Art Bowles had a lifelong love of the Fryingpan Valley, 29-year career with Skico
Bowles, 91, played a key role in Snowmass Ski Area development in 1960s; services set for June 5
James Arthur “Art” Bowles, a fourth-generation midvalley resident with deep ties to the Fryingpan Valley, died May 12.
Bowles, 91, of Basalt, grew up on guest ranches that his parents owned in the Upper Fryingpan Valley. He eventually ended up owning and operating one of the resorts with his wife, Pauline. Art was also a snowcat operator and groomer who played an important role in the development of Snowmass Ski Area. He was promoted to run Breckenridge ski area from 1978 to 1992, when it was owned by Aspen Skiing Corp.
“He was just so thoughtful of other people,” Pauline said of her husband of 66 years. As an example, she said, if one of Art’s golfing companions lost a ball, it was a good bet that Art would search until he found it.
Art had a lifelong love of the Fryingpan Valley, where he spent so much of his youth. Pauline said Art visited the valley about one month ago, driven by a son-in-law. They saw deer, elk and wild turkeys on the trip.
“He kept marveling about what he saw all the way up,” Pauline said. “We spent so much time in the Upper Valley. That was just home for him.”
Bowles’ great-grandparents moved to the Carbondale area in the 1880s and were among the first ranchers to settle in the area. His parents, Adelbert and Thelma, moved up the Fryingpan Valley as a young couple in 1927 and worked on a dude ranch. They were able to purchase their own land in about 1930 and establish the Diamond J Ranch.
As a kid, Art fished the streams, took backcountry pack trips on horseback and helped out at the guest ranch in the Upper Fryingpan Valley. He learned the rugged terrain like the back of his hand.
“It was wilderness all around,” he told The Aspen Times in a 2014 article.
The family obituary said Art was “a cowboy at heart.”
He attended school through seventh grade in Thomasville, then took the bus to Basalt for later grades. He graduated from Basalt High School in a class of eight.
His parents sold the Diamond J in 1946 and bought the Woods Lake Resort in an even more secluded area north of the Fryingpan Valley the following year.
Art met Pauline at the Woods Lake Resort in the early 1950s after he returned home after serving in the U.S. Air Force. Pauline worked at the resort as part of a “college crew.” They were married in 1955.
Art and Pauline bought the resort from other family members in 1962 and operated it until 1970, when private investors purchased it.
Pauline said they enjoyed operating the resort, though it was tough keeping employees for an extended time at the secluded location. In their free time, they backpacked and took pack trips to numerous lakes in the area and fished at their destination. It was common back in those days to only run into one or two people, if anyone at all.
“That was before the general public discovered it,” Pauline said.
Art and Pauline spent summers at the resort and winters in Basalt, all while raising their twin daughters, Jacque and Jill. Art supplemented his income by renting out his snowcat to Aspen ski area operators. He worked with Aspen Highlands owner Whipple Van Ness Jones to come up with innovative grooming techniques in the early 1960s.
Bowles also played key roles in the development of Snowmass Ski Area. He spent a winter collecting vital information about snow conditions on various aspects of Snowmass slopes — information the Aspen Skiing Corp. (as it was known then) needed to establish lift-served skiing.
He also drove for the commercial snowcat tours that the Skico Corp. started in 1963 at Snowmass. He recalled in the 2014 Aspen Times article that they would shuttle skiers up the mountain for two or three runs on the Big Burn, eat lunch at Sam’s Knob and ski the face of Sam’s Knob in the afternoon.
When Snowmass opened lift-served skiing in winter 1966-67, Bowles was placed in charge of grooming and snowcat operations. He and his staff tinkered in the shop to create new grooming innovations. The breakthroughs caught the attention of company president DRC Brown. In 1978, Brown asked Bowles to manage Breckenridge ski area, then owned by the Ski Corp. Bowles told The Aspen Times in 2014 he intended to go for one year to assess it. He stayed for 14 years at what became “the big moneymaker” for the skiing company.
“Art had a great deal of respect for the ski area employees as they all exceeded their job descriptions, which made it easy to go to work each day,” Pauline said.
He also embraced snowboarders early on, inviting them to free-style competitions at the resort.
Art worked for five ownership groups while working at Breckenridge, which always came with different policies and strategies. He was extremely loyal to the man who originally appointed him.
“He just thought the world of DRC Brown,” Pauline said.
Art retired from the ski industry in 1992, and he and Pauline returned to Basalt. She said her husband continued skiing well after he retired. He worked for the Ski Corp. for 29 years, so he was just shy of earning a lifetime ski pass. Nevertheless, he skied as recently as three seasons ago. Even after he quit, he checked the snow reports regularly to see what was happening on the slopes.
Services for Art will be held at The Orchard, 110 Snowmass Dr. in Carbondale, at 10 a.m. on June 5.
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