Aspen Hall of Famer Marian Melville came for that classic one ‘ski bum winter’ and never left |

Aspen Hall of Famer Marian Melville came for that classic one ‘ski bum winter’ and never left

Mountain Chalet owner Marian Melville stands in the back of the lodge in Aspen on Tuesday, March 30, 2021.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Aspenite Marian Melville, owner of the Mountain Chalet, passed away on March 10 at the age of 93. She was in her home surrounded by family and close friends.

Melville first came to Aspen for a “ski bum winter” in the 1955-56 winter season at friend Dottie Kelleher’s recommendation. She and Kelleher had traveled the world together in 1955 and at Mont Tremblant, she found her passion for skiing and heard about Aspen.

She spent her first winter in Aspen working at the Holland House and the Sundeck while working on her ski technique, her family said.

After Kelleher convinced her to stay for the summer, she met Ralph Melville at a picnic at Chapman Dam up the Fryingpan River. They were engaged within two weeks of meeting and married August 18, 1956.

Ralph and Marian Melville in September 2013 in front of the Mountain Chalet Aspen, the ski lodge Ralph began building in 1954.
Aspen Times file photo |

Ralph had moved to Aspen in February 1951 as a ski bum and worked at Matthews Drug (now Carl’s Pharmacy) and at the Sundeck. He returned in 1953 where he broke his ankle in a ski accident, giving him time to think, which resulted in his purchase of two city lots near the base of Aspen Mountain for $2,000.

They were married in Marian’s hometown of Pittsburgh, right after Ralph survived a fall on North Maroon Peak.

When they returned to Aspen, the Melvilles continued to add to the chalet. From 1958 through 1963, they expanded the lodge by adding basements, wings and floors. They purchased the adjoining lots, five in total, to continue the expansion of the chalet. The Mountain Chalet today stands at five floors tall with 59 rooms, including four apartments, across the five lots.

“They realized what a special place Aspen was, and quickly made it their home establishing the Mountain Chalet and running it for over half a century. Everything they did sprouted from the Chalet and their love of the people of Aspen, both the mainstay locals and the frequent visitors who became dear friends,” the family said.

Marian was very involved in the community in many ways. She was a volunteer at Aspen Valley Hospital, Aspen Thrift Shop and with the Read With Me Program at Aspen Elementary School. She also taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and ministered to the incarcerated through Prison Fellowship.

Marian earned a Master of Arts Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in September 1998.

“She helped so many people in the valley that every time we would go shopping with her or take her downtown there always seemed to be someone that would come up to her and say ‘Marian, you helped me in a hard time, you saved me’ or something like that,” her family remembered.

Marian Melville, surrounded by family members and Aspen Valley Hospital and Foundation staff and board members, cuts the ribbon on the new oncology center named after her and her late husband.
File Photo

The Melvilles were also expanding their family. In 1958, their first daughter Julie was born. Although the family attempted to move into a house off premises of the chalet, they eventually returned to live in what are now apartments 130 and 230 with all eight children: Julie, Frank, Nancy, Susan, Karen, Craig, and two adopted children, Riley Pond and Kai Ginter.

“We were free to roam the town and climb in the mountains …. We just had to be home for dinner,” her children remembered.

Marian and Ralph were inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame in 1997. They were the Wintersköl king and queen in 2009, and Marian was named an American Heroine in a special 1991 issue of the Ladies Home Journal.

Ralph passed away in February 2016 after a long battle with leukemia. The pair were married for 60 years.

Marian’s legacy will remain in Aspen through her children, grandchildren and her beloved Mountain Chalet.

“She was really warm with everyone, always had a huge smile and always wanted everyone to love her, so she would make them her best friend,” her children said.