Legends in their own time
In the past few years, Vail has lost many storied people who contributed to the growth and image of the town in some special way. Some were here from the beginning and, literally, helped build the Town of Vail. Others were lured here by what those pioneers created and, too, wanted to share a little piece of paradise. Each one touched lives and made an unforgettable impression on others in many ways. We refer to those people as “legends.”
Some legends, like Pepi Gramshammer, ventured into uncharted territory, looking for adventure, never, for even a moment, thinking about the impact he would have on a town, on its people. Others, like Sandy Treat, were captivated by the town’s history and the impact it had on their lives. Both men left their mark on the community — and we’re better for it.
From the time Pepi Gramshammer took his first run down Vail mountain in 1963, he was hooked. “I skied down a run (now) called Forever,” Pepi once said, “and had to walk a long way back. There was no question in my mind. I decided to come to Vail. It was the best move I ever made in my entire life.”
That move, however, would not turn out to be Pepi’s “best.” His best was marrying Sheika, his wife for over 50 years. Together, as owners of Gastoff Gramshammer and Pepi Sports, they would become an integral part of the community.
Pepi was born in Kufstein, Austria, in 1932. He raced with the Austrian Ski Team in the 1950s, then moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, to teach skiing. Soon, however, he joined the newly created U.S. Professional Ski Tour, becoming the circuit’s top racer in 1962.
Although, Pepi first worked as one of Vail’s ski instructors, his main focus was being a Ski Ambassador, showing people around the mountain — and soon becoming a public relations expert. However, he had other aspirations and with money he saved from his ski-racing days — and the help of investors — he and Sheika were able to fulfill a dream: to build and operate an Austrian-style hotel. And so they did — right in the middle of town!
When President Gerald R. Ford spent time skiing in Vail, Pepi was his skiing buddy, which resulted in a lasting friendship. Pepi simply had the capacity, with just his warm eyes and bright smile, to touch one’s heart.
“He was a force for Vail from its inception and an inspiration to all of us,” read the statement Vail Resorts released upon hearing of Pepi’s passing. “His contributions to the sport of skiing and to the Vail Valley, combined with his incomparable energy and passion for the mountains will be forever missed and will continue to live on in spirit.”
Like Gastoff Gramshammer, Pepi and Sheika were in the middle of everything Vail. And, they unselfishly supported everything Vail. And so much of that “everything” is due to Pepi’s “can-do” spirit, the support of Sheika and the love that he had for his adopted home.
Sanford “Sandy” Morris Treat Jr. was Dartmouth’s No. 1 crosscountry skier when the U. S. entered World War II. For this reason, he was recruited by Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole, the founder of the National Ski Patrol and of the 10th Mountain Division of ski troopers to work with the men at Camp Hale.
Sandy worked with AlCan Aluminum in Canada and attended Pepi Gramshammer’s Red Sky Lodge, Montana ski camp, where Pepi, with his Austrian accent, would say, “You must come to ‘Wail!’” And in 1986, after a successful business career, Sandy did just that, and soon got involved with the Rotary Club, the Jimmie Heuga Foundation and several other nonprofits.
However, it was Sandy’s involvement with the 10th Mountain Division that made him so much a part of Vail’s history. And, over the years, the Colorado Snowsports Museum became Sandy’s second home, where he hosted a weekly series of talks by members of the 10th Mountain Division and spoke, as well, of his experiences with the troop.
Sandy would begin many of his talks by sharing his experiences as a young soldier at Camp Hale. He would speak of how they performed push-ups in the snow and trained without gloves to toughen up their hands. How they carried weights along with their rifles and carried 100-pound rucksacks up what he said “seemed like every mountain in Colorado.” They learned to climb 60-foot spires and walls and to dig holes in the snow to protect them from the wind. “We were a bunch of college guys with no experience,” he admitted, with a laugh.
“The more years behind him, the brighter his light became,” said Jen Mason, executive director of the Colorado Snowsports Museum. “He was a superhero. A living, breathing real-life superhero living in Vail.”
Pepi and Sandy -— each in his own way a superhero — will be remembered for their unselfish contributions to our community.
Two very storied people, indeed.
“He was a force for Vail from its inception and an inspiration to all of us.” – Pepi
“He was a superhero. A living, breathing real-life superhero living in Vail.” – sandy