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Ski hall of fame inducts Kingsbury Pitcher

Staff Writer

Photos courtesy Carol McGiffin (Above) Kingsbury “Pitch” Pitcher at Wolf Creek ski area in the mid 1980s. (Right) Pitcher maneuvers a turn during the California state championship competition at Sugar Bowl in 1940.

Photos courtesy Carol McGiffin
(Above) Kingsbury “Pitch” Pitcher at Wolf Creek ski area in the mid 1980s. (Right) Pitcher maneuvers a turn during the California state championship competition at Sugar Bowl in 1940.

Kingsbury “Pitch” Pitcher will be inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard (CSS) Hall of Fame this year, in an official ceremony to take place in Broomfield Oct. 17. Pitcher was selected as one of five inductees, out of 17 nominees, to receive the honor.

Turning 95 in July, the new inductee is being honored for his instrumental role in pioneering the ski industry in Colorado and the United States.

Locally, Pitcher is best known for becoming a major stockholder in and CEO of the Wolf Creek Ski Development Company in 1976, and then later taking full ownership and control of the company in 1978. Pitcher’s family still owns and operates the ski area today.

While Wolf Creek remains Pitcher’s best known business endeavor in southwest Colorado, the new hall of famer was also instrumental in the founding of several other ski areas throughout the state and in New Mexico.

But his involvement in the industry goes back much further.

Pitcher developed a passion for skiing at a young age. Grandson of Otto Mears, an early pioneer and major builder of transportation facilities in southwest Colorado, Pitcher grew up in a family that had been skiing out of necessity (according to a 1970 biography) for three generations.

Pitch-#3Choosing to attend Stanford University after high school, Pitcher took his downhill passion to the next level, becoming an active racer for the school’s ski team. The skier even chose to take some time off of school to visit different ski areas across the country and Canada, where the developing industry captured his attention.

After graduating in 1941, the former racer moved to Idaho to became a ski school instructor for Sun Valley. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the Army Air Force, where he served for the duration of WWII.

After returning home from the war, the skier turned pilot married and became a father. In 1951 Pitcher and his young family, which eventually included six children, began wintering in Aspen. A few years later, Pitcher acquired ranch property in the area and began a cattle and land development program.

In addition to ranching, Pitcher returned to work on the slopes, becoming a ski instructor yet again. Pitcher continued teaching, eventually advancing to the position of ski school supervisor and becoming one of the first certified instructors in the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association.

In 1958, the passionate skier was hired by Bill Janss (former classmate and ski racing coach from Stanford) and his brother Ed Janss to scout the Aspen area for the best place to develop a new major ski resort.

Pitcher scouted first by plane, then by ski, horseback and foot over the next two years, assessing the potential of several slopes and settling on Baldy and Burnt Mountains that now comprise the heart of the Snowmass ski area.

In 1960, Pitcher submitted his findings to the Janss brothers and U.S. Forest Service, recommending establishing the resort. Snowmass opened officially in 1967.

In addition to helping found Snowmass, the CSS Museum Hall of Fame states, “Pitcher acquired an interest in Buttermilk Mountain, which was later sold to Aspen Skiing Company, and he was involved in the planning and development of Arrowhead (now connected to Beaver Creek) and potential ski properties near Telluride.”

The skier was also instrumental in the development of Sierra Blanca, now Ski Apache, near Ruidoso, N.M. Sierra Blanca was the first ski area in the country to install a four-passenger monocable gondola, which greatly aided it in its success.

After his accomplishments at Sierra Blanca, Pitcher went on to help rehabilitate Santa Fe Ski Basin, purchasing the area in 1964 and selling it in 1984.

His multiple successes in the ski industry made Pitcher a sought-after consultant by many other ski areas and land developers “from the Green Mountains to the Cascades,” as one biography put it. His efforts in designing and developing “ski areas throughout the world” also landed him a position in the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame.

The CSS Museum Hall of Fame announced recently that Pitcher will “join a prestigious roster of Hall of Fame athletes, sport builders and visionaries who have made major contributions to Colorado’s ski industry over many decades.”

Now retired from business in the ski industry, Pitcher currently resides in Santa Fe, though he is still a presence in Pagosa Springs and at Wolf Creek Ski Area during the winter months.

The life-long skier will be honored for his contributions to the industry in a ceremony alongside fellow inductees Jeremy Bloom, three-time mogul skiing world champion, two-time Olympian and 11-time World Cup gold medalist; Mike Brown, 10 year U.S. Ski Team member and top 15 World Cup placer; John “C.J.” Mueller, the first skier to exceed 130 mph and U.S. national downhill champion; and Johnny Spillane, four-time Olympian in Nordic combined.

shanti.johnson@pagosasun.com

 
This story was posted on June 19, 2014.