Longtime ski patroller Larry Schnackenberg retires
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Learning to ski was as mandatory in the Schnackenberg household as reading and learning to tie shoes.
The son of Rudi Schnackenberg, the namesake of Steamboat Resort’s iconic Rudi’s Run, Larry Schnackenberg remembers first strapping on boots and stepping off the Barrows Chairlift at Howelsen Hill Ski Area as young as 3 years old.
Though he was born in Denver, the Schnackenberg family relocated to Steamboat Springs when Larry was 2 years old, and Larry knew from a young age that Steamboat was where he wanted to spend his life.
“It was mandatory to learn how to ski if you wanted to live here,” Larry said. “I always wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps.”
After 50 years of working for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., Larry hung up his red ski patrol jacket and said goodbye to his days of grooming trails and assisting injured skiers.
At 69 years old, Larry is still an avid skier and doesn’t plan to give that up anytime soon but felt the job changed due to COVID-19, and the pandemic seemed like a natural time to retire, conveniently the same year he celebrated his 50th anniversary with Ski Corp.
“The COVID situation this year and the way we had to do that and treat the public was just very different,” Larry said. “We had to ask certain questions before we could even really trust people, and we just didn’t really get to work together as a group like we had in the past.”
In his five decades with Ski Corp., the first as a lift operator and the 49 others as a ski patrol officer then supervisor, Larry also said he saw Steamboat Resort through what felt like different lives.
When the Schnackenberg family moved to Steamboat, much of the land that is now Steamboat Resort was ranch land and the resort was mainly used just by locals.
That was in stark contrast to what Larry said he has seen the last several years: people flocking from around the world to visit Steamboat, largely due to its spot on the Ikon Pass.
“As far as the ski industry and this ski area, now with them all combining things from the conglomerate passes, it’s just a different culture out there,” Larry said. “It’s way different from when I first started.”
Throughout the course of his 50 years, Larry met and worked with many people he is still close to, most notably his wife, Liz.
Liz joined the ski patrol team in 1989 while her now-husband was a supervisor, and she was a patrol officer. The two worked closely together, and a mutual friend, Wes Richey, now ski patrol director, encouraged Larry to ask Liz on a date.
“We just wanted them to be successful, and we knew they would be happy together,” Richey said.
Richey and Larry have a longstanding friendship of their own. The two met in 1978 while Richey was a lift operator. Richey accidentally let go of a trap door while Larry was beneath it and remembers the noise startling Larry, as it “sounded like gun shots.”
“It scared him, and I continuously, prophetically apologized for about two hours,” Richey said. “That was a memorable first time.”
Liz also spoke to her husband’s ability to help ski patrol “feel like a family.”
“It was a family, and there was such a sense of camaraderie,” Liz said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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