Jim Fox was born to Pauline Short Fox and Wayne Wetmore Fox, in Rochester, N.Y., where Wayne was completing his medical internship. They moved to Evanston, Ill. Wayne taught at Northwestern and the University of Chicago and had a private practice in internal medicine and Pauline gave birth to four more children: Jon, Patrick, Jennifer and Deborah. When the boys were still in grade school, Pauline and Wayne fell in love with the new sport of skiing. During winter holidays, they took their children first to Wilmont Hills, Wis. then to Alta, Utah and finally to Aspen in 1949, instilling in them a passion for skiing on Aspen Mountain.
Jim completed high school in three years and enrolled as a pre-med student at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1951. He joined Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and the CU ski team, specializing in four-way competitions: downhill, slalom, nordic jumping and cross country. That winter, he began boot packing on Aspen Mountain and long weekends in Aspen led to short weeks in classes. By 1953, he left CU saying that he didn't need a degree in medicine to join the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol. He patrolled for two winters before he was drafted into the Army where he served in White Sands, N.M. as a radio repairman.
In 1959, Jim returned to Aspen Mountain and became leader of the Patrol in 1962, a year after he married Dixie Bruflat, a teacher at Country Day School. They had two children, Allison and Tim. Jim's first construction project had been a "ski" cabin for his parents on four lots at the base of Shadow Mountain. Although it was a Better Homes and Gardens kit for a beach house, the cabin survived a move to Woody Creek and was expanded with a log addition in 1994. His second construction project was a home for his new family on Red Butte Drive, a "remote suburb" of Aspen. With two projects completed, Jim formed the Close-Enough Construction Company to sustain his family during the summer months.
As head of the Patrol, Jim supported the company during negotiations for unionization but in 1966, a collision with another patrolman resulted in a spiral fracture from his knee to his ankle, ending his patrol career. After more than a year of recovery, the Ski Company offered him management of a new venture, Buttermilk Ski Rental Shop, where he could begin work on crutches. For 28 years, he built the shop into a profit center and when the Ski Company bought Highlands, Jim opened Four Mountain Sports. He continued to work there until 2012. For 58 years, the record for years of employment, Jim was a Ski Company man.
In 1982, Jim married Patty nee Fox. Together, and then with their children, Maureen, now a ski patroller on Aspen Highlands and a NOLS instructor, and Matthew, an engineer for Tesla Motors, Jim and Patty hiked and backpacked the less-traveled trails that surround the Roaring Fork Valley. Jim's passion for the mountains included fishing and hunting and he brought home and meticulously butchered an elk for all but one of the 31 years of his second marriage, probably another record.
Jim was a 23-year survivor of prostate cancer, which he battled with a wide range of therapies. He passed away at home in Woody Creek and is survived by all of his children, his siblings and a grandson, Jonathan. His treasured legacy of passionate skiing, conscientious hunting and respect for the Colorado wilderness will be lovingly nurtured and passed to the next generation.
Donations in his memory can be made to the Jim Fox Scholarship of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club (AVSC), 300 AVSC Drive, Aspen, CO 81611 Attn: Mark Cole.