Donald Hatfield Rayburn
December 27, 2011
Donald Hatfield Rayburn died peacefully Dec. 18 in Carbondale, Colo., mercifully surrounded by family.
Born March 21, 1931 in St. Paul, Minn., Don grew up in St. Croix Falls, Minn. with his parents, Willa and Alan Rayburn, and three adoring sisters, Willa Lammer, Janet Meier and Cynthia Wise. He earned a bachelor of science degree in soils agronomy from University of Wisconsin-Stout, where he joined the ski club and developed his lifelong love of skiing.
After college, Don joined the Army during the Korean War. After his discharge, he worked for the FDA as a food inspector, ending in Denver, where he quit to avoid a promotion to a larger city. With a friend, he opened Christy Sports. They bought shipments of long wooden skis from the 10th Mountain Division, cut them down, screwed on metal edges and sold them at the shop. He sold his share of the store for $100 and moved to Aspen, “just to be a ski bum for one season.” This “one season” lasted more than four decades.
Don started with the Skico as a peon, boot packing and hand shoveling moguls, picking rocks and cutting trails on Aspen Mountain. He lived in a mine shaft at the bottom, the cold air from the mine keeping his milk, eggs and road-kill meat fresh.
Don loved the opportunity he had to be a pioneer in the ski industry. He convinced DRC Brown to let him install snowmaking for the first time and later was the first to allow snowboarders on a Skico mountain. He was manager of Buttermilk and Aspen Mountain, trails director at Ajax, mountain planner for Snowmass, guided snowcat tours before there were lifts, and finally retired to return to ski patrol at Snowmass, refusing promotion so he could just ski.
Don had a sharp wit, a gentle way with difficult women, a willingness to try anything and a remarkable ability to enjoy almost everything.
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Don was preceded in death by his three very different yet equally and deeply loved wives: Robin Rudd, Alice Scudder and Bonnie Brucker. With Robin, he raised animals, hunted, water-skied at Ruedi, drank Coors, enjoyed La Cocina. With Alice, he ate seaweed and brown rice, canoed on Stillwater and enjoyed quiet nights at home.
With Bonnie, he drank fine wine, enjoyed Cache Cache and croissants, windsurfed at Ruedi, and bicycled in Europe. In his last days, when told three beautiful women would be waiting for him, he broke into a huge grin. Though he was devastated by each loss, he grieved then continued to live with gusto and more love – an inspiration to us all.
He is survived by two daughters, Davina Rayburn of Jacksonville, N.C. and Anita Rayburn of Aspen, her husband Christopher Tudge and their children Soren and Keller (who was born on Don’s 80th birthday), and his sisters Willa, Janet and Cynthia.
More than anything else, he loved to ski, so the family would like to unofficially dedicate Friday, Dec. 30 as Donald Rayburn Memorial Ski Day. Ski with a smile and a bit of bravado and pull a practical joke or two for good measure.