Former Skico president Bob Maynard dies at age 93

Bob Maynard poses for a portrait at the base of Aspen Mountain in the early 1990s.
Aspen Times file

Bob Maynard, who ran Aspen Skiing Co. during an era of great changes between 1988 and 1996, died at his home on Orcas Island, Washington, earlier this month at age 93.

Maynard died of natural causes in his sleep on Nov. 11, said Randall Gaylord, the San Juan County coroner and a family friend of the Maynards.

Aspen Skiing Co. officials past and present are mourning their former leader’s passing. John Norton, who was a former marketing executive and second in command recruited by Maynard in the early 1990s, said this week he enjoyed working for Maynard and the flexibility he provided to his staff.

“He gave me complete freedom to be as radical as was warranted,” Norton said.

He recalled that he was assigned to the ski school while there was a unionization effort underway in the mid-1990s.

“Bob directed me to please ‘beat the New Jersey longshoremen, but, more important, help the school develop into the best the world has ever seen.’ That’s a real quote,” Norton said. “That’s how he thought.”

Norton, now a resident of Crested Butte, said Maynard left his imprint on the company.

“Bob’s leadership is very much felt at the company today,” he said.

As an example, current Skico president and CEO Mike Kaplan rose through the ranks of the Ski Schools of Aspen during Maynard’s tenure. Rich Burkley, the current senior vice president of strategic planning, was brought over from accounting to operations during Maynard’s time.

Katie Ertl, now senior vice president of mountain operations, was given an opportunity at leadership of the ski schools. Numerous people helped with the transformation of the ski school and, with it, a transformation of the company, according to Norton.

“Look where Mike, Rich and Katie are today. That’s all Bob,” Norton said. “His leadership lives on.”

Maynard took over at a tumultuous time. Jerry Blann abruptly left the company in 1987 after a community uproar over Skico’s lift ticket and pass pricing. Blann felt he didn’t have the backing of the ownership when the backlash hit.

Maynard was recruited by the Crown family and took the reins of the company on Jan. 1, 1988. He unabashedly pursued branding Aspen as an elite ski resort. When asked by a reporter at the time if Skico’s upscaling posed a risk of alienating the middle-class tourists who had been the bread-and-butter customer for so long, Maynard replied, “Mass follows class.”

Maynard was not afraid of ruffling feathers while in pursuit of his vision for Aspen Skiing Co. He butted heads with environmentalists and some local elected officials over the expansion of Snowmass ski area onto Burnt Mountain. He fought with politicians over Skico being charged for extra bus service for skiers. He alienated some lodge owners when Skico rolled out a rating system that was intended to force upgrades to an aging inventory.

Kitty Boone, a former Skico marketing executive, knew Maynard since her childhood and helped implement his vision at the company.

“Bob was often described as aloof or evasive. In fact he was shy, at the end of the day,” Boone said via an email. “He had a remarkable mind, full of ideas well beyond the scope of skiing or resort management.”

She said Maynard was an “original environmentalist” and dedicated to environment education.

Early in his career he worked at Yosemite National Park managing Wawona Hotel, one of the first hotels in a national park. He ascended to the position of vice president of operations at Yosemite Park and Curry Co. He also spent three years at Jackson Lake Lodge. He later was appointed as an assistant director of the National Park Service in Washington D.C.

“He wasn’t enamored of cities like D.C. nor, I think, of the politics. He clearly enjoyed management in the private sector,” Boone said.

He left the Park Service in 1973 to serve as president and CEO of Keystone Resort, a new resort then a division of the Ralston Purina Co. He oversaw its operations and expansion for 13 years. Under his guidance, Keystone went from 50,000 skier visits to more than 1 million per season. He left to be president and CEO of Sundance Enterprises at Sundance, Utah.

He was lured to Aspen while the Crowns co-owned Aspen Skiing Co. with Marvin Davis-20th Century Fox. The Crowns bought out Davis while Maynard was at the helm.

According to Boone, some of the company’s highlights under Maynard’s guidance included the acquisition of Aspen Highlands and incorporating that into Skico’s operations; overseeing the construction, launch and management of The Little Nell Hotel and later Snowmass Lodge and Club.

“A key initiative that Bob cared deeply about was the ownership and control of the Aspen Meadows, the property embracing the Aspen Institute, Aspen Music Festival and School and the Aspen Center for Physics,” Boone said. “As I recall, he was instrumental in maintaining the meadows acreage as open space, though he took a behind the curtain position in that process, as was his wont.”

His work with others results in securing the campus for the institutions and establishing the open space for perpetuity.

“In recent years, Bob has said to me that this is one of the things he is most proud of having been part of, so important was this property and these institutions to Aspen,” she said.

Boone also recalled Maynard as the most passionate person she has met on customer service.

“He would sit in a restaurant in the corner, looking out over it, just to see that wait staff and so forth were taking care of guests properly,” she said. “He would pick up trash on the snow. He would admonish us in management for not owning the mantra: The customer is always right.”

In 1995, Maynard recruited Pat O’Donnell as his heir apparent as the new president and chief operating officer. Maynard took the position of CEO and chairman of the board. Maynard retired a year later. O’Donnell headed the company until November 2006, when Kaplan was promoted from within as president and CEO.

Maynard was inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1993.

Maynard and his wife, Nancy, relocated to Orcas Island, after his retirement. Nancy preceded him in death by several years, said Gaylord, a family friend for roughly 25 years. The Maynards have two daughters, Katy and Suzy Maynard, and several grandchildren.

Katy agreed that her dad felt strongly that the customer was always right.

“It was sometimes the little things that dad also felt were important — Kleenex at the lift lines, for example,” she said via email. “Then bigger things like the importance of improved employee housing so that people did not have to travel so far to work in the winter.”

Suzy Maynard said her dad felt one should look forward and not back, and to also look for the positive.

“He supported all people and was vocal in his support,” she said. “He felt that real, practical experience was of great value.”

Gaylord said Maynard remained active in civic duties during retirement.

“He was always interested in the betterment of the community,” the coroner said.

Maynard served on the Eastsound Planning Review Committee, an advisory board on land use and development matters.

“His mind, his body and faculties stayed with him to the end,” he said.

Katy shared one of many fond memories of her dad.

“‘Be of good cheer!’ was his favorite quote in his later years,” she said.