A dream fulfilled on Vail Mountain
VAIL, Colorado – Every time Pete Seibert Jr. skis at Vail, particularly in Blue Sky Basin, he’s reminded of what his father, Pete Seibert, envisioned for the ski mountain when he founded and developed it in the 1960s.The younger Seibert helped commemorate the 10th anniversary of Blue Sky Basin Wednesday with Carl Eaton, the son of Vail visionary Earl Eaton, who also helped found Vail Mountain.”Pete called Earl the finder of Vail, and Earl called Pete the founder of Vail,” said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Vail.Regardless of who found what, both men would have been proud to see the success of Blue Sky Basin, Carl Eaton said.They were there when it opened Jan. 6, 2000, and their presence was definitely there Wednesday, even if they couldn’t be there.The elder Seibert died in 2002, and Earl Eaton died in 2008.”It’s a little bittersweet that Pete and Earl aren’t here,” Seibert said. “Every time I get on this mountain, I think about those guys – this is a great way to remember them.”Skiers and snowboarders arrived early for the first 10 a.m. chair ride up to Belle’s Camp, the top of chair 37, where Vail employees handed out commemorative anniversary pins, cupcakes and hot chocolate. It was a party celebrating not only the popularity and success of Blue Sky, but also the memory of those who made it possible.While Blue Sky Basin, originally known as Vail’s Category III expansion, faced opposition from environmentalists in the years leading up to its opening, those who designed and planned it look back proudly at what they accomplished.”It had such a small environmental impact on the land,” said Mike Larson, the head of planning at Vail Resorts for 27 years. “It continues to set an example for environmentally sensitive planning.”In the late 1990s, extremist environmentalists did everything from chaining themselves to construction equipment to protesting in Vail Village to burning down buildings atop Vail Mountain in the worst act of eco-terrorism on American soil, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the time.Through the opposition, though, came resolve. The designers and planners kept the visions of Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton in their minds and pushed through the difficulties of the project to make sure it would turn into a reality.The younger Seibert remembers when Paul Testwuide, a former director at Vail, took him and his father into Blue Sky Basin the summer before it opened. The younger Seibert said it was amazing to see all the work that had gone into, a lot of it thanks to Testwuide, he said.Ten years later, the younger Seibert imagines what his father would think of it now.”I think Pete’s attitude now would be, what’s next?,” Seibert said. “If this is your lifelong dream, why wouldn’t you want to make it as big as possible?”Carl Eaton said his father was pretty laid back about the opening of Blue Sky Basin in 2000. The expansion had been in the plans since day one, so its opening was “just the next step,” Carl Eaton said.If Earl Eaton could answer the elder Seibert’s likely question of what’s next, Earl Eaton might say a link between Vail and Beaver Creek, Carl Eaton said.”It’ll probably happen someday,” Carl Eaton said. “That was one of (Earl’s) dreams – linking Vail and Beaver Creek somehow.”The Category III expansion may have been the last official expansion in the original Vail master plan, but Carl Eaton knows there’s more to come. He envisions lift access from the East Vail Chutes -something his father imagined in his original development planning for Vail Mountain.”They only had so much money, so they built what they could,” Carl Eaton said. “I think their vision has been fulfilled in a lot of ways – probably above and beyond their expectations in a lot of ways.”
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