Vail was the hunting ground and summer residence of the Ute Indians before the arrival of the white man in the mid-19th century. Irishman George Gore, known as Lord Gore, and American frontiersman Jim Bridger were among the first explorers to venture into the mountainous region. From 1854 to 1856, they spent the summers hunting and exploring the peaks northeast of what is now known as Vail. A few years later, Bridger returned to the region and named the mountain range and valley after Gore.
By the 1870s, the Gore Range was attracting fortune seekers as the news spread that its hills contained both gold and silver. Mines were set up and railroad tracks laid down to transport the precious metals. The greedy intruders drove the Ute Indians from the land; upon their departure, the Utes allegedly set fire to thousands of acres of trees, resulting in the deforested area today known as Vail's famous Back Bowls.
It wasn't long before the miners depleted the area's mineral resources and abandoned the valley. It remained a peaceful home for sheep ranchers until 1939, when construction began on Highway 6, running from Denver through the Gore Valley. Charlie Vail, the project's engineer, lent his name to the road--the Vail Pass--and eventually to the Town of Vail, too.
During World War II, the Army's Tenth Mountain Division used the Vail area for backcountry survival training. After the war, many of the men who trained there were drawn back to the mountain valleys. Pete Seibert, one of Vail's founding fathers, was one such veteran; he returned to the Valley along with fellow troopers Bill "Sarge" Brown and Bob Parker. The three vets shared a great vision of a mountain ski community. In 1954, Earl Eaton, a uranium prospector with a similar vision, teamed up with Seibert to draw up a plan for a ski resort.
Construction began in spring 1962, and by fall 1966, the town of Vail was incorporated. Vail had the first gondola in the United States, along with two double chairlifts and a beginner poma lift, serving six square miles of terrain. Several restaurants, hotels and a medical clinic opened their doors soon thereafter.
By the mid-1970s, discriminating skiers had discovered Vail, and the town had earned the reputation as one of Colorado's best ski areas. When Gerald Ford, who owned a house in Vail, became President of the United States in 1974, the ski town made front-page news. Vail was soon recognized worldwide as the ski resort.
During the early 1980s, the area blossomed as a year-round resort. Golf courses were laid out and mountain-biking trails were added; gondolas and chairlifts began transporting sightseers instead of skiers; hot-air balloon rallies, tennis tournaments and concerts featuring everything from chamber music to rock became part of the Vail summer scene.