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View from the Top

View from the Top

Features
By Jay Cowan
posted: 09/25/2002

Vail's haunting slopes, perfectly shaped for skiing and riding, have always had a magnetic, almost supernatural appeal. First it was local Earl Eaton and 10th Mountain Division veteran Pete Seibert in the spring of 1957 who climbed up from Gore Creek Valley in search of the perfect ski mountain-and found it. Next came dozens of others who were drawn in to help them build a ski resort. Almost immediately, a startling pilgrimage began of alpine faithful from all over the world. They proclaimed the word, and the word was Vail.

Sun Valley, Idaho, rightfully claims the title of America's first ski destination resort, and Aspen, Colo., remains the national media's favorite winter obsession. Vail, however, is North America's first true modern winter resort, setting a goal no less lofty than to be everything to everyone. Remarkably, it has now reigned for two generations as America's favorite, indeed, signature, ski resort. What's Vail's secret? How did it draw more than 1.6 million skiers each of the past two years?

For the answer, drop into the rolling nirvana of the Back Bowls-the endless ridges and valleys rising and falling like a cresting sea. Traverse across this immenseness and you will soon feel the almost gravitational force of these mountains. I've been coming to Vail since it opened in the winter of 1963. As a wide-eyed kid from Wyoming, I thought then it was nothing less than paradise. Even now, 40 years later, I still find myself stopping and staring in amazement at this former deserted ranchland 100 miles west of Denver. Why did Vail succeed?

Well, it's the mountains, I tell myself in short order. And lots of people agree. Newbies on the chairlifts, après yahoos in the bars. Hardcore local skiers who could live anywhere, but choose here. People in the industry, and people who run Vail. And I'm not just talking about the 5,000-plus acres of skiing stretching across a span of wild mountains larger than many Eastern counties. No, I'm including the raw grandeur of the surrounding Gore and Sawatch ranges, the intoxicating, high-altitude air, wind that smells like deserts hundreds of miles away, and the wonder that overtakes you in the midst of it all.

Austrian ski-racing great Pepi Gramshammer was lured to Vail early, opening his Gasthof Gramshammer in the heart of downtown in 1964, and later hosting his famous Pepi's Wedel Weeks. He's still here, and more committed than ever. "I've been around quite a bit, but Vail is still my favorite," he enthuses. "The snow is good, and it's a beautiful place." The Vail pioneer then pauses for effect. "And then we have the mountains," he says, which are always at the heart of any alpinist's narrow-eyed evaluation. "The Gore Range and the ski mountain, with the Back Bowls reaching for five miles. I tell you, you don't have this any other place."

I hear this from repeat visitors, from Adam Aron, CEO of Vail Resorts, who has led the resort for six years, and from Vail natives such as 40-year-old Mike Brown, who raced on the U.S. Ski Team in the 1980s and says flatly, "The mountains themselves are what have kept and will always keep me here."

What brings tourists to Vail the first time is its reputation and easy access. Vail is less than a two-hour drive west of Denver on I-70 and has direct connections to a dozen cities via nearby Eagle airport. But what brings them back are mountains that compel.

Start with America's biggest mountain. At 5,289 acres and 3,450 vertical feet, Vail is as roomy as three of its sister resorts-Keystone, Breckenridge and Beaver Creek-combined. The mountain employs 1,500 ski instructors and features 18 restaurants, more than are found in the entire nearby town of Glenwood Springs. It's that big. Just try to ski it all.

The frontside of Vail mountain is well-advertised by the come-hither, north-facing slopes cascading down to Gore Creek on classic runs such as International, Giant Steps and Riva Ridge. The latter is one of America's greatest ru, all billiard-table smooth, pitching and yawing from top to bottom, alive with history and sentiment. The trail name comes from one of the epic military campaigns of World War II, fought by the men of the 10th Mountain Division-who later built this and many other of America's ski mountains.

Vail's frontside also includes Lionshead, site of high-speed lifts like the Born Free Express quad and the huge 10-passenger Eagle Bahn gondola, built in 1996. "They're the fastest and easiest way up the mountain in the morning, even when it's crowded," says ace ski instructor Natasha Harris as we ride up the gondola on what is, indeed, a crowded spring day, yet Lionshead is mostly empty except for beginner classes.

Natasha's native tongue is a lilting version of Vail's unofficial second language-Australian-and she heads home every summer to teach, spending most of her year on snow. With her talent and charm, she could instruct anywhere where there's snow, and she picked Vail.

She and I head to Adventure Ridge, at the summit of the Eagle Bahn gondola and then to a beginner terrain park at Lionshead. We also visit other frontside features strewn across the mountain like toys at a rich kid's house: Chaos Canyon, a children's terrain-and-timber park near Mid-Vail; Hairbag Alley, a tree-choked, reaction-test drainage off the Northwoods lift; and the lavish Super Park and halfpipe on Golden Peak. When you have 5,000 acres, you have room to be creative with it.

Outside of these kiddy romper-rooms, the frontside is fairly empty these days. The reason is the hallowed Back Bowls. Anyone who has ever skied here knows that it's the all-empowering Back Bowls that really stake Vail's reputation. They helped it achieve immediate recognition and distinction from Day One, Dec. 15, 1962. Their broad, mostly treeless sweeps of ridges and gullies are as expansive and liberating as above-timberline skiing in the Alps.

I've loved the bowls since my first run as a boy. The wide-open, free-ranging sensibility. The good, steady pitch that makes the bowls' average 1,600-vertical-foot drop ski like twice that. The fact that you constantly overhear people in line making comments like, "Where the heck are we now?" and "I don't know, but isn't it great!" The languid basting of the southern exposures, where you can feel the sun's sure heat even in January, and where the smell of simmering snow and warm earth seems to always carry a hint of spring.

Even with seven of them now, the heart of the Back Bowls is still in the first ones, Sun Up and Sun Down. "I've got two runs at Vail that have always been perfect for me," says Mike Brown, who's been scouting this terrain his whole life. "Windows and Après Vous. They're in the original Back Bowls, and you've got to get up early to take advantage of them on a powder day."

I've always favored the Sun Down area myself. But lately I'm started to develop a fondness for the Genghis Khan/Jade Glade section of China Bowl and the Orient Express Lift. Natasha and I take a run deep in Mongolia Bowl with a local bootfitter named Steve Wolfe. He echoes what others have told me when I ask how they cope with liftlines that an average of 11,000 skiers per day inevitably create.

"I never stand in line," Wolfe says, almost indignantly. "You just start on Lift Five, then keep moving through the bowls to wherever the people aren't. It's like those runs over there, Red Square and Rasputin's," he points at a deserted expanse of Siberia Bowl. "They're unbelievable, and nobody's ever on them."

The recent 645-acre expansion into Blue Sky Basin has helped redistribute people around Vail's slopes. Blessed by a micro-climate that may dump up to 6 inches more snow here than elsewhere on the mountain, Blue Sky attracts skiers like a free lunch. But even with that pressure-relief valve, liftline waits can still run up to half an hour at some key Vail lifts during busy 20,000-skier weekends. In fact, Vail Resorts may institute blackout days for certain types of season passes this season to help quell the crowds. Undeniably, the biggest problem facing Vail is how to survive its own success.

In spite of many who refer reverentially to Blue Sky as lift-served backcountry, I have a hard time getting gooey about it. There are too many bumps and people to be considered backcountry, and even on showcases like Lover's Leap, there's no real teeth in the terrain.

This is one of the most common complaints. "The only problems I see at Vail are ones beyond its control," says a senior executive at a rival resort, who notes that his only serious knock against Vail is the lack of world-class, turn-or-get-hurt steeps.

On the other hand, Vail doesn't have to be defensive about its terrain. You can ski your legs into silly-putty on tough, testing runs all over the mountain. Former head coach and alpine director for the U.S. Ski Team John McMurtry lives in Vail now and says, "There's challenging skiing everywhere. Runs like Prima Cornice, Rasputin's and Mudslide will get anyone's attention." Then he adds sagely, "But I don't think that's really why most people come here."

Indeed. This may be one of the fundamental keys to Vail's success. It gives skiers what they want: And they don't want to be scared. Any strong skier can be turned loose on Vail Mountain and he isn't going to get himself into too much trouble. You can't say that about Jackson Hole, for instance, which has expanded its moderate terrain in the past few years to boost business.Vail backs up its family-loving terrain with what other resorts clamber to duplicate: creative, well-designed family activities. That's why mountaintop Adventure Ridge has been such a smash, with its thrill sleds, outdoor skating rink, tubing hill, Forest Service discovery center and kid-size miniature snowmobiles, among other attractions.

After two headlamp-lit forays on ski-bikes down the lighted slopes of Lionshead with a group of wild South Americans and several locals, I'm hooked. With minimal distraction from actual instruction, we're soon able to blow down bumps and through twisting tree-trails with Jedi-like skill. I head to dinner afterward at the Blue Moon Saloon at the top of the gondola feeling thoroughly, if somewhat guiltily, entertained.The top of the gondola is also the departure point for snowcat rides to the luxe Game Creek Restaurant, which is only open to the public for dinner.

In recent years, Vail seems to be growing in opposite directions: catering to a gilded clientele with more exclusionary offerings, such as private on-mountain clubs, while also pushing discount lift-ticket prices to attract the day-skiing masses.

Naturally, it's the private and pricey aspect of Vail that's increasingly being played up in the media, whether it's the on-mountain clubs, the $1,000-per-square-foot mansions or the $650-per-night hotels. There is truth to this angle, of course, with supporting evidence such as the $14.3 million home sold near Golden Peak a few years back, and that the gross domestic product of Eagle County was estimated by Vail Magazine to be $4.5 billion, or more than 69 countries in the world.

But this focus on money is also part of the tendency over the years to disregard Vail as a real community. It's easy to dismiss the place as Disney on snow, a purpose-built resort with no there, there. I've done it for years. Colorado skiers, who traditionally make up around 30 percent of Vail's market, can drive to the resort, park, sprint to the mountain, ski themselves senseless and bolt home without ever regarding the village they traverse. Vail's out-of-state visitors come from Texas, Florida, California, Europe and South America, and they hunker down in the theme-parkishness of it all and often never see the community for the piano bars, the boutiques and the hip eateries. And why should they?

It's not their job to appreciate the hardworking, long-denied spirit of a small town that Vail has hart days for certain types of season passes this season to help quell the crowds. Undeniably, the biggest problem facing Vail is how to survive its own success.

In spite of many who refer reverentially to Blue Sky as lift-served backcountry, I have a hard time getting gooey about it. There are too many bumps and people to be considered backcountry, and even on showcases like Lover's Leap, there's no real teeth in the terrain.

This is one of the most common complaints. "The only problems I see at Vail are ones beyond its control," says a senior executive at a rival resort, who notes that his only serious knock against Vail is the lack of world-class, turn-or-get-hurt steeps.

On the other hand, Vail doesn't have to be defensive about its terrain. You can ski your legs into silly-putty on tough, testing runs all over the mountain. Former head coach and alpine director for the U.S. Ski Team John McMurtry lives in Vail now and says, "There's challenging skiing everywhere. Runs like Prima Cornice, Rasputin's and Mudslide will get anyone's attention." Then he adds sagely, "But I don't think that's really why most people come here."

Indeed. This may be one of the fundamental keys to Vail's success. It gives skiers what they want: And they don't want to be scared. Any strong skier can be turned loose on Vail Mountain and he isn't going to get himself into too much trouble. You can't say that about Jackson Hole, for instance, which has expanded its moderate terrain in the past few years to boost business.Vail backs up its family-loving terrain with what other resorts clamber to duplicate: creative, well-designed family activities. That's why mountaintop Adventure Ridge has been such a smash, with its thrill sleds, outdoor skating rink, tubing hill, Forest Service discovery center and kid-size miniature snowmobiles, among other attractions.

After two headlamp-lit forays on ski-bikes down the lighted slopes of Lionshead with a group of wild South Americans and several locals, I'm hooked. With minimal distraction from actual instruction, we're soon able to blow down bumps and through twisting tree-trails with Jedi-like skill. I head to dinner afterward at the Blue Moon Saloon at the top of the gondola feeling thoroughly, if somewhat guiltily, entertained.The top of the gondola is also the departure point for snowcat rides to the luxe Game Creek Restaurant, which is only open to the public for dinner.

In recent years, Vail seems to be growing in opposite directions: catering to a gilded clientele with more exclusionary offerings, such as private on-mountain clubs, while also pushing discount lift-ticket prices to attract the day-skiing masses.

Naturally, it's the private and pricey aspect of Vail that's increasingly being played up in the media, whether it's the on-mountain clubs, the $1,000-per-square-foot mansions or the $650-per-night hotels. There is truth to this angle, of course, with supporting evidence such as the $14.3 million home sold near Golden Peak a few years back, and that the gross domestic product of Eagle County was estimated by Vail Magazine to be $4.5 billion, or more than 69 countries in the world.

But this focus on money is also part of the tendency over the years to disregard Vail as a real community. It's easy to dismiss the place as Disney on snow, a purpose-built resort with no there, there. I've done it for years. Colorado skiers, who traditionally make up around 30 percent of Vail's market, can drive to the resort, park, sprint to the mountain, ski themselves senseless and bolt home without ever regarding the village they traverse. Vail's out-of-state visitors come from Texas, Florida, California, Europe and South America, and they hunker down in the theme-parkishness of it all and often never see the community for the piano bars, the boutiques and the hip eateries. And why should they?

It's not their job to appreciate the hardworking, long-denied spirit of a small town that Vail has harbored since Pete Seibert dragged a few trailers to the mountain's base to house his fledgling company. The fact that the "Vail community" now extends many miles down the valley to neighboring towns such as Edwards and Eagle shouldn't be reason to cavalierly dismiss the true soul of this place.

"You get to live in Never-Never Land, but it's also a community that has a lot of pride," says Bill Jensen, Vail's chief operating officer. "The reality is that you're a small town, and you get to hang onto a slice of Americana that disappeared a generation ago in most of the country. It makes a difference in your quality of life."

Mike Brown's parents moved from Denver to Vail when it first opened in the early 1960s. His father sold real estate (harder then than it sounds now) and helped start Ski Club Vail. His mother has worked with numerous community organizations. In those days, everyone in the community skied, and everyone skied just about every day. Vail was like a private mountain.

Mike fondly recalls growing up here, when the residents felt like they were working toward an important goal: building a town and a ski area. "The single greatest thing I value is that we felt so alive and aware, and we all had the same sense that we were part of something great," says Brown. A lot of that still holds today.

You cross over Gore Creek on Vail's famous covered bridges into another world. The streets meander as though built pre-automobile, and, indeed, the entire core of Vail is pedestrian-only. Warm, stucco-and-wood, Heidi-goes-American buildings rise densely on every side. The cobbled streets are punctuated with sculpture gardens, benches and views of Gore Creek.

The welcome diversity of forms within Vail's faux-Bavarian format run the gamut from seven-story timber-frame lodges to the Tyrolean Tudor of the ritzy Sonnenalp. Landmarks like the old, low-slung Red Lion restaurant, the original stucco clock tower, Dave and Renee Gorsuch's elegant sport shop, and Pepi Gramshammer's curry-yellow restaurant and lodge help ground the community, even among the twinkling lights of America's No. 1 resort.

But it's the people themselves, the Gorsuches, the Gramshammers, Mike Brown, Bill Jensen, Natasha Harris, Steve Wolfe and about 4,500 others, who represent what's best about the "Vail experience." The character of the place, the vibrant enthusiasm, radiates from just about everyone who lives here, and, remarkably, even from those who work here and commute up and down the valley. Vail, of course, features an endless litany of amenities: sinful spas, galleries galore, an array of fine dining that shames nearby Denver, plus hard-partying après spots, nightclubs and bars, and a level of shopping that's stunning to all but the most hardened consumer. But for a look into the heart of the community, I stop by the much-loved public library fronting tall pines and Gore Creek.

Director Annie Fox tells me that it gets a city-scale 140,000 visits per year, and I see locals, employees and tourists alike utilizing it all. It's a happy melding of the key components-the curiosity, friendliness, innovation and spirit-that create the Vail story.

The community has many institutions that you may never need as a visitor, including a fire station, a town hall and the hospital where Mike Brown's sister was one of the first births. There's a feeling among many residents, however, that it says something about a town's avoidance of reality that all these years later Vail still doesn't have a cemetery. You can be born in Vail, live a full life and even die here. But you cannot be buried here because, in essence, the land is too valuable to parcel it out to the dead.

Ultimately, this is just part of the business end of being Vail, where commerce still sometimes trumps community. It's that way because the community wants it that way-and always has. And even though Vail has its share of the problems of any modern resort, including thorny housing, transporrtation and parking issues, most locals are stubbornly loath to air differences in public (unlike an Aspen or Sun Valley, where they thrive on discord) because it's not good for business. And they have always felt that their best interests remain in working as closely as possible with the biggest business in town: Vail Resorts.

The reach of Vail Resorts, Inc., (VRI) now extends beyond the Vail Valley to include its sister resorts of Breckenridge and Keystone, a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Florida, and Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming, among other holdings. Shortly after laying off 37 middle-management employees in 2001, publicly traded VRI bought the Vail Marriott Hotel for $50 million. Then Vail Resorts, adding to its empire, purchased Heavenly Ski Resort in California for about $100 million.

For now, CEO Aron downplays (though does not rule out) any immediate plans for additional acquisitions and insists VRI will focus on the long-delayed $400 million redevelopment of the aging Lionshead base area, as well as upgrades and renovation of Vail Village itself. This is welcomed locally, where it's hoped that the much-needed renovations will sell as well as the steady diet of "big" news (big terrain expansions, big lift additions, big restaurants, big price cuts) with which Vail has been wooing customers for decades.

While success can be fleeting at best, it seems likely that what works for the Vail community and for VRI's stock price will remain equal parts of the fabled Vail formula. Which in the end throws the mystery of Vail's ascent back to where we started. As Pete Seibert told me just a few weeks before his death this summer, "People have been coming here for a long time now, and they keep coming back, so whatever we're doing it must be working." Seibert recently wrote a book about his life and the creation of Vail. Triumph of a Dream is what Vail has been, not just for Seibert, but for nearly everyone who's ever lived here-or wished they did.

Shortly before he died, Seibert started working on a book about the men who returned from the 10th Mountain Division in World War II and helped start the American ski industry. The name of that book describes why these pioneers were driven to build ski areas, as well as why the rest of us ski. And, 40 years later, why Vail continues to magically attract people. The book is called simply, For a Love of the Mountains. ed since Pete Seibert dragged a few trailers to the mountain's base to house his fledgling company. The fact that the "Vail community" now extends many miles down the valley to neighboring towns such as Edwards and Eagle shouldn't be reason to cavalierly dismiss the true soul of this place.

"You get to live in Never-Never Land, but it's also a community that has a lot of pride," says Bill Jensen, Vail's chief operating officer. "The reality is that you're a small town, and you get to hang onto a slice of Americana that disappeared a generation ago in most of the country. It makes a difference in your quality of life."

Mike Brown's parents moved from Denver to Vail when it first opened in the early 1960s. His father sold real estate (harder then than it sounds now) and helped start Ski Club Vail. His mother has worked with numerous community organizations. In those days, everyone in the community skied, and everyone skied just about every day. Vail was like a private mountain.

Mike fondly recalls growing up here, when the residents felt like they were working toward an important goal: building a town and a ski area. "The single greatest thing I value is that we felt so alive and aware, and we all had the same sense that we were part of something great," says Brown. A lot of that still holds today.

You cross over Gore Creek on Vail's famous covered bridges into another world. The streets meander as though built pre-automobile, and, indeed, the entire core of Vail is pedestrian-only. Warm, stucco-and-wood, Heidi-goes-American buildings rise densely on every side. The cobbled streets are punctuated with sculpture gardens, benches and views of Gore Creek.

The welcome diversity of forms within Vail's faux-Bavarian format run the gamut from seven-story timber-frame lodges to the Tyrolean Tudor of the ritzy Sonnenalp. Landmarks like the old, low-slung Red Lion restaurant, the original stucco clock tower, Dave and Renee Gorsuch's elegant sport shop, and Pepi Gramshammer's curry-yellow restaurant and lodge help ground the community, even among the twinkling lights of America's No. 1 resort.

But it's the people themselves, the Gorsuches, the Gramshammers, Mike Brown, Bill Jensen, Natasha Harris, Steve Wolfe and about 4,500 others, who represent what's best about the "Vail experience." The character of the place, the vibrant enthusiasm, radiates from just about everyone who lives here, and, remarkably, even from those who work here and commute up and down the valley. Vail, of course, features an endless litany of amenities: sinful spas, galleries galore, an array of fine dining that shames nearby Denver, plus hard-partying après spots, nightclubs and bars, and a level of shopping that's stunning to all but the most hardened consumer. But for a look into the heart of the community, I stop by the much-loved public library fronting tall pines and Gore Creek.

Director Annie Fox tells me that it gets a city-scale 140,000 visits per year, and I see locals, employees and tourists alike utilizing it all. It's a happy melding of the key components-the curiosity, friendliness, innovation and spirit-that create the Vail story.

The community has many institutions that you may never need as a visitor, including a fire station, a town hall and the hospital where Mike Brown's sister was one of the first births. There's a feeling among many residents, however, that it says something about a town's avoidance of reality that all these years later Vail still doesn't have a cemetery. You can be born in Vail, live a full life and even die here. But you cannot be buried here because, in essence, the land is too valuable to parcel it out to the dead.

Ultimately, this is just part of the business end of being Vail, where commerce still sometimes trumps community. It's that way because the community wants it that way-and always has. And even though Vail has its share of the problems of any modern resort, including thorny housing, transportation and parking issues, most locals are stubbornly loath to air differences in public (unlike an Aspen or Sun Valley, where they thrive on discord) because it's not good for business. And they have always felt that their best interests remain in working as closely as possible with the biggest business in town: Vail Resorts.

The reach of Vail Resorts, Inc., (VRI) now extends beyond the Vail Valley to include its sister resorts of Breckenridge and Keystone, a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Florida, and Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming, among other holdings. Shortly after laying off 37 middle-management employees in 2001, publicly traded VRI bought the Vail Marriott Hotel for $50 million. Then Vail Resorts, adding to its empire, purchased Heavenly Ski Resort in California for about $100 million.

For now, CEO Aron downplays (though does not rule out) any immediate plans for additional acquisitions and insists VRI will focus on the long-delayed $400 million redevelopment of the aging Lionshead base area, as well as upgrades and renovation of Vail Village itself. This is welcomed locally, where it's hoped that the much-needed renovations will sell as well as the steady diet of "big" news (big terrain expansions, big lift additions, big restaurants, big price cuts) with which Vail has been wooing customers for decades.

While success can be fleeting at best, it seems likely that what works for the Vail community and for VRI's stock price will remain equal parts of the fabled Vail formula. Which in the end throws the mystery of Vail's ascent back to where we started. As Pete Seibert told me just a few weeks before his death this summer, "People have been coming here for a long time now, and they keep coming back, so whatever we're doing it must be working." Seibert recently wrote a book about his life and the creation of Vail. Triumph of a Dream is what Vail has been, not just for Seibert, but for nearly everyone who's ever lived here-or wished they did.

Shortly before he died, Seibert started working on a book about the men who returned from the 10th Mountain Division in World War II and helped start the American ski industry. The name of that book describes why these pioneers were driven to build ski areas, as well as why the rest of us ski. And, 40 years later, why Vail continues to magically attract people. The book is called simply, For a Love of the Mountains. transportation and parking issues, most locals are stubbornly loath to air differences in public (unlike an Aspen or Sun Valley, where they thrive on discord) because it's not good for business. And they have always felt that their best interests remain in working as closely as possible with the biggest business in town: Vail Resorts.

The reach of Vail Resorts, Inc., (VRI) now extends beyond the Vail Valley to include its sister resorts of Breckenridge and Keystone, a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Florida, and Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming, among other holdings. Shortly after laying off 37 middle-management employees in 2001, publicly traded VRI bought the Vail Marriott Hotel for $50 million. Then Vail Resorts, adding to its empire, purchased Heavenly Ski Resort in California for about $100 million.

For now, CEO Aron downplays (though does not rule out) any immediate plans for additional acquisitions and insists VRI will focus on the long-delayed $400 million redevelopment of the aging Lionshead base area, as well as upgrades and renovation of Vail Village itself. This is welcomed locally, where it's hoped that the much-needed renovations will sell as well as the steady diet of "big" news (big terrain expansions, big lift additions, big restaurants, big price cuts) with which Vail has been wooing customers for decades.

While success can be fleeting at best, it seems likely that what works for the Vail community and for VRI's stock price will remain equal parts of the fabled Vail formula. Which in the end throws the mystery of Vail's ascent back to where we started. As Pete Seibert told me just a few weeks before his death this summer, "People have been coming here for a long time now, and they keep coming back, so whatever we're doing it must be working." Seibert recently wrote a book about his life and the creation of Vail. Triumph of a Dream is what Vail has been, not just for Seibert, but for nearly everyone who's ever lived here-or wished they did.

Shortly before he died, Seibert started working on a book about the men who returned from the 10th Mountain Division in World War II and helped start the American ski industry. The name of that book describes why these pioneers were driven to build ski areas, as well as why the rest of us ski. And, 40 years later, why Vail continues to magically attract people. The book is called simply, For a Love of the Mountains.

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