Reopening Vail Mountain for an extra weekend is pretty cool. Reopening it six weeks after closing day is really cool.
Vail Associates, the precursor to Vail Resorts, reopened Vail Mountain in early June of 1983 or ‘84. Harry Frampton had just finished his first ski season as president of the company, and recalled that the late spring weather turned snowy, just like it has the past couple of weeks. “We had something like four or five feet of snow,” Frampton said. So, with a few people on hand, the company reopened the mountain. Frampton recalled that much of the mountain crew was off in warmer climates, particularly Lake Powell. Larry Lichliter, then the company’s chief operating officer, started making some calls, and, in those days before cell phones, actually got through to several key employees. “Enough came back that we were able to do it,” Frampton said.
Soon enough, there were photos in the national press of skiing in June at Vail.“We got incredible press from it,” Frampton said. Longtime resident Craig Denton wasn’t in town when the mountain reopened that year — in fact, he and his family were in Hawaii. But they heard about skiing in June in Vail, from both friends and in the national press. “Everybody we heard from was excited — and you can’t buy that kind of publicity,” Denton said.
While Vail doesn’t reopen very often, bonus skiing returned just a couple of years later, after George Gillett had bought Vail Associates. “We really enjoyed it — we had a lot of fun,” Gillett said, adding that the bottom line didn’t have much to do with the move at the time — and probably doesn’t now. “It’s not done with a profit motive in mind,” Gillett said. “In fact, it’s expensive as all get-out.”