The Town of Vail was incorporated in 1966, four years after the opening of the Vail Ski Resort. The ski area was founded by Pete Seibert and local rancher Earl Eaton in 1962, at the base of Vail Pass.
Seibert, a New England native, served in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division during World War II, which trained at Camp Hale, 14 miles south of Vail between Red Cliff and Leadville. He was wounded in Italy at the Battle of Riva Ridge, but went on to become a professional skier after he recovered. Seibert, with other former members of the 10th Mountain Division, returned to Colorado after World War II with the intention of opening a ski resort. During training for ski troopers at Camp Hale, he bivouacked on Vail Mountain and identified it as an ideal ski mountain.
In the early 1960s, Seibert raised funds from a group of Denver investors, including Jack Tweedy, and with Earl Eaton bought a ranch at the base of the mountain and eventually incorporated as Vail Associates. As plans continued for a new ski resort, Seibert hired Morrie Shepard as Vail’s first ski school director.
Seibert dreamed of building the quintessential ski resort as a child, was a 10th Mountain vet who meticulously studied the resorts of the Alps. He had vision, passion and an uncanny ability to get things done—lining up investors, acquiring the ranch land at the base, and, after opening Vail in December 1962, directing its daily operations until the mid-1970s.
Eaton grew up in a homesteader’s cabin, learned to ski on pine boards fashioned by his father, and served as an army engineer in World War II. In 1957, while other 10th Mountain Division pioneers scoured the state for ski resort locations, Eaton led Seibert up above Vail’s deceiving front face to its bountiful upper slopes and then into the Back Bowls – and there, the fate of the ski mountain, and eventually the town, was determined. Eaton played a critical role in laying out the trails and lifts, though he would never see a big payday for his efforts and didn’t seem to mind.
Shortly after, Shepard recruited Rod Slifer from Aspen to be assistant ski school director. Slifer also became the only real estate broker in the early years of Vail and would later be the broker in the transaction that allowed Vail to buy a ranch, now known as the world famous Beaver Creek. In December 1962 Vail officially opened for its first season.
The pass was named after Charles Vail, the highway engineer who routed U.S. Highway 6 through the Vail Valley in 1940, which eventually became Interstate 70.
Photo: Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton. Copyright Vail Resorts