Hall of Fame Class of 2016
A world-class competitor, coach, financier, trail designer and resort leader, Lewis’ founding of Copper Mountain highlights his innovation and vision.
All of the finely tuned skills that Chuck Lewis accumulated in a lifetime of skiing and business, came together perfectly in his founding and stewardship of Copper Mountain, Colorado, still known today, appropriately and affectionately as “the skier’s mountain.”
Lewis was an innovative financier and at Copper he somehow attracted investors to back a speculative resort development and in an era when it was tough to borrow a dime for a cup of coffee, the resort opened in November, 1972.
He was a savvy numbers cruncher, and during the resort’s construction he quickly concluded that it was more cost effective to build an onsite cement plant than to truck it in; he then used pumps to move the concrete uphill. Likewise, the trees cut for Copper’s trails went directly to a revenue-generating lumber mill that he also built in the base area.
Lewis was a pioneer in natural trail design, and at Copper he built an award-winning trail network, segregating runs by ability level, that remains as the gold standard in the ski world today.
He was a world-class ski competitor and coach, and in its early years Lewis’ Copper hosted World Cup races and multiple U.S. Alpine Championships.
Lewis’ ultimate focus was on the guest experience, and in ensuring his favorite saying would always ring true: “There is never a bad day of skiing.” So happy customers left Copper’s lift-ticket window with a Jolly Rancher candy, and then found Kleenex boxes prominently displayed in the lift mazes.
He also founded the Saki the Summit marketing coalition with neighboring resorts Keystone and Breckenridge, establishing Summit County as the most popular ski destination in the world, a title that it still holds today.
While Copper Mountain represents Lewis’ crowning and lasting achievement, it is only a fraction of what he accomplished in his career. Born in Denver on June 22, 1935, he grew up riding the ski train to Winter Park, where he would meet his future wife and partner, Penny; they would marry at age 21. He was among the class of the national junior ski racing ranks, and also won the Dartmouth Cup in the year he spent there as a student. Moving on to the U.S. Army, he was stationed at Camp Hale, serving as an instructor with the Mountain and Cold Weather Training Command, which also helped him earn a spot with the first U.S. Biathlon team to compete in Europe. He was a respected national junior and team coach, mentoring Bill Marolt, Billy Kidd and Moose Barrows.
After earning a Master’s in accounting from University of Denver, Lewis handled ski business accounts for Arthur Andersen & Co., before being hired as the Vail Associates CFO and executive vice president. That experience helped him found Copper, where he would mentor a long list of ski resort executives, including Andy Dal, who would go on to be president of Vail Resorts. Later, Lewis started a ski area re-insurance company, consulted with the resort business, and was an owner of Eldora Mountain Ski Resort above Boulder from 1991 to 2016.
Lewis passed away on March 16, 2000, but his legacy lives on at Copper Mountain; through the innovations he’s brought to resort operations; and with the many ski industry executives he touched.
1954: Wins Dartmouth Cup
1955: Named to U.S. Biathlon Team
1964: Elected executive VP and treasurer of Vail Associates
1969: Founder and CEO of Copper Mountain
1989: Inducted into Colorado Ski Hall of Fame
1991: Purchased Eldora ski area
1998: Honored with NSAA Lifetime Achievement Award
2001: Honored with Colorado Ski Country USA Lifetime Achievement Chairman’s Award
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