‘Women of Vail’ serialization: An adventure ‘out West’ | VailDaily.com

‘Women of Vail’ serialization: An adventure ‘out West’

Susan Rodger
Women of Vail
Susan Rodger came to Vail in 1965 to teach skiing. She was hired by Rod Slifer, then the assistant director of the ski school.
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Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “Women of Vail,” by Elaine Kelton and Carolyn Pope. The Vail Daily is serializing the book, which is available for purchase at, the Colorado Ski Museum, Pepi’s, Gorsuch, Annie’s and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and http://www.bookwormofedwards.com.

I learned to ski near Mont Tremblant in the Laurentians where my family had a cottage. I grew up in Montreal, Canada, and came to Vail at 19, acquiring my education and job experience here. I had become certified in the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance and convinced my parents to allow me to teach skiing in Vermont. With a snowless New England winter, my then-boyfriend and I heard about this new area called Vail and came to teach skiing in January 1965. I actually hitchhiked from Vermont to New York City, boarded a Greyhound bus, and disembarked at the Vail Village Inn bus stop three days later. Of course, my parents knew nothing about it until I called them from Vail. The following autumn, my boyfriend and I married in Canada and returned to settle in Vail. We purchased the first condominium at Red Sandstone.

My first job was teaching skiing. Rod Slifer, the assistant director of the ski school, hired me in January 1965. On 200-centimeter wood Kastle slalom skis, it took me a long time to learn to ski the deep snow. Rod had nicknames for everyone — especially those Easterners on their stiff skis — and he nicknamed me “Susie Powder.” Thankfully, the name didn’t stick. I later became the first female ski school supervisor. In the summertime in those days, the choice for women was waiting tables, and men worked construction. I worked for John Kaemmer, a wonderful boss, at the Clock Tower and Pistachio’s. I also worked at the Vail Tennis Courts for Bill Wright, another terrific person and role model. At a young age, I became part of a rapidly growing community, established friendships, found interesting and rewarding work, and enjoyed the lifestyle — the things that lead a person toward putting down roots in a community. The wonderful skiing, the small-town atmosphere (everyone knew everyone else in those days), and the sense of adventure kept me here. I divorced and subsequently married Ludwig Kurz.

At age 19, I’m not sure that I had any expectations. It was an adventure to ski “out West” in Colorado.

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What started as perhaps a one-season escapade in 1965 has turned out to be home. Although I am occasionally ambivalent about the development in our valley, without that growth, I don’t think it would be the vibrant place it is — with opportunities, interesting people and all the amenities that make it such a great place to live. In those early years, the fun of wonderful skiing and being part of a successful resort company were the main attractions. It is rewarding to be involved in health care and to feel as if I am making a contribution to the community that has been a wonderful place to spend most of my life.

“Women of Vail” was produced by a team that includes Elaine Kelton and Carolyn Pope, publishers; Joanne Morgan, designer and production; and Rosalie Hill Isom, writer-editor.

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