Snowbird Founder Dies at 85 - Ski Mag

Snowbird Founder Dies at 85

Dick Bass, who co-founded Snowbird and was instrumental in developing Vail and Beaver Creek, died Sunday in Dallas.
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Richard Daniel “Dick” Bass, who co-founded Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and summited Mt. Everest when he was 55 years old (the oldest by five years to summit Everest at that time), died Sunday at his home in Dallas. Bass was an indefatiguable visionary and pioneer in the ski industry, involved with several iconic American ski resorts. 

Besides co-founding Snowbird in 1970 and later solely owning it for four decades, Bass and his family owned a controlling stake in Vail Asscociates in the mid 1970s, which led to Bass and his brother Harry helping to develop Beaver Creek Resort. At one point, Bass also owned 10 percent of the Aspen Ski Corp. and 10 percent of Alta. Last year, Bass sold a majority interest in Snowbird to the Ian Cumming family, which owns Powdr Corp, operators of Copper Mountain and Killington, among others. 

Bass was reportedly the first man to climb the Seven Summits (the highest peak on each of the seven continents). Bass described himself as "not super strong, not super smart and not super courageous, but I am super curious and super enthusiastic." Others have described him as "a human dynamo, an indivudual full of energy and dreams." 

Bass, who died of pulmonary fibrosis, was 85.

Here’s additional info about Bass’s life and accomplishments, as supplied by Snowbird Resort. 

At age 20 Dick received a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from Yale University in June 1950, and then did graduate work at the University of Texas in geology and petroleum engineering prior to being called into active duty in June 1951 for two years during the Korean War.  He was an officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex in Task Force 77 in the Sea of Japan, which naval action was well portrayed by James Michener in his book, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, and later made into a stirring movie with William Holden and Grace Kelly.  Upon discharge in July 1953 he joined the family oil and gas business and ranching operations. 

In 1962 he invested as one of the original limited partners in the Vail Ski Resort development in Colorado, and joined the Board of Directors of Vail Associates Inc. in 1965.   In the mid 1970's, Dick's family acquired 58% of Vail Associates and this led to Vail's then developing the Beaver Creek Ski Resort under his brother, Harry Jr., during the 1980's.  The Bass family's Vail stockholdings were sold in 1985.  In addition to Vail, Dick and his brother were 10% stockholders in the Aspen Ski Corporation until it was purchased by Twentieth Century Fox in 1977.  Until recently Dick was also an owner of 10% of the Alta Ski Lifts Company, adjacent to Snowbird.


In October 1969, after visiting the site of Ted Johnson’s vision for a year-round mountain resort in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, Bass undertook the pursuit of a new and lifelong quest - and Snowbird was hatched.  “If man had sent God a request for the perfect potential place for skiing, Snowbird is what He would have sent back,” says Bass.  “No other ski area in the whole world gets the quantity and quality of snow and has the variety and scale of skiable terrain in one package!”

After a year and a half of extreme weather obstacles and cost overruns, Snowbird opened in December 1971.  In spite of financial and regulatory roadblocks and setbacks that would have deterred those less committed, Bass oversaw the continued growth of Snowbird into a world-class destination ski and summer resort.

While pursuing his dreams, Bass discovered through climbing major mountains an effective outlet for his frustrations and anxieties.  “Mountain climbing,” said Bass, “recharged me with a greater sense of self-confidence and self-respect, and enabled me to put my troubles and pressures into better perspective by more fully realizing, ‘If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me!’”

Bass' infectious energy and enthusiasm  enabled him to summit the highest mountain on each continent, and is chronicled in the book,  Seven Summits, authored together with his climbing partner  Frank Wells, former President of Warner Brothers and then Disney.  On April 30, 1985, Bass at 55 became the oldest person by 5 years (at that time) to reach the top of Mt. Everest and the first to climb the seven continental highs.

In 2006 Dick was awarded the National Ski Area Association (NSAA) Lifetime Achievement Award  and in 2009 he was inducted in the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame.

Dick Bass and his family sold a majority interest in Snowbird to the Ian Cumming family in May of 2014.

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