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Vail founder Pete Seibert dies

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Pete Seibert, the founder of Vail and a veteran of Colorado’s famed 10th Mountain Division, died July 15 after battling cancer. He was 77.

Seibert’s vision, to build a world-class ski resort from scratch, led Vail to become one of the biggest and best-known ski resorts in the world. Vail was also one of the models for the development of the Whistler Village.

Born in Massachusetts, where he learned to ski, Seibert became a platoon sergeant in the 10th Mountain Division during the Second World War. He was severely wounded by mortar fire in Italy in 1945, during the battle of Mount Terminale. With his right kneecap destroyed and his left arm nearly severed at the elbow, doctors weren’t sure if he would ever walk again, and were certain he would never ski.

But after several operations and 17 months of rehabilitation he was discharged from the army at 22 and returned to Colorado, where he landed a job with the Aspen ski patrol in 1946.

He continued to defy medical and athletic experts by winning Aspen’s Roch Cup in 1947, and three years later qualified for the U.S. Alpine Ski Team.

While working at various Colorado ski areas in the following years, Seibert never gave up his dream of building his own ski resort. After examining a number of areas, including Telluride, Seibert, led by long-time friend Earl Eaton, climbed up what would become Vail Mountain in 1957. Seibert would later say that while he was the founder of Vail, Eaton was the finder.

Seibert quickly assembled a group of investors who bought 520 acres of ranchland at the base of the mountain for $55,000. The land would become the core of the Vail Village.

Seibert and fellow Vail Associates board member George Caulkins then scoured the country for investors willing to put up $10,000 each toward the building of the resort. By March of 1961 they had $1.5 million. Vail opened on Dec. 15, 1962 with a two-mile-long gondola, two chairlifts and eight ski instructors.

In 1976 Vail was sold to Texas millionaire Harry Bass, who didn’t see eye-to-eye with Seibert. The resort founder left Vail and spent 12 years in different jobs, including president of the fledgling Snow Basin resort in Utah.

In 1985 Bass sold Vail to George Gillet, and in 1989 Gillet brought Siebert back into the company.

In his second stint with Vail Seibert was closely involved in planning the resort’s exclusive Game Creek Club and the Blue Sky Basin expansion. He also played key role in bringing the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships to Vail and Beaver Creek.

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