Vail Colorado Museums & History

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Vail, Colorado holds a long history of skiing lore and describes how one location can become one of the largest ski resort areas in the entirety of North America.

Early days
The Ute Indians were the first inhabitants of the Gore Creek Valley, living there to have cool summers, long before the white settlers moved west. The Utes called the Gore Range “The Shining Mountains.”

Mid 1800s
The first white settlers came to the valley and forced the Indians to leave. Ranchers began grazing their stock.

Late 1800s
The Gore Creek and Eagle River Valley became gold and silver mining territory.

1940
Charles Vail, a highway engineer, built US Highway 6 through the valley.

Early 1950s
Ranchers and farmers continued to make their living on the land in the valleys.

1956
Two men, John Burke and Earl Eaton, began discussing the possibility of creating a ski resort in the region.

1957
A World War II veteran injured in the war and acting on a suggestion that he become a professional skier, joined with local rancher Earl Eaton to develop a ski area on Vail Mountain. When Pete Seibert first climbed the mountain with Eaton, they both recognized this as a unique opportunity.

1962
Vail Ski Resort opened on December 15th. Lift tickets were $5 each. There was one gondola, two chairs and nine ski runs.

1966
The town of Vail was established at the base of the mountain and ski resort.

1968
President Gerald Ford came to Vail Valley and was so impressed, decided to come back every year.

1969
Vail was now the most popular ski resort in the state.

1980
Vail’s sister resort, Beaver Creek, opened.

1985
George Gillette Jr. purchased Vail and Beaver Creek and installed four high-speed lifts. Visitors increased many-fold.

1988
A new bowl (China Bowl) opened and made Vail the largest ski area in North America.

Today
Vail Ski Area has a great many places to ski, with clear-cut trails and great snow conditions. Folks come from all over the world to experience the great skiing and other winter sports. Summertime offers the chance to get out in nature and enjoy wildlife, hiking, fishing and much more. Vail, Colorado has become a premiere year-round vacation destination.

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