Who We Are: Keystone founder finds spot in hall of fame
He is a pioneer in ski industry hospitality, an avid golfer and a former lead navigator in World War II. Bill Bergman is a man of many talents and a fine representation of Summit County’s esteemed population, and to add to it all, this October he will be able to add “hall of famer” to his long list of life accomplishments.The Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame announced Keystone Resort founder Bergman has been selected for this year’s Pioneer category in the Hall of Fame, and will be inducted in October.Bergman will be honored as a pioneer for his early role with Keystone Resort and creating a business template for ski resorts everywhere.The journey leading him here all started with a humble cabin equipped with a door frame barely tall enough to accommodate the average height of most men.The cabin was called Alhambra, where 10th Mountain Division veteran Larry Jump and Max Dercum discussed plans for neighboring Arapahoe Basin. More than two decades later in the same cabin, Dercum revealed his vision of creating and developing Keystone to Iowa attorney Bergman. Bergman, who had just purchased Alhambra, was excited at for the prospect of “Dercum’s Dream” and wanted to assist in the pursuit.”I went up to the top of the mountains with Max and almost killed myself coming down on a narrow snowmobile track,” Bergman said as he recalled the time when he knew the place would be special. Dercum had the vision but Bergman possessed the business savvy skills to turn it into reality. He is credited as the individual who transformed skiing into a corporate enterprise, something that originally began with small investors. When Keystone Resort opened in 1971, it had one base area and two chairlifts and added to the only two other ski areas in Summit County: Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin. As Keystone’s first president, Bergman held the position for six years with an annual salary of only $100, and Dercum remained a consultant and head of ski school. Bergman was able to expand the resort and laid the groundwork for standard practices in leading ski resorts with two huge breakthroughs at Keystone: The revolutionary concept of environmentally friendly trail design, and the installation of snowmaking capabilities, helping to lead the way toward development of the modern ski resort. “Bill who couldn’t even build a garage at home, built an entire resort,” his wife, Jane Bergman, said. “He knew how to work with money and how to get the right people in place.”Married for 66 years, Bergman has had his wife by his side to keep his life exciting – and challenging as he puts it.”Jane and I are always teasing each other, it’s what we do every day,” Bergman said. “But without her love for Colorado and her family connection here, I might not have ever gotten to know what Summit County was all about.”All the while that Bergman was building Keystone Resort, he lived in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and ran a law firm where he employed mostly woman because “they were smarter than the men,” Bergman said. Having a passion for law, Bergman ran his own firm and played golf avidly, but he fell in love with the mountains in Colorado while putting together Keystone.”Jane and I have traveled to see a lot of the world and no where compares to the 360 degrees of snow capped mountains that we have here,” Bergman said. “It doesn’t matter where you might be standing, all you need to do is look up and there are mountains on every side of you – it’s like no other place in the world.”Bergman and his wife moved permanently to Keystone in 1999 from Cedar Falls after Bergman retired from his law practice. He now dedicates three days a week to golfing.”I really wanted to create a golf group like I had in Iowa,” Bergman said. To put together such a group, Bergman scouted local golf courses looking for quick players.”It started when I ran into a fellow that I liked and asked if he wanted to play golf, he said yes,” Bergman said. “Then we would look at people at the driving ranges and look at the swings and ask if they wanted to play golf with us – and they said yes.”Bergman’s golf club is now a group of approximately 30 men that go by “The Bergman Boys.””If you’re going to play with us you have to play fast,” Bergman said. “That’s the reason we get to tee off first every morning, we can’t hold up the play time at all, so the courses can set tee times like we’re not even there.”Bergman and four groups of “The Bergman Boys” will be playing in a Hall of Fame celebratory golf tournament Wednesday at Keystone Ranch.
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