There’s a run at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort that pitches 2,500 feet from the top of Hidden Peak to the resort base.
It’s called Silver Fox — and it’s named in honor of stylishly coiffed Ted Johnson, who teamed up with Texas oilman Dick Bass to establish Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort in 1971.
Johnson died late Monday in Santa Barbara, Calif., of injuries suffered when he was hit in a crosswalk by an alleged drunk driver. He was 91.
Johnson’s son, Peter, sent a message to family friends saying his father succumbed to extensive injuries he suffered on Jan. 23. He was heading from a hotel to a hospital, where his wife was receiving treatment after being evacuated from a northern California community damaged by recent mudslides.
California media reported that the driver, arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, had two previous DUI convictions.
“While the details of this event are unimaginable and inexcusable, we take solace in the knowledge Ted lived his final days with vigor, helping friends and family uprooted by the Montecito floods,” his son said.
He posted a picture of his father smiling as he weaved through powder at Snowbird, recognizable by the granite outcroppings in the background.
“Almost everything at Snowbird — from the Tram to the village to the spirit of Snowbird’s first employees — started with Ted,” said Bob Bonar, who worked for Johnson before the resort opened and now is its longtime president and CEO. “It was Ted’s vision, intellect, endearing personality and persistence that brought Snowbird to life.”
While serving for a decade as manager of Alta Lodge, Johnson recognized the potential for a ski resort just down the way in Little Cottonwood Canyon, according to his Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame biography. He was inducted in 2007.
Starting in 1965, “the wily ‘Silver Fox,’ an entrepreneur whose quest was not to be denied, put his foresight and fortitude into a dream of establishing a resort,” the Hall of Fame summary said, adding that he bought the Blackjack and other mining claims adjacent to lands administered by the National Forest Service, which already supported Alta Ski Area’s use of public lands for skiing.
Johnson pursued his development plan for several years before attending a party in Colorado where he met Bass, who sat on the boards of both Vail and Aspen ski resorts. Johnson regaled the adventurous oilman with his vision, winning him over enough that Bass came to Utah the following week for a firsthand look.
Bass liked what he saw in Little Cottonwood, providing the financial wherewithal to get Snowbird off the ground on Dec. 23, 1971. Johnson remained a partner in Snowbird for three years before selling his interests to Bass.
“The passing of Ted Johnson is so sad,” said Mike Korologos, a ski historian and The Salt Lake Tribune’s ski writer when Snowbird opened. “He was equal portions of guts, a dream, determination, a sense of humor and a gentleman’s style.”
“I got to know him very well when he was grooming the top of Hidden Peak for the upper terminal for the Tram,” Korologos added. “He told me [later], at one of our early-days-of-Snowbird storyfests, that I was at Snowbird so often he thought I was a spy for Alta.”
Johnson is survived by his wife, Shirley; children, Peter and Kylie; three grandchildren; and ex-wife, Wilma.
Services have not been set yet. Peter Johnson said the family is planning a memorial this spring “to celebrate Ted’s life in the same spirit with which he lived … going as fast as he could through waist-deep powder.”