Vail and Lange pioneer

Passing Date: 
Thursday, October 12, 2017

Morris "Morrie" Shepard, Vail’s first ski school director and employee number two at the Lange Ski Boot Company, died Oct. 12 at age 92.

Shepard grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts, where his childhood friend and ski buddy was Pete Seibert, founder of Vail. Graduating high school in 1943, Shepard enlisted in the U.S. Navy and earned his wings as a naval aviator. In November of 1947 he traveled to Aspen to visit Seibert, and wound up working with Seibert on the ski patrol, and teaching skiing on the side.

In 1951 he married Gloria Neilson and was promoted to assistant ski school director under Friedl Pfeifer, and taught there for a decade, eventually becoming chief examiner for the Rocky Mountain division of PSIA.  One of his regular students was Bob Lange.

In 1962, Seibert recruited Shepard to organize the Vail ski school. Arriving in Vail in the spring of 1962, Shepard pitched in to help build lifts, trails and other infrastructure, and worked as a building inspector. When the resort opened in December, Shepard supervised a crew of ten ski instructors. Bob Lange sent him a pair of lace-up plastic boots to try out, and so Shepard became an early advocate and boot tester.

By 1965, Lange was ready to sell boots and Shepard departed Vail to become Lange’s second employee (after Dave Luensmann) and first sales manager. In 1966, Lange shipped 5,000 pairs of boots and Shepard, remarried and resettled in the mountains, was able to commute between a home in Aspen and the factory in Dubuque. When Lange opened its factory in Broomfield, Colorado in 1969, Shepard settled in nearby Boulder.

Lange lost control of the company in 1974 and Shepard began a successful career in Boulder real estate. He retired in 1984 and returned to Vail to ski and play golf.

Shepard was inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2003. He is survived by his wife Suzie, children Morrie Shepard III, of Parker; Linda Shepard, of Cordes, France; Amy West, of Clark; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; and two stepdaughters, Lettie Kuehn, of Ridgway and Bambi Forbes, of Edwards. One stepdaughter, Debbie Kuehn, died in June of this year.

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