Man who saw Snowmass potential is headed to Colorado Ski Hall of Fame
Ryan Summerlin June 18, 2014
A Colorado ski industry pioneer who scouted the terrain that eventually became Snowmass ski area will be inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame this year.
Kingsbury “Pitch” Pitcher is best known for purchasing an interest in Wolf Creek ski area in southwest Colorado in 1976 and then taking over full control in 1986. He and his family ran all aspects of the resort. His family still owns and operates the iconic ski resort.
However, Pitcher also has close ties to the Aspen area. He and his family acquired property and moved to Aspen in the winter of 1950, according to an interview with Pitcher in the book “The Story of Snowmass,” by Paul Andersen. Pitcher joined the ski schools directed by Friedl Pfeiffer and his assistant, Fred Iselin, but found it was tough to make a living with so few students.
He told Andersen he bought a 660-acre ranch in Little Woody Creek and ran a cow-calf operation.
Bill Janss, Pitcher’s friend from his days at Stanford University, also ended up in Aspen. Janss and his brother Ed hired Pitcher to scout Colorado in 1958 for a big mountain with lots of real estate at the base to develop. After scouting for a while by plane, Pitcher found a place with big potential in his front yard — the Brush Creek Valley.
They spent the next two years assessing the skiing potential on Baldy and Burnt Mountains, which make up Snowmass. They skied the site during winters and walked the land and rode horseback during summers, Pitcher told Andersen.
Pitcher submitted a report to Janss and the U.S. Forest Service in 1960 that recommended establishing a ski area, according to the website ColoradoSkiHistory.com. The Forest Service issued a commercial touring permit to allow snowcats to take skiers to the top of the slopes for the 1962-63 season. Later approvals were granted for construction of the ski area for a targeted opening in 1967-68, the website said. Janss Investment Corp. and Aspen Skiing Corp. signed a partnership to develop the ski area.
The Ski Hall of Fame’s biography of Pitcher said he also had acquired an interest in Buttermilk ski area, which was developed in 1958. He later sold his interest to Aspen Skiing Corp., the predecessor of Aspen Skiing Co.
Pitcher went on to help with the planning and development of Arrowhead ski area, now connected to Beaver Creek, and he scouted for potential ski properties in Telluride. He also revived the Santa Fe Ski Basin resort in New Mexico. Pitcher, 95, lives in Santa Fe, according to the Hall of Fame.
Colorado Ski Country USA President and CEO Melanie Mills called Pitcher a visionary for the skiing industry in Colorado and around the country.
“His ability to envision ski areas where none existed and to help bring many of those visions to reality, including Snowmass, makes him a true sport builder,” Mills said in a statement.
The other inductees to the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame this year are athletes Jeremy Bloom, Mike Brown, John “C.J.” Mueller and Johnny Spillane.
They will be formally inducted during the 38th annual Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Gala at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield on Oct. 17.
A 150-member panel that is connected to the ski industry votes to determine the inductees each year. There were 17 nominees this year, including several with Aspen ties: Steve and Mike Marolt, Dr. Barry Mink and Casey and Chris Puckett.
The Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame is located in Vail.