Curt Stewart left legacy across county, Aspen ski areas
Former Pitkin County official who also managed Aspen Mountain and Snowmass resort died recently at age 73
Curt Stewart left California to pursue his skiing dreams and quickly left his mark across the Roaring Fork Valley in the 1980s from transportation to skiing. He died earlier this month at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 73.
Stewart and his first wife, Jan Wyant, came to the Aspen area in the late 1970s after discovering their love of skiing during trips to Mammoth and then Park City, according to his daughter Katie Munier. With the encouragement of Jan, the couple moved to the Roaring Fork Valley, and Stewart quickly helped establish a greater transportation system and worked as the county manager before moving into the skiing industry.
With a master’s degree in public transportation planning from UCLA, Stewart left his job with the Orange County Transit District in 1978 to take the position as Pitkin County’s transportation director that May and served for two years before being promoted to county manager, as which he served until June 1984. According to a resume his family found, Stewart mentioned the Pitkin County budget then was $22 million.
“They hired my dad, who helped with transportation planning. My mom said when they arrived, they started to look for houses in Old Snowmass,” Munier said recently. “She said it was one of those amazing days that you’d like to capture in a bottle — blue skies, warm breeze, simply gorgeous. They knew it was where they wanted to be.”
He left the government side of the valley to start working at Aspen Skiing Co., where he spent the next nine seasons, adding to the customer base and directing capital improvements.
Stewart, who was born Nov. 25, 1948, in San Gabriel, California, first served as the skiing company’s director of ski school and guest services starting in June 1984. But barely a year later, at age 37, he was named the manager of Aspen Mountain, replacing Charlie Maddalone, a 25-year veteran of the company, according to reports in The Aspen Times.
Stewart’s people-handling skills and management experience give him the nod over the many other qualified candidates who were in the running for the position, Skico executives said at the time.
“Curt has the ability to meld together those skills and talents so that the whole is more than a sum of the parts,” Skico general manager Brian Rapp said then.
Stewart spent two seasons managing Aspen Mountain, and among other projects in that time he was responsible for guiding $20 million in improvements to the Silver Queen Gondola.
In July 1988, he was named the general manager of Snowmass Ski Area, and he spent the next five seasons helping grow the resort’s visitor base as well as capital expansion projects.
“Some of my very best memories are of skiing with my dad,” said Munier, who was born at Aspen Valley Hospital along with her brother, Brian. “Snowmass is and will always be my most favorite ski area. I have such amazing memories of following him around while he was working and on days off. Skiing with his amazing co-workers Don Rayburn, Victor Gerdin, Weems Westfeldt, Steve Sewell, and so many others. Between all of them I ended up becoming a pretty good skier.”
According to his family’s obituary, Stewart’s expertise was called on to help build and manage the Little Nell hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain and golf courses in Aspen and Snowmass.
David Peri was a colleague through the years and said Stewart had a way of making everyone feel appreciated. It was that characteristic that helped get the skiing company through some difficult transitions, Peri recalled.
“I don’t remember when I started calling him ‘Courteous.’ It was soon after he started working for the Aspen Skiing Co. But it seemed to me that Curt was just short for Courteous because he was that way to everyone, everywhere, every time under even the most difficult situations,” Peri said. “It didn’t matter if you were an owner or an employee; if a fleeting contact or measured in years; if you were ‘important’ or ‘inconsequential.’ My experience was that everyone was important to him. That’s how he made me feel. Courteous to a fault.”
In 1993, Stewart married Kristin Holland and together they had three sons, Flynn, Hale and Owen. He and Kristin left Snowmass when he took the job as general manager of Schweitzer Mountain ski area in Idaho. After a short time there, they moved to Arizona, where they launched The BrainChild Foundation, which invested in groundbreaking research for hydrocephalus, a cause near and dear to Stewart’s heart.
In 2021, Curt married Christy Voelkel and welcomed her children Heather (Dustin), Dre (Adam) and Nicole (Manu) into his life. Stewart is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, mother Mary, brother Jack (Eileen) and nieces and nephews.
A funeral service was held March 14 in Scottsdale, where he was celebrated by his family and friends.
Roaring Fork Valley natives Emily Ridings and Nikki Ferry have come full circle when it comes to dance. Both studied dance with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) as kids, continued their training with other prominent schools, and now return this weekend, as ASFB presents “The Nutcracker” at Aspen District Theater.