After 40+ years with Skico, Steve Sewell retires from Snowmass Ski Area helm
Steve Sewell considers himself the luckiest man in the world.
“This has been all I ever wanted to do,” Snowmass’ outgoing mountain manager said of his dream job and more than 40-year tenure at Aspen Skiing Co.
On Monday, Sewell will turn in his radio and badge — “unless things are really busy,” in which case, he may elect to work through the week.
For those who know Sewell, this isn’t surprising.
“I know Steve took a radio home with him and sat it by his bed every night,” said Doug Mercatoris, a longtime friend of Sewell’s.
Mercatoris, who served as a town council member and mayor in Snowmass for nearly 30 years, said Sewell’s commitment to Snowmass extends beyond the ski area.
“He really, really cares for the community and is active in community events,” Mercatoris said. “His outgoing personality and the way he interacted with both guests and community members and developed relationships did well promoting not only the sport of skiing but the feeling of community in Snowmass Village.”
Former Snowmass mountain manager Doug Mackenzie, who essentially passed the torch onto Sewell, describes his predecessor as a fair leader with the right people skills needed for the job.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Washington, Sewell moved to Snowmass for a carpentry gig in 1973 at age 21. A few years later, he joined Skico as a ski patroller at Snowmass circa 1977.
Over the decades, Sewell worked his way up the ranks, from patrol supervisor to director to mountain manager at Aspen.
As Mackenzie retired from his Snowmass mountain post prior to the 2006-07 ski season, Sewell said Mackenzie “was foolish enough to take a chance on me.”
Mackenzie, however, remembers it differently. “I thought (Sewell) was going to be a step up (from me),” he quipped.
“He’s a heck of a mountain manager,” Mackenzie said. “We all like to embellish our legacies, but I think Steve set a new standard for mountain managers all over.”
But make no mistake, Mackenzie said, the two maintained their share of fun back in the day.
It was the ’70s, after all, when they met in their 20s, living and working in a little ski town called Snowmass.
“It was a smaller community then, everybody would go to the Mountain Dragon or the Tower Bar after work and co-mingle,” Mackenzie said. “It was a fun time; a lot of things would be socially unacceptable now days.”
While Mackenzie declined to delve into specifics, he offered: “We were in our 20s doing what 20-years-old do. We were ski bums in those days. We had a ski pass, we were out on the hill, in the bars every night drinking beer or playing broomball or hiking around the mountain.
“It was just a good, fun time. I think Steve definitely had his share of fun in those days.”
Mercatoris owned and operated the aforementioned Mountain Dragon restaurant and bar — a popular hangout among locals and, in particular, ski patrollers — for 30 years.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes (in Snowmass),” Mercatoris said, “and it’s people like Steve Sewell who have worked hard, in conjunction with the ski company and the town, to bring about the growth and maturation of Snowmass as a ski resort, a premier ski resort in North America.”
While Sewell unequivocally believes he holds “the best job in the world,” he is ready for the next chapter with his wife of 38 years, Judi, who also is retiring from her retail job.
“Both my wife and I are ready to travel,” Sewell said. He said his job requires him to be in town from before the lifts start spinning in November until the slopes close in April, and that “summer’s are getting to the point where they’re almost as busy as winters.”
Sewell and Judi expect to spend more time with their children: Pat, 36, who lives in Aspen, and Carly, 33, who resides in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Along with traveling and family time — a vacation to Mexico in January and a trip to Arizona via sprinter van are already in the works — Sewell sees more hiking, biking, fishing, backpacking and skiing without his radio, and at Aspen Mountain, in his future.
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