A Closing Day farewell: Dave Crisler retires after 50 years with Steamboat Resort
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sunday marks Closing Day at Steamboat Resort, and employees are saying goodbye to more than powder days.
Dave Crisler announced his retirement at the end of March after 50 years with the company.
To honor his tenure, the resort designed a special gondola cabin that marks the various changes to the mountain he has witnessed during his long career.
His retirement has sent ripples throughout the ski industry as well as waves of recognition for his decades of work.
Colorado Ski Country USA awarded Crisler the Snow Conference Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication.
Crisler has spent more than two decades as the ski area’s slope maintenance director, but his start with the company has much humbler beginnings.
Half a century
After dropping out of college his freshman year — the academic life didn’t suit him — Crisler got a job parking cars and cleaning bathrooms around the mountain.
When he first started, he recalls the resort having only three lifts — Christie, Thunderhead and Four Points — as opposed to the 18 it currently operates.
The year was 1969, back when only a small enclave, composed mostly of ski bums, pitched lives in town. Even his parents, who moved to Steamboat Springs for the quintessential Colorado feel, later ditched the place because of the cold.
“I was the only one who skied, so I stayed,” Crisler said.
The next winter, he made it onto Steamboat Ski Patrol, but his lack of experience limited his duties primarily to snow plowing. He was the youngest patroller on the squad, a tight-knit bunch who looked after each other.
“They took me under their wing,” he said.
On certain nights, they would even sneak him into bars downtown. His favorite place was a now-defunct, three-story dance club called the Cave-In.
Crisler eventually learned enough from his fellow patrollers to ascend the ranks to supervisor. Perhaps the most Evel Knievel part of his job description included riding a custom bike along the gondola cables to train for evacuation scenarios.
“I hated heights,” he said. “I don’t know why I did it.”
Fortunately, he never had to use the bike in an actual emergency, but he did oversee a gondola evacuation at the resort in 1974.
He remembers it as a painstaking process. Rescuers had to be methodical and precise as they made their way to each cabin and lowered stranded riders to the ground.
“We started at noon and didn’t finish until around midnight,” he said.
Not long after that, Crisler transitioned to slope maintenance. Operating big equipment always has brought him a special joy, reminiscent of childhood romps in the mud with toy trucks and tractors.
“It didn’t make any difference what machine I was in — I just liked playing in the dirt,” he said.
Another boyhood dream came true when he received enough training to detonate rocks posing hazards on the mountain’s trails.
The process was simple enough.
“We’d drill a hole in a rock, stick powder in the hole, then blow it up,” Crisler said.
Among the explosions and metamorphic shrapnel, he met a fellow rock blaster Marti, who would become his wife. Perhaps the danger of their work added a particular romance, but all these years later they are still happily married.
Life after work
Now that Crisler has a lot more free time in his future, he wants to travel and adventure with the love of his life. The two recently bought a camper and plan to trek it across the country to Maine this summer.
Cory Peterson, who works as the resort’s snowmaking manager, will take over for Crisler the day after the ski area closes. Peterson has worked with the mountain since 2004 and been a finalist for Colorado Ski Country USA’s Snowmaker of the Year award.
Just before 11 a.m. Thursday, April 11, Peterson walked into the office that soon will be his and took a seat for a scheduled meeting with his longtime boss. The two have worked together the past few weeks to prepare Peterson for the job transition.
“Davey has been a real mentor for me for the last 15 years,” Peterson said about Crisler. “I’ve learned a lot from him, so hopefully it will carry through.”
The reflection of the snow outside cast a cold glow on Crisler’s cheeks as he looked around his office. A pothos plant, gifted to him when he got the director job 24 years ago, has vined across half the room, parts of it dangling from the ceiling like tentacles.
“It was a small plant when I got the job,” Crisler said, a slight smile lifting the corner of his mouth.
“It’s Cory’s now.”
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