The Park Record editorial, June 23-25, 2010 |

The Park Record editorial, June 23-25, 2010

Farewell to an old friend

Within the last two years, Park City has lost a number of pioneers in the local ski industry, including resort owners Nick Badami and Edgar Stern.

Mel Fletcher, who died earlier this week, never owned a ski area. But he may have done more to nurture the sport of skiing here than anyone in the town’s history.

Even if you never met the man, you have probably felt his presence. In the 1940s he started and named the Snow Park Ski Club, whose name lives on at the base of Deer Valley Resort. He taught several generations of kids to ski. He is the namesake of the Mel’s Alley run at Park City Mountain Resort, where he was once the director of the ski patrol.

The son of an itinerant sign painter and a legendary local pianist, Mel was born in Park City and lived his whole life with the kind of glee that most of us unfortunately leave behind in childhood. He grew up riding sleighs down Park City’s snow-covered streets and ski jumping off "Creole Hill," an old mine dump west of town that is now part of Park City Mountain Resort. Later, he graduated to Ecker Hill, now part of the Pinebrook subdivision, where several world records were set. One early photograph shows him and a friend hurtling down a hill shirtless on barrel staves ripped from an old bootleg whiskey barrel.

In the years after World War II he became an unabashed promoter for the sport of skiing, singing its praises in articles he wrote for The Park Record. When Bob Burns and Otto Carpenter needed a name for their new ski hill in Deer Valley, they borrowed the Snow Park name.

His enthusiasm was infectious. As founder and director of the Snow Park Ski School he taught many of the local miners’ kids to ski. Some of those kids, no doubt, played a part when United Park City Mines built Treasure Mountains resort, now Park City Mountain Resort, in the early 1960s.

Mel never played the "I’ve-been-here-longer-than-you-have" card. He embraced newcomers with the same warmth he lavished on his oldest friends. He was generous with his time and his possessions, sharing much of his ski memorabilia with the Park City Museum. He brought a playful enthusiasm to everything he did.

Mel’s wife, Peggy, was happy to see that he got the attention he deserved. She organized birthday parties for him and, as his health began to fail, made sure that he kept in touch with his many friends.

With Mel’s passing, we have lost a link to our town’s colorful past. But we’ve also lost a friend. Our hearts go out to Peggy, Rex, Jillbette and the rest of his family.