Ski area pioneer and Wolf Creek Pass owner

Passing Date: 
Friday, December 29, 2017

Kingsbury Pitcher, longtime owner of Colorado’s Wolf Creek Pass ski area, died in his sleep on December 29, 2017, at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 98.

“Pitch” grew up in Pasadena, California, and spent his summers in Silverton, Colorado, where his grandfather Otto Mears had pioneered the railroads. After learning to ski at Yosemite, Pitcher raced for the Stanford ski team, graduating in 1941. His teammates included Bill Janss and Chris Schwarzenbach, who taught Pitch to fly. He spent the winter of 1941–42 teaching at the Sun Valley ski school, then enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he served as a flight instructor. After the war he founded a flight school in Santa Fe and operated the Hyde Park ski hill.

Pitch moved to Aspen in 1951, where he taught skiing and started a cattle ranch near Woody Creek. He surveyed Burnt and Baldy Mountains for the ski terrain that eventually became Snowmass, and launched the company Ski Surveys to help plan new ski areas. He developed the Sierra Blanca ski resort near Ruidoso, New Mexico, which opened in 1961 and is now called Ski Apache.

In 1964 Pitch purchased New Mexico’s Santa Fe Ski Basin where, with his wife Jane, he raised six children. From 1976 to 1978 he held a minority interest in Wolf Creek Pass, where surface lifts had operated sporadically since 1938; the first chairlift was not installed until 1974. In 1984, Pitch sold Ski Santa Fe and purchased Wolf Creek outright from a group of Texas investors. Wolf Creek is now operated by his son, Davey Pitcher.

In 2007, Pitcher was inducted into the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame and in 2014, at age 95, he was inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. He skied regularly well into his 80s and never fully gave up the reins at Wolf Creek. —Seth Masia

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