Aspen Hall of Fame inductee Tom Anderson passes away at age 78

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Tom Anderson was a central figure in Aspen's ski community for 45 years.
Anderson family courtesy photo |

Tom Anderson, an important player in Aspen’s maturation as a ski resort, died at age 78 from complications due to leukemia Friday.

Friends and family remembered Anderson on Saturday as a dedicated family man, a person of the highest integrity and someone who loved skiing so much that he carved a successful business career out of it.

Anderson was selected earlier this summer to be inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame in January with his brother Gregg, a longtime spiritual leader and chaplain emeritus at the Aspen Chapel.

“I so much admired my brother. Everything he did, I did,” said Gregg, who is 12 years younger than Tom. It will be special to be inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame together, he said.

“Here I am again, tagging along with my older brother,” Gregg quipped.

Tom first experienced the ski slopes of Aspen Mountain as a teenager in the early 1950s while on a family vacation from Minneapolis. Gregg said he and his brother grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River and had to search to find hills suitable for skiing. They handcrafted pieces of wood with a leather strap for skis.

Gregg remembers regularly visiting Aspen as a young child with his family, including Tom. They stayed at the Ski View Lodge, he recalled.

Tom was so taken with skiing that when he went to college in Minnesota, he and some friends rigged a boat tow using the rear axle of a jacked-up dump truck.

Tom returned to Aspen during his college years in the late 1950s and worked a variety of jobs before joining Sport Obermeyer. Anderson moved back to Minneapolis to work as the Midwest region sales manager for Obermeyer.

“They don’t come any better than Tom Anderson,” said Klaus Obermeyer, founder of the company and an Aspen icon. “He always did what he said he would do.”

In addition to representing Obermeyer, Anderson got into the ski-shop business in his native Minnesota, first running the ski shop at Dayton’s, a Minneapolis department store, then starting the Le Ski Hut in Wayzata, Minnesota, in 1963.

Aspen always on his mind

But Aspen was always on his mind, for all the obvious reasons.

“What is it about Aspen that we all love?” said his wife of 54 years, Janny.

Tom and Janny married in 1960 and visited Aspen the following year on their honeymoon. They built a vacation home in Aspen in 1965 and started making many friends on their visits. They made the big decision to sell their shop in Minnesota and move to Aspen in 1971.

Gregg recalled Tom saying he had reached some important business goals, so now he wanted to spend more time with his wife and daughters.

“He said, ‘My task will be to drive the girls to school,’” Gregg said.

Anderson loved skiing and he loved Aspen. That shined through in a Jan. 16, 2013, interview with The Aspen Times.

“Aspen has kept its natural flavor, I always say,” Anderson said at the time. “There is nothing but good about Aspen, Colorado.”

The Andersons immersed themselves as volunteers with the Aspen Valley Ski Club with other parents after they moved to Aspen. Tom served as the president of the club’s board of directors in 1976-77. While helping with club races, he became an expert timer and was later certified as a timing official by the International Ski Federation, the body that oversees World Cup ski racing.

The bug to get back into the ski-shop business also bit Tom. He opened a children’s ski shop called P’nuts. He later purchased Pomeroy Sports on Durant Avenue in 1980 and bought the commercial space it occupied a few years later.

It was a risky move at the time, Gregg said, because the base area hadn’t been redeveloped. The Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall was the hot commercial core.

But the installation of the Silver Queen Gondola and the accompanying plaza transformed the base of Aspen Mountain — and put Pomeroy Sports into a prime position.

‘Perfect’ for Aspen Hall of Fame

One of the Andersons’ daughters, Debbie Kadota, helped run Pomeroy along with her husband, Gus.

The Andersons’ other daughter, Jill Pisani, is a school teacher and lives with her husband, Mark, in the Aspen area.

The Andersons closed Pomeroy Sports in April 2013 after nearly 35 years of a successful run.

“He loved being around people,” Janny said. “I think that’s what he missed so much after closing Pomeroy.”

Anderson also became a central figure in Aspen’s hosting of World Cup ski races. He was named the chief of race in the early 1980s and held the post when Aspen hosted the marquee World Cup events — including the men’s downhill races.

“That I did for 20 World Cups. I have a jacket and poster for every one of those years,” Anderson said in November 2013, when he was named to the Aspen Valley Ski Club’s Hall of Fame. Now, in addition to being recognized by the ski club Hall of Fame, he will take his place in Aspen’s broader Hall of Fame.

The Aspen Hall of Fame’s mission statement says it was founded to honor the individuals “who have had a significant and lasting impact on the Aspen/Snowmass communities. … Nominees must have demonstrated inspirational leadership and have made major contributions to cultural, sports and/or civic activities.”

“Doesn’t that just say Tom Anderson?” said Lorna Petersen, president of the board of directors for the Hall of Fame. She noted that the Anderson brothers were very humble about being inducted, questioning if they deserved to be in. The selection committee had no doubt.

“It was just a beautiful, perfect nomination,” Petersen said.

Ceremony planned on Aspen Mountain

The induction will be the latest in a lifetime of close, brotherly experiences between Gregg and Tom. Gregg came to visit Tom and his family in 1972 with a plan to attend law school. He never left Aspen, and he said he always was welcomed as part of Tom’s family.

Gregg said Tom was diagnosed with cancer in May 2013. The disease was in remission but reappeared in January. Gregg recalled going to visit Tom in the hospital.

“The first thing he said to me was, ‘I want you to do my service,’” Gregg said.

Gregg had his own request.

“I said, ‘I want you to do my wedding service.’”

Tom presided over the marriage of Gregg and Carolyn on Easter Sunday atop Aspen Mountain. Gregg will preside over Tom’s memorial service — on Aspen Mountain, of course. The service will be held promptly at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, on the deck outside the Sundeck, if the weather allows, and indoors if necessary. It will be a public service. The Silver Queen Gondola will start operating at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Aspen Valley Hospital in Tom’s name.

“We had nothing but good experiences with Tom Anderson,” Obermeyer said. “It’s too bad he had to leave us this early.”