Ski History of Vail

History of Vail

Vail is well established as a legendary resort for good reason. As its slogan goes, Vail is “like nothing on earth.” While it offers many of the most sought-after aspects in the realm of ski resorts – tried tested and true aspects that are copied because they’re the best – Vail does it in its own special style. Breaking down the slogan, we could see it as a “like no thing on earth,” as in it encourages a connection with something greater than the material world. A feeling something like communion with the divine when you’re floating on a cloud of powder making dreamlike carves, an almost out-of-body experience that the perfect combination of elements seems to facilitate. Whichever way you choose to look at Vail, it’s a damn good time. Now celebrating its 51st year, we look back at its origins, to appreciate where we are today by understanding where we’ve been. To get a better feel of where we’re heading we examine the vaunted history of Vail.

Our previous article spoke of the Ute Indians who lived in this area now called Gore Creek Valley since time immemorial. In the mid-1800s, the settlers came from the east and transformed much of the land into pastures for ranching and grazing. A new chapter of life in America had begun. With World War II came the establishment of Camp Hale – an army training center designed for alpine combat. The 10th Mountain Division consisted of superb skiers and mountaineers who went on to fight in the Alps of Northern Italy. Returning from war, the 10th became major players in the rapidly emerging ski industry, not only in Vail and Colorado but across the country – founding or working at over 50 resorts in the US. As if by the form of some existing magic that the Utes understood, the Vail region became a source of great influence and inspiration.

One such veteran of the 10th, Pete Seibert, returned to work with the Aspen Ski Patrol and as manager of Loveland Basin before teaming up with Earl Eaton to develop a new ski area at Vail Mountain, which Eaton had earlier summited. Arranging the investors to purchase the area from various ranchers and the United States Forest Service, the stage was set for the legend that was to be. And in 1962, Vail opened its runs to the public.

History of Vail

Promoted in part for its being but half the distance between Denver and Aspen, lift tickets for Vail Ski Resort were originally $5 for a gondola, two chairs, and nine ski runs. The resort’s first marketing manager guaranteed an exceptional skiing experience – a bold claim but one that was easily backed up. They had indeed created something exceptional, and throughout the 60s Vail Village expanded at an astounding rate. In 1969 the Lionshead Gondola fired up to expand the Vail Valley even further. Then to really crystallize its legendary status in the same year, President Gerald Ford visited Vail and fell in love with it, giving his stamp of approval in purchasing property here and making what would become annual trips.

The 70s and 80s saw continued development and growth, both in the Village and on the mountain. By its 25th anniversary in the 88/89 season, with the launch of China Bowl and a hot new quad chair, Vail was the largest ski area in North America. The next year’s hosting of the World Alpine Ski Championships solidified Vail in the global spotlight thus elevating it to an even higher level of world-class ski experience. In late 90s, Vail Associates purchased Breckenridge and Keystone then Blue Sky Basin, effectively making it the largest single operator in Colorado.

Fast-forward up to today and you’ll see the technology increasing exponentially and the entire ski experience being refined to perfection. You’ll see the evolution of skiing and snowboarding reaching ever new heights. You’ll see the traditional charm of the Village standing resolute throughout. You’ll see waves of people coming in expectantly and leaving blissed out and satisfied. You’ll see that it’s truly like nothing on earth. From here on into the future.

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