‘Women of Vail’ serialization: Where I was meant to be
Women of Vail
Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “Women of Vail,” by Elaine Kelton and Carolyn Pope. The Vail Daily is serializing the book as Vail celebrates its 50th anniversary. Books are available for purchase at http://www.bookwormofedwards.com, the Colorado Ski Museum, Pepi’s, Gorsuch, Annie’s and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
No question, what brought me to Colorado was its beauty. I didn’t even know what or where Vail was, only that I had wanted to move to Colorado ever since I came out on vacation from Kentucky with my family in the mid-’50s. When a sweet dear Kentucky man, a skier himself, I fell in love with in graduate school found out a job could be waiting for me out in Vail, he was so thrilled with the idea, that I packed my pale blue VW squareback to the brim and headed west, not realizing that I was leaving the love of my life behind. Obviously, my path was leading me where I was meant to be, somewhere other than marriage, one of the few options available for women back in the ’60s. I fell in love again, this time with the mountains.
My first memory of Vail was on a sunny day in early March of 1969. I was late for my first day of desk clerking at the Wedel Inn. The consequences of running at high altitude after having lived at sea level for two years were unknown to me. I thought my lungs were going to bust wide open. The job suited, however, thanks to Kathy and Pierre Losereit, who had become friends at a hotel job in the Bahamas while I was escaping the life of a bored, unhappy mathematics teacher in Florida.
Another memory from that first winter was when I noticed a lot of activity at the top of Bridge Street. Being as small as I was, I managed to wiggle my way to the front of the crowd lining a roped-off area at the bottom of the chairlift and watched in amazement as racers came tearing down the mountain at breakneck speeds to the deafening shouts of this throng of enthusiasts. The buzz was about someone named Jean Claude Killy. An unknown to me, it was still great fun, and the next weekend I went back for more, only to find out that it had been a special international race and would not be repeated there for years to come. Certainly, this didn’t dampen my love for Vail. Although I never became a great lover of the sport and often felt I didn’t quite fit into the bar scene, I always enjoyed hanging out and listening to Sam Stevenson sing and play guitar in the little bar behind La Cave.
My skiing days were blessed with a free pass to the mountain, thanks to my job with the Vail Trail newspaper. At one point, I had an assignment to photograph former President Gerald Ford and his entourage on the mountain, which led to one of my most embarrassing moments in this thriving little town of dirt streets and no bus station. Needless to say, my skiing was not up to par. After a face plant and much floundering in the snow, I was rescued by one of those awesome men on the Vail Ski Patrol. From then on, I was crazy about one or another of them. Never a ski instructor, always a ski patrolman.
This particular time in Vail was very significant to me. Vail Trail newspaper owner George Knox Sr. recognized my love of photography, put me in charge of the darkroom, and offered me double-paged spreads of my black and white images. So here’s to you, George Sr. With your encouragement, I was able to find my true passion in life as a photographer. With the encouragement of so many dear friends, I continued down that long-sought-after path as owner of Reflections Gallery on Gore Creek Drive.
“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.