Locals We Love

Beth Slifer Talks Entrepreneurialism, Vail Life and Renovations

She's the founder of the valley’s most successful interior design firm, but there's a lot more to Beth Slifer than that.

Edited by Ted Katauskas Photography by Charles Engelbert October 5, 2016 Published in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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Beth Slifer is a Vail icon. She's also smart, savvy and an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere.

Image: Preston Utley

When I met Rod Slifer in Washington, DC, he was the mayor of Vail, and I was working in the Carter administration. It was the summer of 1978, and I was the special assistant to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a political liaison to all of the government agencies. Rod was there to testify before Congress, and he called a mutual friend who introduced us. We had a blind date and five years later, after I got my master’s in business from the University of Chicago, we were married—Rod promising that if I didn’t like Vail, we could move.

I was from Jacksonville; I didn’t ski. Rod had been here since 1962, before Vail had even started, so this really was home for him. He had been a ski bum and instructor in Aspen and had been invited to come to Vail and be the first assistant ski-school director, so he is a beautiful skier and an experienced teacher. He was also smart enough not to coach me; he figured out right away that the best thing for me and the best thing for our marriage was for me to just follow him. And I did.

At first, I couldn’t quite figure out what I’d do here. One of the things they teach you at the University of Chicago is to look for a need and then start a business. It was very apparent to me that Vail was in need of a professional interior design firm. Not because I was a professional, but because my mother for many years had the no. 1 design firm in Jacksonville. So I knew what professional looked like. I did my first job in November of ’84 with the help of my mother by phone giving me advice and direction. I can’t believe Slifer Designs has been here for thirty years.

I was in the right place at the right time. When I came to Vail, it was not a luxury experience; it was a camp experience, piling as many people in as many beds as you could. As real estate became more and more expensive, I was able to explain to potential customers that they needed to make their homes into more than sleep camps for skiers. I always felt that interior design is about creating a lifestyle as opposed to curating a museum. It’s not about filling a place with stuff; it’s about creating a backdrop for hospitality, because most people have second homes for other people to enjoy, for family and friends.

The thing I love most about Vail is that it’s even more beautiful in the summer than it is in the winter. At the Local Marketing District Advisory Council, where I've served as chair, the mission is to promote Vail in the nonskiing months. Vail is known as the premier Rocky Mountain ski resort, and we want people to understand that we are the premier summer mountain resort, too. As our positioning of Vail has evolved, how we get that message out also has evolved: we’ve transferred most of our funds to social media marketing campaigns. I don’t do Facebook or Instagram, and I struggle with texting! But I understand how important it is.

"It’s not about filling a place with stuff; it’s about creating a backdrop for hospitality."

To stay ahead, we need to renovate outdated properties. A great example is the Vail golf clubhouse, which is in the neighborhood of forty-nine years old. It is time to tear it down and create something that is worthy of the Vail experience. But some homeowners are opposed to it. To the current town council’s credit, they have had the courage to go ahead with the renovation of the clubhouse in spite of a very vocal small minority of objectors. Since I’ve lived here, there always have been people who have objected to one project or another, but we’ve always gotten over it.

Rod and I will always call Vail our home. We will always spend our winters and summers here, and I will always be interested in the welfare of this community. My hope is that it continues to have a population that shares the same vision of maintaining and advancing Vail as one of the best places to live on earth.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In April, 2019, Beth Slifer was honored with a Mountain Living Legacy Award; read about the magazine's homage to our local design guru here.


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