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Vail celebrates its 50th
Tuesday January 15, 2013 - Email this article to a friend

The Colorado resort has reached the ripe old age of 50. If you like old black and white photos and your historical facts then read on... Happy Birthday Vail.

It officially turned 50 on December 15th with a big party and the resort's present to itself was a new state-of-the-art gondola.

Complete with heated seats and WiFi.

We have just been looking back at a few old photos of the resort and thought we'd share them with you.

Vail as it wasVail as it was














The old gondolaThe old gondola

















Vail villageVail village














Pete SeibertPete Seibert

















While if you like your historical facts then check out a timeline of significant events in the history of the resort.


Vail Mountain celebrated its 50th anniversary on Dec. 15.

Vail opened a new gondola in Vail Village on Nov. 15, the night before opening day of the season, complete with heated seats and Wi-Fi access. It replaced the Vista Bahn Express Lift (#16), which in turn replaced Vail's original gondola.


The 10th, a new table-service restaurant named in honor of Vail's founders and the 10th Mountain Division, opens in the Mid-Vail area on Dec. 1.

The America Cup International Fly Fishing event is held in Vail in September. More than 2,100 fish are caught during a catch and release fly-fishing tournament by more than 70 anglers from around the globe.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the most challenging 518 mile bike race ever held on American soil, makes a stop in Vail for a 10-mile 1,783-foot climb up Vail Pass. American Levi wins the Vail time trials and the overall race.


A new high-speed quad, the High Noon Express Lift (#5), opens on Dec. 10, replacing the fixed-grip triple High Noon Lift, increasing uphill capacity and cutting ride time nearly in half for access out of Vail's legendary Sun Down and Sun Up bowls.

The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Vail open in September within walking distance of Lionshead's shopping, dining and the Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19).


Ski & Snowboard Club Vail funds a new automated snowmaking system on Golden Peak allowing World and Olympic Alpine ski racing champion Lindsey Vonn, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and athletes from around the world to train in Vail beginning Nov. 3, earlier than ever before.

In August, Vail Resorts announces a four-year sponsorship agreement with Alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn, who would go on to become one of the most decorated athletes of her time.

Vonn moved to Vail in the late 1990s and spent her formative years training with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.


Vail's Front Door Project in Vail Village is completed with Mountain Plaza offering new skier service amenities just steps from the Vista Bahn Express Lift (#16) including quick service food and beverage outlet Express Lift, a public gathering place and ski storage, rental and retail outlet, a Vail Ski & Snowboard School office and lift tickets.

The RockResorts Spa at The Lodge at Vail also debuts alongside the private Vail Mountain Club and Chalets at The Lodge at Vail.

The Arrabelle at Vail Square, A RockResort debuts in January, just steps from the Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19) in Lionshead. The property signified a major step in Vail's renaissance efforts and dramatically transformed Lionshead.


Two new high-speed quad lifts - the Highline Express Lift (#10) and Sourdough Express Lift (#14) - open on the eastern side of Vail Mountain on Dec. 8 for the resort's 45th season.

Both lifts cut ride times in half and increase uphill capacity to more than 57,800 people per minute and dramatically improve the experience in popular expert and beginner areas respectively.


The first Gourmet on Gore is held in Vail Village, featuring open-air tasting of food, wine, beer and spirits.

Vail Resorts chooses wind power for 100% of company electricity use in August and becomes the second largest corporate wind power purchaser in the U.S.

Vail Mountain becomes the official 2006 studio headquarters for MTV Networks Music Group's HDTV channel, MHD.


Work begins in May on The Arrabelle at Vail Square in Lionshead and surrounding dining, retail and public amenities, replacing the old gondola building and Sunbird Lodge and Sundance Saloon.


The redevelopment of Lionshead and Vail's New Dawn begins in April with the replacement of the 30 year old skier bridge, which carries guests from the mountain to the Lionshead base area.


The Town of Vail and community celebrate the completion of the John F. Donovan Park and Pavilion in late-August.

The Session pro snowboarding competition premieres in Vail and continues a six-season run through 2008 featuring numerous highlights, including the first 1260's ever landed in a slopestyle competition, courtesy of David Benedek and Chas Guildemond in 2007 and the first 1440 landed in competition by Guildemond.


The Vail Marriot Mountain Resort & Spa completes a $30 million renovation in time for Christmas.

Ski Club Vail officially changes its name to Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.

The Teva Whitewater Festival becomes the Teva Mountain Games growing its offerings to trail running, rock climbing and mountain biking. 


Vail opens the next phase of Blue Sky Basin in December with the addition of Pete's Bowl. This expansion includes an additional 125 acres and another new high-speed quad, Pete's Express Lift (#39).

The UCI World Mountain Bike Championships return to Vail in September. This is the first time the championships were held on US soil since the 1994 championships, when they were also held in Vail.

In July Vail Resorts acquires the largest hotel in the Vail Valley, the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, located at the Lionshead portal to Vail Mountain.

In June, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater celebrates the completion of a $9 million renovation that began in September 2000. The celebration features a concert by Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell, the first performer to take to the new stage, as Budweiser's Hot Summer Nights kicks off its 15th season.


The eagerly anticipated Category III, now named "Blue Sky Basin", opens to skiers and snowboarders on Jan. 6. The expansion includes three new high-speed quad chairlifts - the Tea Cup Express Lift (#36), Skyline Express Lift (#37), and Earl's Express Lift (#38) and adds an extra 520 acres to Vail Mountain.

The name of the area honors the Ute Indians, the original settlers of the Vail Valley, who were referred to as the "Blue Sky People." The tribute, combined with Colorado's brilliant blue skies inspired the name Blue Sky Basin.

Snowmaking capabilities in the Golden Peak area of Vail Mountain are expanded with the addition of a new air compressor. Most pipelines at Golden Peak and around the mountain continue to undergo complete replacement each summer thereafter with larger pipes for more efficient coverage.

The Jeep Whitewater Festival becomes the Teva Whitewater Festival.


A newly reconstructed Patrol Headquarters re-opens in November. Two Elk reopens on New Year's Eve.

The Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council is formed to promote the community during the spring, summer and fall.

The World Alpine Ski Championships are held at Vail and Beaver Creek from Feb. 2-14 marking the third non-F.I.S. World Championships held in the U.S.

Work begins in July on Category III, the third phase of Vail Mountain's master plan.


Arson fires in October destroy Two Elk restaurant, Patrol Headquarters and Camp One, and damage lift operator buildings at the tops of Chairs 4, 5, 11 and 14. The fires cause more than $12 million in damage.

All lifts are repaired and re-licensed for the season and temporary facilities are constructed for Two Elk (temporarily named One Elk) and PHQ.


Vail Resorts purchases The Lodge at Vail and two acres of adjacent undeveloped land at the base of Vail Mountain in September for $23 million.

Vail Associates is renamed to Vail Resorts, Inc. in January and the merger with Keystone and Breckenridge is approved.


The Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19) opens on Dec. 19, replacing the original Lionshead Gondola. Adventure Ridge opens simultaneously with tubing, an ice skating rink and nighttime food and beverage service.

Game Creek Club opened its doors on Feb. 6.  The Club and Restaurant was originally conceived by Vail's founder Pete Seibert. His vision was modeled after similar clubs throughout Europe and was intended to offer a home away from home in Vail.


Vail's first modern roundabout interchange opens.

In March, Vail and Beaver Creek are named host sites for the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships, making them the only North American venue to host the event twice.


For the first time in four years the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships are held on US soil in Vail.


The Pride Express Lift (#26), a high-speed quad chairlift, is installed on the western side of Vail Mountain.

The Vail International Evenings of Dance is created as a result of the response to earlier performances in Vail by the Bolshoi Ballet. The event would later expand and become the Vail International Dance Festival.


Apollo Partners acquires Vail Associates in May.

Beaver Creek's lift #7 is relocated to Vail as the Sun Up Lift (#17).


EPA Director William Reilly is the keynote speaker at a four-day symposium in Vail on the state of the national parks.


Vail opens one of the first in-bounds terrain parks for the 1990-1991 ski and snowboard season.

Locals and visitors to the Vail Valley tune into Good Morning Vail on TV8 beginning on Nov. 22 for weather, mountain and town information.

The Vail Memorial Day whitewater festival starts as a stop on the Champion International Whitewater Series, originally a slalom kayak competition run through gates on the Eagle River in Minturn.


The World Alpine Ski Championships are held in Vail from Feb. 2-12 - only the second World Championships to be held outside of Europe. Tamara McKinney wins a gold and bronze - the only two medals for the U.S.

The high-speed quad Avanti Express Lift (#2) is installed to the west of the Mid-Vail area for the 1989-1990 season.

The Bolshoi Ballet performs for the first time in the U.S. The Bolshoi Ballet Company performs sold out shows three times that year and returned every summer until 1993.


China Bowl opens in December with the addition of another high-speed quad, the Orient Express Lift (#21).

The Born Free Express Lift (#8), a high-speed quad, opens in Lionshead.

Vail welcomes snowboarders to the mountain beginning in November.

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is established as the highest botanical garden in the United States and perhaps the world at 8,250 feet above sea level. The gardens are named after First Lady Betty Ford for her love of gardening. An estimated 100,000 visitors annually take in the beauty of the garden. Recognized as the foremost authority on high-altitude plants in natural and cultivated landscapes in the Rocky Mountains, the Gardens not only contributes staff and expertise essential to conservation efforts throughout the region, but also provides an environment for rare, exotic and imperiled alpine wildflowers and plants.


Snow Summit is installed on Vail Mountain, including additional compressors to provide added air capabilities for snowmaking operations in the mid-mountain area. Additional snowmaking pipe installation expands to Game Creek Bowl and other portions of the mountain in the early- and mid-1990s.

John Giovando, an attorney with a love of classical music, and acclaimed violinist Ida Kavafian establish the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival which begins with a small series of chamber music concerts. The festival grows to become the only music festival in the country to house three resident orchestras - the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic - and also includes world-class chamber musicians, important composers, the brightest new ensembles, and extensive education and community outreach activities.


The Hot Summer Nights free concert series debuts at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater opens with 1,260 outdoor, covered seats and an additional 1,300 on its expansive grassy hillside with a breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountains.


Four high-speed quads, including the Vista Bahn Express Lift (#16), Mountaintop Express Lift (#4), Game Creek Express Lift (#7) and Northwoods Express Lift (#11), are installed for the 1985-1986 season. The Hunky Dory Lift (#3) is also installed.

Gillett Holdings Inc. acquires Vail Associates in August for $130 million.



Jimmie Heuga, one of the first two members of the U.S. men's team to win an Olympic medal in Alpine ski racing, founded the Vail Valley-based Jimmie Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis.


The Town of Vail Public Library is dedicated on July 4.


The Westin Hotel Vail, which would officially become the Vail Cascade Resort in 1999, opens with 166 rooms. The hotel would expand to become one of Vail's largest properties complete with guest rooms, condominiums and private residences, a fitness center and spa, on-site dining options and conference and special event space.


Vail expands its snowmaking capabilities with the construction of Snow Central, a main control facility for snowmaking operations including expanded air and water capacity as well as the mountain's first major water storage pond. Many new snowmaking pipes were also added, providing more snow coverage on the lower third of Vail Mountain.

Jim Pavelich establishes The Vail Daily on June 15 as a five-day per week free newspaper on 8.5" by 14" two-sided sheets of newsprint. It went to six days a week in 1989, and seven days per week in 1992. Swift Newspapers acquired the newspaper on Oct. 1, 1993.


Beaver Creek opens on Dec. 15 as the last fully developed ski resort in the U.S. with four chair lifts, 28 runs, 425 skiable acres, and an award winning restaurant, Spruce Saddle. Its base lodge is a large white tennis bubble until 1983.

The Vail Valley Medical Center is established and in its first years as a full-service center, 350 surgical operations are performed with 25 full-time physicians on staff.


The High Noon Lift, originally a double chairlift, is replaced by a fixed-grip triple chairlift, increasing capacity out of Vail's Sun Down Bowl as well as Sun Up Bowl.


Interstate 70 is completed between Vail Pass and Copper.


Groundbreaking occurs on trail construction at Beaver Creek on July 20.

The Colorado Ski Museum & Hall of Fame opens in September in Vail Village.

The Vail Golf Course hosts the first Jerry Ford Invitational golf tournament, organized by committee members Jack Bob Barrett, Rod Slifer, John Purcell and John Donovan. Jack Nicklaus wins the event and $10,000 in prize money, which he returns to the committee for future tournaments.


Vail Associates is sold in September to Harry Bass, a Texas millionaire for $13 million. 


The Little Eagle Lift (#15) is installed at Eagle's Nest to service a beginner area of terrain.


The Gopher Hill Lift (#12) is installed in Golden Peak, providing a dedicated lift for the beginner learning area. The Sourdough Lift (#14) is also installed higher up on the mountain to service another beginner area.


A free bus system is established in October by Vail Associates. This would become the largest free in-town bus system in the country.

The Highline Lift (#10) is installed, improving the experience for expert skiers looking for steeps and bumps on runs like Blue Ox, Highline and Roger's.

The first "King of the Mountain Open" volleyball tournament is held in Golden Peak with participation from 12 teams over the Fourth of July weekend.

The first Vail Lacrosse Shootout takes place in Vail during the summer.


The International Olympic Committee voted to hold the 1976 Winter Games in Colorado, with the Alpine competitions slated for Vail and beaver Creek. However, a statewide referendum was launched and voters chose not to host the Games, which were ultimately awarded to Innsbruck, Austria.

Vail Associates exercised its option and purchased the Nottingham ranch land in August.


Willis Nottingham gives Vail Associates an option to purchase 2,200 acres of his ranch in September for what would become Beaver Creek.

The Vail Symposium is conceived as a once-a-year, weekend "think tank" by Vail Town Manager Terry Minger, and supported by Mayor John Dobson. Notable participants would include Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Rene Dubos, Robert Redford, former U.S. Senator Gary Hart, former Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus, Tom Brokaw, Sam Donaldson and sportscaster Bud Palmer.


Pete Seibert pursues his interest in Beaver Creek. Following the 1970 vote to host a Denver Olympics, Pete and Vail Associates successfully purchase some land at Beaver Creek and begin planning to build a ski resort.


The Lionshead base area, the Lionshead Gondola and Game Creek Bowl open in December. Construction of Interstate 70 begins.


The first snowmaking systems are installed at Golden Peak. The snowmaking coverage would later grow to cover portions of Lionshead in the early 1970s with the addition of a second pump house.

Gerald and Betty Ford first experience Vail with their family and eventually make the area an annual retreat.


Golden Peak, named after the thousands of aspen trees which blanket the mountain and turn a brilliant gold color each autumn, opens on the eastern side of Vail Mountain in December with a fixed-grip double chairlift.


The Town of Vail is incorporated in August.

The Vail Golf Course opens just east of Golden Peak.

The Vail Interfaith Chapel, designed by Pierce/Briner & Fitzhugh Scott, Inc., is constructed.


George Knox establishes The Vail Trail and the first issue appears in September 1965.

The first of three international Alpine ski team races is held in Vail in March, initiated by European sports journalist Serge Lange along with U.S. Ski Team coach Bob Beattie, Pete Seibert and Bob Parker. The races are held again in 1967 and 1969 and according to some, may have encouraged the establishment of the International Ski Federation's (FIS) World Cup circuit, which began in 1969.

Two of Vail's most famous landmarks, the Clock Tower and the Covered Bridge, are constructed.


The Giant Steps Lift (#1) is installed in Vail Village.

Gordon Autry starts Vail Airways at the Eagle Airport with two Cessna 310s offering service between Eagle and Denver, marking the beginning of commercial activity out of Eagle Airport. The airport was originally built as an emergency, unpaved landing strip for government use during World War II.


Vail hosts the U.S. Olympic Team training camp in preparation for the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

The Southern Ute Indians perform the first snow dance in Vail in December during the ski area's second season. In approximately two days, Vail received nearly two feet of snow.

Ski Club Vail is formally organized and becomes a breeding ground for World Cup and Olympic athletes. The first Vail Cup is held in January.

The official opening ceremony for Vail is held on Jan. 19 with Governor John Love presiding.


Vail Mountain opens for skiing on Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. with one gondola, two chairlifts and a $5 lift ticket. Open trails include Swingsville, Ramshorn, Riva Ridge, Lodgepole, Gitalong, Pickeroon, Giant Steps and Bear Tree. The U.S. Alpine Ski Team - including future legends such as Billy Kidd, Jimmie Huega, Joan Hannah, Bill Marolt and Buddy Werner - participates in a training camp at Vail in December.

The Lodge at Vail opens in November, designed with classic Alpine character at the base of Vail Mountain. It would soon become the cornerstone property of a vibrant Vail Village.

Vail Country Day School begins classes in October with just four students. The school is renamed Vail Mountain School in 1973.  

Work begins on Vail Mountain in January.


The U.S. Forest Service issues final approvals and permits in January to begin building the ski area.


The first board of directors meeting of the Vail Corporation is held on Jan. 9 at the Denver Country Club. The directors include George Caulkins; Bob Fowler; Gerald Hart; Richard Hauserman; Harley Higbie, Jr.; Fitzhugh Scott; Pete Seibert; and Jack Tweedy.


The Vail Corporation is formed in December with 26 shareholders who had been involved in the project, with six original members from the Transmontane Rod and Gun Club - Earl Eaton; Pete Seibert; George Caulkins, Jr.; John Conway, Jr.; Bob Fowler; and Jack Tweedy - as well as Fredric Benedict; Keith Brown; G.W. Douglas Carver; C.T. Chenery; Cortlandt Dietler; Charles Dimit; Gerald Hart; Richard Hauserman; Harley Higbie, Jr.; Jerome Lewis; William McBride Love; John McAllister; William McCluskey; John Murchison; Jack Oleson; William Ruby; Fitzhugh Scott; William Stevens; Vernon Taylor, Jr.; Ione Uihlien; William Whiteford, Jr.; and Philip Wooton, Jr. (Two of the shares were split between two people.)

Earl Eaton and Pete Seibert, along with the Transmontane Rod and Gun Club members, file an application with the U.S. Forest Service on May 11 for a permit for year-round recreational development on Vail Mountain, to start in 1960. The request is denied less than 24 hours later citing no public need for development at the time and obligations to support the completion of development with existing permits, particularly Aspen Highlands. The Forest Service permit was finally granted in September.


Hanson Ranch, more than 500 acres of private land on what is now Vail Village, was acquired by charter members Earl Eaton, Pete Seibert, Bob Fowler and John Conway under the auspices of the "Transmontane Rod and Gun Club" - to distract potential competitors and imply the search for a simple hunting and fishing lodge and land - for just $110 per acre. George Caulkins and Jack Tweedy joined the club in 1959.


On March 27, Vail founders Earl Eaton, a Colorado native from nearby Squaw Creek, member of the Civilian Conservation Corps and army engineer during World War II, and Pete Seibert, a Massachusetts native and veteran of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, together climbed to the summit of what would become Vail Mountain.


Camp Hale is established in September at Pando, 20 miles south of Vail for training the 10th Mountain Division ski troopers during World War II.


Black Gore Pass is paved and renamed Vail Pass in September in honor of Charles Vail, chief engineer for the Colorado Highway Department.


A severe drought leads to forest fires in the area in June, clearing what would become Vail Mountain's legendary Back Bowls.


Sir St. George (Lord) Gore, after whom the Gore Range in the Vail Valley is named, comes to Colorado in September on an ill-fated hunting expedition.


John C. Fremont leads an expedition over Ute (Tennessee) Pass, down Piney (Eagle) River and camps at Williams Fishery (Edwards) in July.

The resort has also come up with 50 things to do in its 50th year - see here for an earlier PlanetSKI story.

PlanetSKI was last in Vail in 2011 as we also looked at Breckenridge and Beaver Creek and for one of ourr blogs from the time then see here.

Happy Birthday Vail!

For the spirit of the mountains

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