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Area History


The Vail Valley was originally territory of the Ute Native Americans and for generations was used as their summertime hunting and fishing grounds. The first documented European presence in the Eagle River Valley region was the Fremont party guided by Kit Carson in 1840. Over a decade later, a British Nobleman by the name "Lord Gore" led an extravagant hunting expedition through the Blue River Valley, which is situated on the east side of the mountains now known as the Gore Mountain Range. After the discovery of gold and silver in the neighboring boomtowns of Leadville and Breckenridge, the area swelled with fortune seeking miners. In 1883, Eagle County was established and the town of Red Cliff was named the county seat (moved in 1921 to the town of Eagle). After the mining industry died, ranchers used the lush valley as summer pastures for their herds of sheep. This continued even after the state built a highway through the valley just prior to World War II under the supervision of state highway engineer Charlie Vail.

In the 1940's U.S. army mountain troops were trained at Camp Hale, 20 miles south of Vail on Highway 24. When the war ended several friends from the famous 10th Mountain Division ski troops returned to the valley.  One person among them was Peter Seibert. And one day, he and a local resident named Earl Eaton, hiked past the false peaks and viewed vast open bowls and saw the potential for endless ski slopes. The year was 1957 and they were determined to develop the area as a ski resort.

Seibert, Eaton, and others purchased some private land, obtained a Forest Service Ski area permit and formed the Vail Corporation. With the permit, however, came strict guidelines that stated they must have enough money to construct trails, lifts, and cover the first year's operating expenses. A total of $1.8 million dollars was needed. After having trouble raising capital, they offered potential investors a deal. For $10,000, dollars one could receive a limited partnership, four lifetime ski passes, and a Vail homesite. Not shockingly, sales took off. Construction began in the spring of 1962 and in seven short months a resort was built including a hotel, motel, homes, apartments, stores, ski trails, two lifts, a gondola, and 876 skiable acres. The area opened on December 15th, 1962. The price of an all day lift ticket was $5.00 dollars.

*The above information was provided in literature from the Vail Valley Tourism and Convention Bureau.