Larry Jump, a 10th Mountain Division veteran, cofounded Arapahoe Basin in 1947. Pete Seibert, severely wounded in Italy, became manager of Loveland Basin. That's where he hooked up with Earl Eaton, a uranium prospector who'd helped build Camp Hale. While roaming the mountains in search of ore, Eaton had found an area he thought might make a pretty good ski hill, midway between Denver and Aspen. He brought Seibert in for a look, and in 1957 they formed the Transmountain Rod and Gun Club so they could quietly buy the land at the base of what would become Vail Mountain. Vail, which introduced the gondola to America, opened on Dec. 15, 1962, and within 20 years was the U.S.'s most popular ski resort.
The 1960s also ushered in Buttermilk, Crested Butte, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Purgatory (now Durango), Powderhorn and Snowmass, followed by Keystone (1970), Telluride ('72), Copper Mountain ('73) and Beaver Creek ('80). The names are as familiar to skiers as Everest and McKinley are to mountaineers. Each in a unique way conjures up images of long, breathtaking ski trails, of Victorian villages strung with Christmas lights and of pine-covered peaks painted in alpenglow.
Collectively they generate one of nature's most impressive migrations: the annual flight of millions of snowbirds to the Colorado slopes every December. Because if you call yourself a skier, every trip to Colorado is a journey home.