Trail-cutting pioneer honored for work |

Trail-cutting pioneer honored for work

Naomi Havlen
Don Robinson

Don Robinson, one of the original creators of Aspen Highlands, was remembered fondly in late December when he died after a battle with lymphoma.

And Robinson was recognized last week for significant contributions to Colorado’s ski industry over 45 years by Colorado Ski Country USA. Robinson won the organization’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Robinson, who was 68 when he died last year, helped original Highlands owner Whip Jones create the popular ski area between Maroon and Castle creek valleys. It’s estimated that Robinson cut as many as 70 of the runs on the mountain.

The award was presented in Robinson’s memory on April 13 at the annual Snowmaking and Slope Maintenance conference and trade show in Grand Junction.

Robinson’s wife, Janet, accepted the award on her husband’s behalf, along with her children and grandchildren.

“I think he would have been proud of this award,” Janet Robinson said Tuesday. “I understand that this award had been discussed a couple of years ago, but they couldn’t seem to come to a decision as to who to present it to. I asked if he had still been alive if he would have been considered, and they said yes.”

According to Colorado Ski Country, the Lifetime Achievement Award was designed to recognize outstanding, long-term, hands-on ski area employees for a lasting and significant contribution, improvement and innovations in their field of expertise, and mentoring to others in the Colorado ski industry.

Robinson was senior vice president of mountain operations at Highlands for 37 years. For the past eight years he was the mountain’s trail director. His namesake run is a trail stretching on skier’s left from the Cloud 9 Bistro down to the Park Avenue run.

“He ran all the bulldozers – the heavy equipment was really his forte,” said Mac Smith, Highlands ski patrol director.

“He could make a bulldozer talk. He had a lifetime of being productive and not hurting himself or the machinery even on the most steep bits – that’s saying something.”

Smith spoke to the Times about Robinson last December, just after Robinson’s death. He remembered his friend and colleague as a family man, and a father figure at the ski area.

“I don’t know if Don knows about this award, but if he doesn’t, I’ll tell him about it someday,” Janet Robinson said.

The winners were nominated by their peers and chosen from a set of finalists who exhibit dedication and leadership in the snowmaking and slope grooming fields. Breckenridge’s Dave Mastrobuono was chosen as this year’s Slope Groomer of the Year, and Steamboat’s John Asta was chosen as this year’s Terrain Master of the Year.

David Leffler of Breckenridge was recognized as this year’s Snowmaker of the Year.

“We are very happy to honor these individuals who make such a difference behind the scenes,” said Rob Perlman, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country. “Colorado’s slopes are the best anywhere to ski and ride because of their hard work and dedication.”

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