Ski country is packed with visiting celebrities, astronauts, famous scientists, politicians and other high-achieving-type individuals. Many have homes in Colorado high country. When Gerald Ford became Vice President, the local press was used to celebrities and didn’t overly hype their part-time resident’s climb to political power. When President Ford took office, Vail handled the notoriety in its typical nonchalant manner.
When I decided my documentary wouldn’t be complete without a perspective from President Ford, I wrote him to see if he would help me in my endeavor. I didn’t know what to expect. A week later, I get this letter without a stamp: Instead, it had a presidential signature. Boy, was I excited reading President Ford’s letter granting me an interview at his Beaver Creek home.
For me, this was a storybook experience. I researched the President and thought out my photographic approach. I’m a natural light photographer (which means I didn’t bring lights) and I felt confident in finding a good setting. However, after meeting with President Ford, he apologized for not mentioning interior photographs would be limited to his study on account of an existing policy. Unfortunately, without being able to choose my lighting,
I needed lights and hadn’t brought any with me. My whole photographic strategy vanished and I panicked. I fumbled and stuttered. But President Ford was so very tolerant and made me feel at ease. He was “real” in spite of all he had achieved and could I sense a very caring person. He even invited me to play a game of golf with him. After a few photographs, we toured the grounds around his home and talked awhile.
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“In 1968 or ’69, we decided to bring our children to the mountains to ski at higher altitudes in different snow. Our children had all learned to ski in Michigan at Boyne Mountain, but they never had experienced real mountain skiing. So we took them to Sun Valley, we took them to Park City, we took them to Alta and then we came to Vail and we found that Vail was what we wanted. As a result, we bought a condominium in Vail, I guess in 1969.
“We bought a condominium in the Lodge, in the new wing of the Lodge. That was a three-bedroom, three-bath condominium. Four years ago we bought a lot here in Beaver Creek and built a house. We eventually traded our condo in the Lodge for a condo in the Vail Village Inn. At that time it was strictly a real estate investment. The house you’re in, here in Beaver Creek, is our residence and that’s where we spend all our time. We spend four months in the summer, from June 1 to about October 1, then we are here about a month during the winter time, off and on; Christmas, New Year’s, March for the World Cup. So, we’re here in the Vail Valley five months a year. We’ve got the best of the summer vacation period and we get snow in the winter time.
“What’s important to us is a combination of things. We think the mountains here in the Vail Valley are fantastic in their natural beauty. We also like the particular sports that are available. We like skiing. Our children and now our grandchildren enjoy skiing. I like golf. I happen to believe, with five really first-class golf courses now, the Vail Valley is the golfing mecca of the Rocky Mountains. You’ve got five outstanding golf courses and I don’t think any other
mountain area has anything comparable to that. And lastly, we like the people up here…the locals, people in Vail, Beaver Creek. Overall, in almost twenty years we’ve made some very close personal friends and we enjoy that kind of close personal relationships. I don’t think there’s one specific activity, relationship or otherwise that we enjoy the most. We like it as a total living experience which means the environment and people. It’s an ideal place to spend five months a year.
“I can only speak about the Vail Valley. I’m not an expert on any other area. Vail has been properly developed. I think Eagle-Vail has gotten a little out of control. Avon is at a very critical point whether they’re going to manage the growth. Certainly Beaver Creek’s plans are good to maintain a certain environment. I just hope that as populations increase here in the Vail Valley, we don’t overdo it and destroy some of the beautiful nature that’s here, the mountains, the streams, the lakes. These are priceless heritages that we’ve got to make sure we don’t destroy.
“I happen to believe in growth, but I want a controlled growth. We need to access public lands. We could look back at this whole area being sheep ranches, but I happen to believe that it has improved, is what’s happened. But let’s not go overboard and destroy it. Because of the development of the last twenty-two years, a lot more people have been able to enjoy the blessings of these mountains and streams. Let’s make sure we don’t destroy it in the process. That’s the fundamental bottom line. I’m a growth person. I believe in growth. I’m opposed to no growth, but it has to be managed in a responsible way.”