Dick Hauserman, a Vail pioneer, dies at 93
December 3, 2009
VAIL, Colo. – In the days when it was little more than a dirt path, Dick Hauserman would walk along Vail’s Bridge Street. If he saw someone he didn’t know – someone who had to be a tourist – he’d walk up, stick out his hand and say, “I’m Dick Hauserman. I live here. Can I show you around?”
Hauserman, the man who designed Vail’s logo, and who helped convince who knows how many people to invest in a fledgling mountain playground, died Wednesday at Cornell Hospital in New York City. He was 93.
After hearing Pete Seibert’s pitch for a new ski resort in Colorado, Hauserman bought into the idea, lured by both the audacity of the plan and photos of Vail’s Back Bowls. He shared his enthusiasm with just about anyone who would listen.
Rod Slifer, who remembers having his first home-cooked meal in Vail at Hauserman’s home in May of 1962 called Hauserman “sort of the ultimate chamber of commerce then.”
Tom Steinberg, Vail’s first full-time doctor, met Hauserman with one of those Bridge Street handshakes in January of 1965. Steinberg and his wife Flo were visiting Vail, deciding whether to move to town.
“He introduced himself, told me about his background and asked about mine,” Steinberg said. “He gave us our introduction to Vail.”
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Steinberg said Hauserman and others set the tone for the town.
“Everybody was working together to make it survive,” Steinberg said. “Whether it was a ski patrolman, or somebody like Hauserman or a lift operator, we’d get together and talk and have a beer and we’d get things done.”
Sometimes, getting things done meant butting heads with his own board.
Hauserman is somewhat of a hero to Tivoli Lodge owner Bob Lazier, who wanted to build an eight-unit employee housing building in Vail in the early 1960s. Bob and Diane Lazier asked to buy the property from Vail Associates and were ready to sign the dotted line, when Vail Associates decided it would lease the property, rather than sell it.
“Dick stood up at the stockowners meeting and said (Vail Associates) promised these kids we’d sell them the ground,” Bob Lazier said. “He’s my hero for sure.”
That’s the kind of guy Hauserman was, Bob Lazier said, just “incredibly friendly and nice to everyone.”
The Laziers, and Vail, have done well by the Tivoli Lodge, a seemingly small decision that became more important as time passed.
Vail’s logo is another one of those small things that turned out well.
“He caused us to use that logo,” original Vail investor Harley Higbie said. “It was one of the little things that we did that turned out to be successful.”
Then there were the handshakes, of course.
“Dick loved people,” Higbie said. “He really helped move Vail along in the world.”
Hauserman’s enthusiasm for Vail only grew over the years. He also was quick to recognize the allure of the new resort built just west of Vail nearly two decades later.
Brad Tjossem was one of the founders of the Beaver Creek Club. Hauserman was an early VIP member.
“He was such a visionary,” Tjossem said. He remembered that Hauserman brought a group of potential investors to Beaver Creek from upstate New York.
“On his word they invested,” Tjossem said. “They set up second homes here and now they’re raising their grandkids here. He influenced so many people.”
And, while Hauserman loved the social scene, he was never afraid to get into a project up to his elbows.
Morrie Shepard, 84, remembers when Hauserman interviewed him in 1961 for the ski school director job at Vail. Shepard ended up getting the job, and when he arrived in Vail he quickly learned who Hauserman was.
“Dick was everywhere,” Shepard said.
Hauserman had his hands on construction at the Lodge at Vail and the chairlift, Shepard said. He was also involved in the early publicity and advertising of Vail Mountain, Shepard said.
“Dick was a salesman,” Shepard said. “He could sell ice to the Eskimos.”
Hauserman went on from his early work at Vail to help rename and rebrand the Steamboat ski area (originally called “Mount Werner”). He also sold real estate in California, ran ski shops in Breckenridge, and finally moved back to the Vail Valley in 1997.
But through the years his enthusiasm for Vail was steadfast.
Higbie considers Hauserman’s book “The Inventors of Vail,” the definitive volume on the subject. And, he said, Hauserman rarely, if ever, stopped promoting the resort he helped bring to life.
“He’d be in Palm Springs or New York, and would still be talking up Vail,” Higbie said. In a phone conversation Wednesday night, Higbie said his wife told him, “To keep selling Vail after you’re 90 is really something.”
Josef Staufer also came to Vail in its first season, and later came to own the Vail Village Inn. Remembering the days when Vail’s success was still an open question, Staufer said it was Hauserman and people like him who helped make the venture go.
“He was just an ‘up’ guy,” Staufer said. “And he brought us up, too, even if we were down.
“This is really where his heart was,” Staufer said.