Kingsbury Pitcher, 98

Kingsbury Pitcher, aka Bill Pitcher, aka Pitch died in his sleep December 29, 2017 in Santa Fe New Mexico. He was born in Pasadena CA July 19, 1919 and grew up spending his summers in Silverton Colorado where his grandfather Otto Mears built the railroads and toll roads in the 1800s and he spent his winters in Pasadena which he referred to as his misspent youth. When he started school, and was asked his name he replied “Bill” instead of his given name and it stuck. He learned to ski at MT Baldy in southern California and Badger Pass in Yosemite. He went to Stanford University where he met Bill Janss who taught him to ski race and Chris Schwarzenbach who taught him how to fly a plane. He got his degree in Economics which he told me was very generous and kind of Stanford. Much later in life Chris, his flight instructor and classmate at Stanford told me that unlike some of his friends (referring to Pitch) that he thought that when you went to a prestigious university you should attend at least some classes.

Nevertheless, flying and skiing became his life. While attending Stanford he and his friends formed a ski team and raced against all the great skiers of the time, Alf Engen and his brothers, legendary Dick Durrance and Freidl Pfeiffer who had just emigrated from Austria. By 1942 he was teaching skiing for Freidl’s Ski School in Sun Valley. In the spring of that year he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and Freidl went to Camp Hale to train the Tenth Mountain Division.

After the war Pitch started a flight school in Santa Fe and in the winter, was the manager, rope tow operator and ski instructor at the Hyde Park ski hill outside of Santa Fe. I believe both the ski operation and the flight school went broke but he met two very good friends, Pete Totemoff an Alaskan Native who was also a ski racer and Ernie Blake another great skier from Switzerland. Ernie Blake with Pete’s help developed the Santa Fe Ski Basin out of an old mining tramway and some surplus war equipment and Pitch moved to a small village outside of Taos called Arroyo Seco where he bought a small ranch and started ranching in the summers and teaching skiing in Aspen where his old boss Friedl had started a new ski area.

By the middle of the fifties, Ernie Blake and Pete Totemoff were trying to get a new ski area going up the canyon from Arroyo Seco at an old mining camp called Twining. This soon became Taos Ski Valley. At the same time Pitch moved to Aspen full time and bought another small ranch outside of Aspen in an area called Woody Creek. While working the ranch in the summer his gaze kept going across the valley to a mountain that he thought would be an excellent ski area. This mountain became the Snowmass ski area.

By the end of the fifties, there was a demand for new ski resorts and Pitch started a company called “Ski Surveys” where he advised his clients on how to lay out the lifts and trails for new ski resorts. This led him to develop the Sierra Blanca ski resort in Ruidoso New Mexico and Pitch moved back to Santa Fe where he lived for the next 57 years. Pitch bought the old Santa Fe Ski Basin that his friends Ernie Blake and Pete Totemoff had built but had fallen into disrepair and later acquired the Wolf Creek Pass Ski Area in southern Colorado. Both areas became profitable under his management, the Santa Ski Area was sold to the Abruzzo family in 1984 and the Wolf Creek Ski Area is stilled owned by his family. Pitch stayed involved in the ski business until the end of his life, his last words were “how many inches of snow is at Wolf Creek?” and “How many skier visits do we have?”