CElebrating Pete & EArl's pioneering spirit

Vail Founder's Day

“It was an hour before morning light on Tuesday, March 19, 1957 When Earl Eaton & I packed up my army-surplus Jeep on the snowy shoulder of U.S. Highway 6 and prepared to climb a mountain that had no name.” Pete Siebert reminisces in his book “Triumph of a Dream.”

March 19, 1957

Although the resort didn’t officially open until December of 1962, this was truly the day that Vail was founded. This hike would spark a partnership and a business venture that would see its millionth skier visit just 11 years later and bring life and community into beautiful Eagle County in which the population now sits comfortably at 50,000.

Their route began on Mill Creek Road, a logging road on the east side of the mountain in present day Golden Peak. Traveling through deep snow and steep terrain, they took turns breaking trail. They traversed dense lodgepole pine forests and discovered a north-south running ridge where iconic runs like Prima and Riva Ridge would later be cut. Then, the pioneering pair reached Mid-Vail for the first time ever.

In his book, Pete waxes poetic about the experience:

“It was a moment of pure bliss. Everything sparkled in the sun. I envisioned a line of skiers charging down through the virgin powder, making braided tracks and kicking up rooster tails of snow as they swooshed past and and disappeared into the woods, doing quick turns through the trees. Across the valley we could see the Gore Range, mile after mile of great peaks of rock and snow.”

“My god, we’ve climbed all the way to heaven.” He said to Earl.

“It gets better Pete.”

Throughout the journey, they were not only monitoring the scenic appeal of the mountain but also snow quality, which they found to be impeccable, and evidence of disruptive wind patterns which there was none.

Pete and Earl were already sold, but had yet to the reach the crescendo of their journey. Beyond Mid-Vail they climbed higher to Eagle’s Nest Ridge, where Chair #2 sits today under panoramic views of The Gore Range to the North, and the Sawatch Range and the iconic Mount of the Holy Cross to the South.

The ultimate discovery for the pair is the point now known as Ptarmigan Ridge. It sits on the western side of Sun Down bowl, and provides panoramic views into the surrounding Back Bowls, and what would eventually be established as Blue Sky Basin years later. Pete and Earl were astounded by the vast, treeless bowls with boundless powder laid out in front of them. The view seemed infinite.

The decision had been made on this hike. This would be the place. From beginners to experts, the mountain seemed to offer something for everyone. After some time spent at Ptarmigan Ridge, Pete and Earl removed their climbing skins and took what is likely the first downhill run ever on Vail Mountain.

Pete, on returning to the bottom of the mountain that day: “I looked back up, and there was no sign that such a vast treasure lay in hiding up there. But I had seen it, and I was already beginning to construct in my mind the most beautiful ski resort in the world.”