Meet the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame Class of 2019: Martin Hart
Special to the Vail Daily
Editor’s note: The Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame Induction Gala is one of the most important annual celebrations of the state’s snowsports industry and a unique opportunity to meet, mix and mingle with the men and women who have shaped the industry. Leading up to the event on Saturday, Oct. 26, the Colorado Snowsports Museum will profile the five members of the Class of 2019.
Throughout his involvement with Steamboat Springs, Martin Hart worked hard to ensure that the resort held on to its Old West charm. He strongly believed that the strength of the ski area and the strength of the town were interrelated.
When LTV Recreational Development purchased Steamboat Springs Ski Area in 1970, their plan was to modernize it and turn it into a year-round resort. Ultimately, it was Hart that laid the foundation for what was to come and for what Steamboat is today. When the group took control, the ski area was losing money but Hart was the visionary who could see the potential. And, he possessed the business background to make the numbers work.
Hart was a perfect fit for Steamboat. True to form, he acted immediately by selling off parts of the resort, which reduced debt and enabled significant capital investments. Within three seasons, $15 million was spent to make Steamboat a first-rate ski area. By the end of 1986, more than $30 million in improvements had been made and Steamboat was considered one of the top four ski areas in Colorado.
One of the first major capital investments that Hart and his group made was $4.2 million in snowmaking equipment. It was the most extensive system in the country and demonstrated that ski areas could protect against financial losses related to poor snow years.
Hart oversaw Steamboat’s increasing number of lifts, skiable acres and the building of two fine dining restaurants on the mountain. Along with this came the Silver Bullet, the first eight-passenger high-speed gondola in the world, introduced in 1986.
Most agree that the expansion of the Hayden Airport that same year was a true game-changer, allowing greater access to Steamboat. Hart was instrumental in launching direct flights into Hayden by collaborating with Routt County Commissioner Bill Haight. The following year, Colorado Gov. Roy Romer appointed Hart to the Colorado Tourism Board.
After selling the resort to Kimihito Kamori, Hart stayed on as chairman of the board until 1991, continuing to guide the development of Steamboat as a world-class ski area. During that time, the first snowboarding halfpipe was built on the mountain, keeping Steamboat growing, expanding and current.
Hart truly believed that it was important to maintain the connection between the town and the ski area, working hard to maintain traditions that included and helped the townspeople. Examples of this include the annual Cowboy Downhill, giving opening day receipts from each season to the Winter Sports Club for scholarships and being a founding member of the Yampa Valley Foundation, which provides support for those in the community needing financial assistance. Hart passed away on Jan. 3, 2014.
Tickets for the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame Induction Gala are on sale, with reserved individual tickets priced at $325 and tables of 10 at $3,750. A $250 general individual ticket is available but does not include seating preference. The gala takes place at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort in Lionshead Village.
To purchase tickets or for additional information, visit snowsportsmuseum.org or call 970-476-1876. All proceeds from the gala benefit the Colorado Snowsports Museum.
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Teams have two more weekends of racing before the scheduled regional meet on Oct. 9 in Durango. The state cross country meet is slated for Oct. 17 in Colorado Springs.