Vail says "goodbye’ to its founder |

Vail says "goodbye’ to its founder

Cliff Thompson, Vail Daily

VAIL – Nearly 3,000 strong, Vail’s extended family came to remember the town’s popular and larger-than-life founder and pioneer, Peter W. Seibert, who died two weeks ago at 77 after a battle with esophageal cancer.

Seibert’s memorial at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, drew a diversity of people emblematic of the socio-economic mix that now populates the resort he conceived and built.

The multi-generational crowd ranged from the thinning ranks of World War II veteran 10th Mountain Division troopers, Seibert’s comrades in arms, to a former U.S. president, captains of the ski industry, children who grew up in Vail, and even their children. All were there to pay tribute to the man whose dream had made their lives in the mountain community possible.

Vail Mountain opened Dec. 15, 1962, with one gondola and three chairlifts.

Former Vailite the Reverend Don Simonton presided over a traditional memorial service highlighted by a high-tech video presentation of Seibert’s life and accomplishments. As he spoke, a golden eagle soared and wheeled over the valley.

“We’re here to shed a tear and to celebrate a unique and wonderful personality, and to recognize his dream and achievement,” said Simonton.

Seibert’s son Brant acknowledged the magnitude of his father’s dream.

“He had very big dreams,” Brant Seibert said. “But he had a big respect for those with more modest dreams.”

“All I could see was trees’

Vail pioneer Rod Slifer humorously and tearfully eulogized his friend Seibert and the dream he pursued.

Slifer and Seibert purchased Utah Snow Basin in 1978, but after five years of struggling with high interest and undercapitalization they were unable to make it financially successful. It was fitting, said Slifer, that Seibert’s vision for the place was validated on the world’s stage at the last Olympics. The racers used the very downhill and giant slalom courses Seibert had envisioned a quarter-century before.

That vision, almost a blueprint in his mind, was so strong that on a hike down Vail Mountain Seibert flagged trees to mark lifts and trails, asking Slifer what he thought about the layout. Slifer said he had to chuckle.

“All I could see was trees,” Slifer said Monday. “He saw a village and lifts and how it all fit together.

“I always thought he was invincible, bigger than life,” Slifer added.

Slifer’s suggested the assemblage applaud Seibert’s life and accomplishments, and it was met with a thunderous standing ovation.

“Look for the positives’

“My dad was a connoisseur of the best food, the best skiing and the best people,” said Pete Seibert Jr. “The biggest lesson he gave me was in dealing with adversity. He said look for the positives that you can do.”

Seibert Jr. recalled his father in the recovery room after heart surgery, festooned with tubes and monitors. All he could think of was that he had gained another 10 years from the surgery, Seibert Jr. said.

“At the end, he came back here where he could see what it all had become,” he said.

In the end, Monday’s services were a celebration of Seibert’s vision and dogged pursuit of his dream to build a nonpareil mountain resort.

“He made it possible for thousands of people to live here and for millions and millions of people to ski here,” said Slifer.

Fittingly, Seibert’s remains next winter will soar over Vail Mountain in a cloud-seeding silver iodide-filled rocket launched by Seibert’s children. It will scatter his remains when it explodes to disperse the silver iodide used for cloud seeding. Seibert Jr. said the family will wait for the appropriate storm before launching the remains.

“We’ll wait “til there’s a pretty good storm coming,” he said. “When you see that rocket, go home early and get some rest because it’s going to be a hell of a powder day.”

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