These are the RealVail archived files. Please visit our new site:
MM_XSLTransform error.
Error opening
The Understories
Mother Almond and the original terrain parks
"Louie" poses with a pair of antique skis, similar to a pair he wore when he first began skiing many years ago.

Mother Almond and the original terrain parks

By "Louie" 

January 7, 2008 —  Bickering and bantering were an almost daily occurrence between myself, many of my ski patrol buds, and Donald “Mother” Almond, who was Vail’s first mountain manager from its opening in the winter of 1962 to spring of 1969.

The most contentious issue was usually the creation, enhancement, and maintenance of several jumps (or gelundesprungs, as they were often called back then) throughout Vail Mountain. Not only did my cronies and I believe that air time was an integral and inexorable part of skiing, we also believed that the sculpting of the kickers and maintenance of the landings made the jumps much safer.

The Understories reading guide
Louie was a Vail ski patrolman from 1963-1970, and still lives in the Vail Valley. He skis more than 100 days a year, and rides the whitewater when springtime comes.

His collection of stories from the early days of Vail and Aspen, called "The Understories", are being serialized on

To read The Understories from the beginning, scroll to the bottom of this page and read from his first entry, "The Introduction."

Mother disagreed, of course, in spite of having patrolled in Aspen (a much more liberal environment than Vail, on the whole.) I can’t imagine his reaction to today’s terrain parks and big-air contests, all taking place on features sculpted by Vail’s grooming machines, etc., and all with the blessing of corporate skiing.

On the other hand, there was one thing about Mother Almond that made his arguments just a bit more persuasive: he rode up the mountain each and every day with a 9mm magnum pistol strapped to his side. I suppose Mother skied fully armed in order to thwart any robbery attempt on the ticket office, which was located at the head of Bridge Street and was managed (I think), by Linda Nottingham.

His concerns may have been justified. Vail was not an incorporated town then (and wouldn’t be until 1966) and had no formal law enforcement except for one mellow deputy sheriff by the name of Clare Elliot, and several volunteer “rent-a-cops,” some of whom are from ski patrol. Mother encouraged patrollers to be in “deputy” mode at all times … but could we arrest ourselves?

And if anyone was to be arrested, shouldn’t it be Mother himself? Careful as he was up on the hill, I recall one evening when Mother blew a hole through his trailer (parked in the old “sin city,”) with a 12-gague sawed-off shotgun (another one of his “people-guns” as I called them).

We entertained many questions about Mother’s managerial style. Another one, for example, was how Mother (with is Head Standard skis, Cubco bindings, and ultra-conservative approach to skiing), would make it down to the ticket office in time to capture a robber.

And on another occasion, Mother came up to PHQ and announced that we all should become Karate experts, as a self-defense mechanism in case of a spring riot...

Read more Understories in the next installment, coming soon...

commnet icon  Submit a comment on "Mother Almond and the original terrain parks"

The Understories Introduction
Louie joined Vail ski patrol in 1963 from Aspen Highlands, where he had been patrolling for a number of years. His "Understories" are all the tales from the sixties and seventies during his days as a ski patroller, a carouser, and above all an outdoorsman.

The Understories Introduction

By "Louie" 

December 30, 2007 —  Editor’s Note: Welcome to “The Understories,” tales from the early days of Vail and Aspen, told from the perspective of an early Vail and Aspen Highlands ski patrolman. Excerpts from The Understories will be added and updated from time to time on this website.

Not quite a year before Pete Seibert’s untimely demise I was fortunate enough to have a really nice, one-on-one conversation with him at the Shaw Cancer Center, where I myself was going through a bout with melanoma.

“You know, Pete,” I remember saying. “I guess I owe you an apology.”

“Oh?” he said.

I explained that we early Vail ski patrolmen truly had the desire to become, and were encouraged to become, the best ski patrol in the nation (if not the whole damn world). We also had the inclination, as a sort of informal competition after clocking out, to be the absolute worst we could possibly be (all in good fun, of course).

Pete smiled that knowing smile, but I surmised it was not necessarily a smile of forgiveness.

Some months later, I believe it was at Charlie Gerbach’s wake, I mentioned this same encounter to a guy named “Weed,” one of Vail’s more notorious bad-boy patrolmen.

“You know, Louie,” Weed commented. “I think we accomplished both.”

So that’s what these Understories are all about. Some would say we were nothing but a bunch of hedonistic, irresponsible, irreverent, undisciplined, naughty, very bad boys who were absolutely hell bent on exhibiting all sorts of outrageous, egregious behavior – and they would be mostly right.

Others might say we were just a bunch of good ol’ boys who loved the carefree life, skiing, partying, girls, beer, and a whole assortment of alcoholic beverages. We were completely into the mountain lifestyle, and had copious amounts of enthusiasm and exuberance to go along with it, while at the same time we were in total denial of the outside/real world … and people who said that about us would be, “all right.”

commnet icon  Submit a comment on "The Understories Introduction"

Read More Blog Entries
Blog entry 5 through 6 of 6 total entries
Bloggers Profile and Information Snow Report Ticker

more new stories...

more new stories...

more resort guides...