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History of Vail

Vail's 50th Anniversary is a celebration of all who have traveled here and contributed to what Vail is today. Whether you traveled here to ski in the 1970's, stopped by to hike and mountain bike in the 1990's, worked a winter in the 1980's, or have been spending family holidays at one of our luxuriousVail hotels every year since the resort was founded, we want this celebration to have something for you! See the Vail 50th Anniversary Event page for updates and timelines of events

History of Vail Video Series
This series of videos chronicles the story of Vail as told by the founders themselves. Starting with the early years and leading up to the present, these videos will show the amazing story of hard work and dedication that went into founding Vail 50 years ago. Stay tuned throughout the 50th season as we release new segments.

The Early Years: Founders Pete Siebert and Earl Eaton along with other talk about the Vail Valley pre-development
1962-1973: Vail came together through hard work starting in the summer of 1962
Freestyle skiing in the 1960's and 1970's at Vail

The Ute Indians first inhabited the Gore Creek Valley long before settlers moved west. The valley offered a summer home for the Utes, spending winters in the more arid lands of Western Colorado. The Utes called the majestic peaks of the Gore Range that overlook the valley “The Shining Mountains.”  Settlers moved west into the Gore Creek Valley in the mid 1800's, turning the area into ranching and grazing land.

During World War II the United States Army created a training center south of the valley called Camp Hale. The 10th Mountain Division trained for alpine combat at Camp Hale. Made up of excellent skiers and mountaineers, the 10th fought in mountainous northern Italy and upon return, they became major players in the quickly growing ski industry founding or working at over 50 resorts in the US. 

One veteran of the 10th Mountain Division, Pete Seibert, returned to Colorado after the war to return to 
skiing and became a member of the Aspen Ski Patrol, Aspen Ski School and eventually the manager of Loveland Basin Ski Area. While at Loveland, Pete and Earl Eaton began looking to develop another ski area in the Rocky Mountain region. 

Earl Eaton grew up in Colorado and began skiing at a young age. By 1940, Eaton was working for the CCC in Glenwood Springs and ski racing in Aspen where he met Pete Seibert. Seibert and Eaton first climbed 
Vail Mountain during the winter of 1957. Both agreed that this would be the perfect ski area!

Vail Mountain was property of The United States Forest Service (USFS) and local ranchers owned the surrounding valley. To get the ski area rolling, Seibert and Eaton needed something that neither of them had, money. Seibert proved to be adept at securing investors, which was a good thing becuase in order to obtain a permit from the USFS Vail needed to have $1,000,000 in the bank. Initial investors paid 
$10,000 for a condo unit and lifetime season pass!

Vail’s opening day was set for December 15, 1962. During the summer of 1962, construction crews 
built a Bell gondola from Vail Village to Mid Vail, two chairlifts, many condos, and base facilities. Winter in Colorado started off mildly that year, allowing for work to continue late into the fall. 

Unfortunately, the warm winter continued into December producing marginal conditions for opening day. The first year, ticket prices were set at five dollars for a skiing experience that consisted of one gondola, two chairs, eight ski instructors, and nine ski runs. One of Vail’s biggest assets was it was only half the driving distance from Denver to Aspen. 

That year, Bob Parker became the new marketing manager of Vail. Parker's objective was to put Vail on the national map, stating that skiers were guaranteed to have a exceptional ski experience. At the ski area, Sarge Brown headed operations. Sarge's influence on trail cutting and grooming created what Vail is today. 

During the 1960’s, Vail Village grew at an incredible rate. During the 1968-69 season, Bell Gondola installed the Lionshead Gondola, a six-cabin tramway for the newly developed Lionshead Base. That same year, President Gerald Ford first traveled to Vail. The President was so impressed that he began to make annual trips, purchasing property at Vail. 

The 1970’s brought more construction to Vail. Vail Associates erected new trails and lifts, while the town constructed a transit system, library, ice arena, and parking structures. 

Denver won the Olympic bid in 1976 for the Winter Games. Vail was selected, along with the Beaver Creek site to host the downhill events. Denver voters rejected the games, which upset many in the ski industry. 

During the summer of 1985, Vail hired Doppelmayr USA to install four high-speed quad chairs including the Vista Bahn, Mountain Top, Northwoods, and Game Creek lifts.  Armed with the newest lifts, back bowls, and excellent customer service, Vail continued to set a pace for investing in an excellent ski experience.

Vail celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1988-1989. The China Bowl opened this same year with a new quad chair, making Vail the largest ski area in North America. The next season, Vail/Beaver Creek hosted the World Alpine Ski Championships, which placed Vail in the world media’s spotlight

In January of 1997, Vail Associates announced the purchase of Keystone and Breckenridge. With four ski areas, Vail Resorts became the largest single operator in Colorado’s ski industry. That same season, work began to replace the old gondola at Lionshead with a new 12-passenger system, the Eagle Bahn Gondola that is in operation today. 

Blue Sky Basin was Vail Resort’s next major project at Vail. Vail Resorts obtained permission by the 
USFS to install three new high-speed quads for the 1999-00 season. During October of 1998, fire alarms sounded at Two Elk Lodge and Patrol Headquarters. Firefighters arrived to see the wooden Two Elk Lodge engulfed in flames. The arson fires baffled investigators, who eventually learned that a radical environmental group took credit. The following summer, construction of the Blue Sky Basin expansion continued and the chairlifts were built by Poma USA out of Grand Junction, Colorado. During the same summer, Two Elk Lodge and Patrol Headquarters were rebuilt. 

Vail and Beaver Creek again hosted the World Alpine Ski Racing Championships in 1999, continuing the dedication to the sport of ski racing.

In January of 2000, Blue Sky Basin opened to the public offering some of the most popular terrain at Vail today. Work began in the summer of 2000 on another high-speed quad in Pete’s Bowl, directly to the northeast of Blue Sky Basin’s Skyline Express lift. In 2004, the original Lionshead skier bridge was replaced and work began on the redevelopment of Arrabelle and Lionshead, a multi year project including new condos, an ice rink, and many new stores and restaurants.

In 2008, Chair 10 was replaced with a high speed quad, Highline Express, acessing some of the best mogul terrain at Vail. The original Chair 5 was replaced in 2010 with the High Noon Express quad. 2011 brought the new 10th Restaurant at Mid Vail, and work has begun already on the new Vail Village Gondola (to be named) to replace the Vista Bahn!


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