Howard: Celebrating the spirit of the Fourth of July all year long

As I reflect on this month’s Fourth of July and the Vail America Days celebration, it was one of the most vibrant days of summer, filled with smiling faces, a festive parade, patriotic music and energetic fireworks. The Patriotic Concert at the Ford Amphitheater, supporting the Vail Veterans Program, left everyone feeling grateful to call this land home while honoring those who have served and sacrificed for our freedoms.

This celebration always leaves me reflecting for some time afterward about what it means to lead Vail Mountain, founded by veterans of The 10th Mountain Division who fought in World War II.

My first reflection is feeling humbled as I recognize the special honor it is to lead this mountain, carrying forward Pete Seibert’s legacy and the story of his band of brothers. Without their tireless training at Camp Hale, heroism on the European battlefields, and vision for American skiing after returning home from war, Vail — and many ski areas across the country — wouldn’t exist. American skiing and snowboarding, and the story of Vail, are intrinsically linked to these soldiers and their courage.

I had the honor to meet Pete during my early career with Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek Resort. Pete’s lasting impression on me was one of excellence. Because of this, I often think about what excellence means to me: to deliver excellence in all we do as leaders, as a community, and as a mountain operation.

I sensed excellence was core to Pete as an individual, through the wisdom he shared and his vision of Vail.  Excellence was also core to what made the 10th Mountain Division successful on the battlefield, like the decisive Battle of Riva Ridge in the Italian Apennines after which our signature run is named.

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I expect my version of excellence to be very different than Pete’s excellence on the battlefields of Europe. But the excellence I strive for comes from the lasting mark Pete left on me. It has shaped how I lead Vail Mountain, and it has shaped Vail’s leadership in the industry. For those of us who lead in this community, we know we have big shoes to fill and an honor to uphold. It’s also our duty to make sure Pete’s legacy, and the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division, live into the future.

So, I encourage you to learn more about the 10th Mountain Division and reflect on how connected Vail is to its legacy. I encourage you to visit the Colorado Snowsports Museum or the 10th Mountain statue here in town. I hope you consider a trip to the nearby Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, where these soldiers trained. When you are here in the winter, I encourage you to swing by our Legacy Stops across the mountain and learn about why Riva Ridge has its name. Or visit the Legacy Hut which tells the story of Vail and the 10th Mountain Division and, of course, enjoy our Legacy Parades.

Everywhere you look, we’re honoring Pete and those with whom he served. From Check Point Charlie in Vail Village to The 10th up on Vail Mountain, our community is committed to making sure we stay connected to this heritage. More personally, I’m committed to carrying forward Pete’s vision for excellence — and I’m grateful that our community is united in that same commitment.

Beth Howard is vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.

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