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If you live in Vail, you know Pepi. You’ve probably seen him out and about recently in Vail Village, or on the patio at his iconic Gasthof Gramshammer restaurant. He’s one of the legendary founders of arguably one of the most successful ski areas on the planet.
And on Saturday morning he died at the age of 87.
An Austrian ski racer who rolled the dice on a fledgling resort in the Colorado Rockies, Pepi came to define Vail – its Tyrolean flare, its endless high-quality powder lines like the run Forever in Vail’s Back Bowls.
Legend has it Pepi named it before Chair 5 was even installed, marveling that it seemed to go on forever. Now Gramshammer is somewhere hopefully skiing that same line on 27-year-old knees, forever and ever.
I sat at a table with Pepi and Vail founder Pete Seibert on the deck of Gasthof Gramshammer sometime in the early 2000s, listening to Pepi and Pete swap endless stories about the early days – the pioneering passion to build, promote and manage the perfect ski area. They both came pretty close.
I was writing the first story for the Vail Trail on Pete’s new book, Vail: Triumph of a Dream. It was fitting that he wanted to meet me to talk about his book with Pepi by his side. I’ll never forget that day.
On Saturday, the Colorado Snowsports Museum, whose hall of fame includes both men, posted this notice on its Facebook page:
It is with great sadness that we inform you that Hall of Fame member Pepi Gramshammer passed away this morning at 8 a.m. He was 87.
Pepi was truly the heartbeat of Vail for close to 60 years and he genuinely loved his adopted home. He embodied the American “can do spirit” and the Vail Valley, as well as everyone that visits Vail and Beaver Creek each year owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sheika and his daughters.
— Jen Mason & the entire Colorado Snowsports Museum staff