In his own words
Here are excerpts from Pete Seibert’s book, written with William Oscar Johnson, “Vail, Triumph of a Dream,” released in 2000:
“I went to Aspen Highlands in the summer of 1957. As assistant manager I would be advising the owner, Whipple Van Ness Jones, on laying out trails and liftlines for his newly approved area, which was to open in January, 1959. Earl Eaton was there, too, to supervise the building of the ski lifts. During the day we worked for Whip Jones, but at night we worked for ourselves, preparing formal applications for development permits at Vail, and yes, laying the groundwork with would-be investors.”
“Aspen had been a skiing wonderland for us back in army days, but now I felt I had arrived at the absolute center of the skiing universe. The longest chairlift in the world was going up. Some of the best trails ever to grace a mountain were being sculpted and cleared on Aspen: Ruthie’s Run, Spar Gulch, Silver Queen. It seemed as if every great skier in the U.S. was there, many of whom were my colleagues from the 10th Mountain Division.”
“We had a wonderful crowd in Aspen. The Austrian Friedl Pfeifer and New Englanders Percy Rideout and John Litchfield, all fellow soldiers from the 10th, ran the Aspen Ski School. Steve Knowlton opened the madhouse Golden Horn, where he sold imported Molitor boots in the sports shop upstairs and starred in slapstick floor shows in the cellar restaurant, wearing a bearskin coat, a derby, and sunglasses. Everywhere one turned was something wild and wonderful.”
“Aspen had been my home, my heaven. But I managed to wrench myself away from all that to pursue my dream.”
“In good weather, over twisting U.S. 6, the drive from Denver to Vail was a piece of cake, less than two hours. Aspen, meanwhile, was one hundred miles farther west and two more hours away. My fellow dreamer Earl Eaton and I were well aware that this simple fact would be one of Vail’s great advantages over Aspen, one that would never, ever change.”
“Earl and I hiked with (Forest Service ski area expert Paul Hauk) to the top in the summer of 1957 and, wise man that he sometimes was, Hauk found the place just as enthralling as we did. He wrote in his official Forest Service report ‘has a greater potential and variety than Aspen – especially when the Two Elk Creek (the future Back Bowls) slopes are considered. Snow conditions should be better than Aspen due to the slightly higher elevations, colder local temperatures, and better exposures.'”
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FREAK POWER AT 50: Stories from the Aspen Times archives on Hunter S. Thompson’s campaign for sheriff
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