping with gas |

Winter 1962-63: Vail finally pumping with gas

Dick Hauserman
Daily file photoGetting infrastructure in place in Vail proved quite a challenge. Earl Eaton almost had a serious accident when a sidewall fell in on him while digging the hole for the gondola counterweight balance.

In early January 1963, just less than a month after Vail opened, it was so cold that the propane would not flow out of the tank. The situation was desperate because everyone would go under. There were two brothers from the town of Minturn, Pete and Bill Burnett, who later became involved in many aspects of Vail’s development. At that time, Pete Burnett was the manager of Gas Facilities, Inc. He said the only way you could get that propane to flow was to warm it up. Of course, that scared everybody to death.

“I remember Pete Burnett got down there underneath the propane tank with a blow torch and was actually warming the tank, trying to get the gas to flow,” Keith Brown said. “They also built some fires around it – some heaters or something. The owners of the gas company – I was one of them – were up in a secure room in The Lodge looking down, watching Pete Burnett risk his life. It worked. It got the propane flowing, and thereafter we never had such a cold spell that caused it to slow up like that. “

Keith Brown was chairman of the water and sanitation district for four or five years. Several years later, Brown sat on the board of the Public Service Company. The Caulkins group continued to own the gas facilities for several years.

“Finally the Public Service Company came to us, or maybe we went to them, and we said Rocky Mountain Gas wants to buy us and we’re going to sell to them if you’re not interested. We negotiated with them and sold the company to them, lock, stock, and barrel, for cash,” Brown recalled. “They would not do a stock trade. I worked with them and fought with them to try and do a stock swap. They would not do it. It’s obvious today that Vail Valley and the Eagle River Valley are one of the biggest profit centers in the entire Public Service Company system.”

Again, things were going Vail’s way. The problems were many, but one by one they were resolved.

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 39th installment, an excerpt from chapter 5, “Creating a Plan to Make it Work.” 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.

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