Mel Fletcher, a pioneering skier, remembered as a legend in Park City
June 22, 2010
Mel Fletcher, the Park City man known for his pioneering days as a skier decades ago, indeed a prominent figure in local lore, died early Monday morning.
Fletcher was 92 years old. His family said he died in his sleep at 4:30 a.m.
He was born and raised in Park City, and he saw the city through the stunning shift from a withering silver-mining town to an elite mountain resort. Fletcher was among a small group of longtime Parkites who had prominent roles during the era that transformed Park City.
"He was a legend. Everybody knows that," said Richard Martinez, himself a lifetime Park City resident who was friends with Fletcher, adding, "I think of what he accomplished in the skiing part of (his life) is what made him a legend in Park City."
Fletcher was a crucial figure in Park City’s early days of skiing, jumping at Creole Hill in Park City and the famous Ecker Hill ski jump during its heyday. He became a renowned ski instructor early on. Fletcher obtained his ski-instructor certification in the early 1950s and spent 12 years as the director of the Snow Park Ski School in the 1950s and 1960s after having founded the school, according to a biographical snapshot of Fletcher written by the Utah Ski Archives.
He later served as the director of the ski patrol at Park City Ski Area in the 1960s and 1970s, the Ski Archives snapshot says. Mel’s Alley, an intermediate-rated run at Park City Mountain Resort, the successor to the ski area, is named after Fletcher.
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In honoring Fletcher in 2003, the Ski Archives said, "Ask anyone who knows anything about Utah ski history and the name Mel Fletcher will be recognized as one who has ‘been there’ and ‘done that.’" Martinez credits Fletcher with teaching skiing to many of the Park City youngsters of the era.
Fletcher once recalled in a magazine interview the hardships of ski jumping in those days, saying the skis of the era, made from pine, would snap sometimes during falls. Kids would wait until someone else broke a ski and then trade, he told a Park City magazine interviewer in 1993, remembering, "there’s many a time that I was skiing on one six-foot ski and one five foot ski."
Fletcher served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War, according to an obituary published in Wednesday’s Park Record, and his public service included time on the Park City School Board and the board of the Glenwood Cemetery. He spent 60 years as a volunteer fireman.
"He was always consistent about his love for the Park City community. I can’t think of hearing him ever say a bad word about anybody," said Mayor Dana Williams, who met Fletcher in the mid-1960s and counted him as a friend since.
Williams said Fletcher was a well-known figure among both longtime Parkites and people who moved to the city in recent years. The mayor contended Fletcher was "certainly someone who had one of the most amazing perspectives in town."
Fletcher in his later years became one of the elder statesmen of Park City’s skiing era, assisting historical repositories like the Park City Museum and the Alf Engen Ski Museum with their telling of the area’s skiing history.
Hal Compton, the research historian for the Park City Museum, said Fletcher was "dynamic and very progressive in his time."
"He was instrumental in the establishment of skiing in Park City — very important role he played," Compton said.
Fletcher is survived by his wife, Peggy Leisenring Fletcher, a son, a daughter and four grandchildren.
A remembrance service is scheduled Sunday at 2 p.m. at Elk Meadows in Oakley, 360 West, 4200 North. A reception is planned afterward. A private internment of ashes will be held later at Glenwood Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family wishes donations be made in Fletcher’s name to the Glenwood Cemetery.
The address is:
P.O. Box 4422
Park City, Utah
Condolences may be sent to the family through the website of Olpin-Hoopes Funeral Home, http://www.olpinhoopes.com.