Wandering the West
December 20, 2011
As recently as Thursday, Harry Reed was asking a mutual friend how the skiing was. Saturday, after the late afternoon sun passed over the Wasatch, Harry Reed passed away. If you met Harry, got to know him, shared a bike or lift ride with him, you wouldn’t forget him. He had great stories, was a gentleman, and a man’s man.
I have no recollection of first meeting Harry Reed. It might have been the mid-1980s when he was involved in saving the historic Silver King Mine Boarding House. The Park City Ski Area said it was in the way of snow groomers trying to make their way up the road just below the Angle Station. (And you have to be something of an old timer to know what the Angle Station was). The place was slated for demolition, despite its place in the heart of Park City’s mining history. Harry and friends devised a plan to save it by moving it to a spot above the Pioneer Chairlift, where it could be renovated into an on-mountain restaurant.
The house mover hired to stick wheels under the whole huge building and push it uphill to a new location above the Pioneer Lift pushed it maybe five feet and a tire blew. Harry walked up to the mover, Bob Wells, as he worked to change tires. He asked how many spares Wells brought with him. "Just this one," Wells replied. While others there turned white, Harry cracked up. One spare tire! To move a hundred-ton bunkhouse! No one else saw the humor. For two decades since that day, skiers have enjoyed their lunches at Mid Mountain Lodge.
Or I might have met him first in the Park City Dungeon those primitive jail cells under what’s now the museum. He loved to bar tend at the Museum’s annual Dungeon Parties. He and his bride, Sydney, shared a love of Park City’s history, and Harry served on the Historic District Commission and Historic Main Street Association. When it came time to expand the new museum, Syd co-chaired the fund drive, while Harry checked up on the construction side. Together they contributed time and money to the successful completion of a great project.
Harry drove into Park City in 1963 when, as he said, the only paved streets in town were Park Avenue and Main Street. That first year of Park City Ski Area (called Treasure Mountains Resort back in the day), Harry ski patrolled and became a ski instructor. Have you skied the Thaynes Canyon runs? Harry was on the summer trail crew that cut them. His first Park City rental, on Eighth Street, cost him and his roommate $25 a month.
Harry had to leave town in 1966 when he was drafted into the Army. He flew helicopters over South Vietnam’s jungles, one of the more dangerous jobs Uncle Sam had at the time. He came back on New Year’s Eve 1971, without a job or place to live. He became an entrepreneur, starting Park City Reservations, and a cleaning service for condos. He started Skyline Realty and became one of the first six real-estate agents in town.
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He got involved behind the scene in politics not to manipulate outcomes for his benefit, but to get "new" thinking into City Hall. Many of those who are town elders today got involved at Harry’s urging. He became a builder of quality buildings like Snowflower Condominiums and many of Deer Valley’s early condo projects, like Little Belle, Sterlingwood and the Enclave. He and partner Skip Schirf forever changed the face of Main Street by building Marriott Summit Watch, which extended Park City’s iconic street downhill past the Union Pacific Depot (now Zoom).
Harry Reed helped guide Park City into its modern era, and changed its look with quality buildings that will last. But those who knew him appreciate more. I started skiing Tuesdays with him a few years back. Tuesday ski days expanded to Thursday and Saturday as well. If it dumped, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays or Sundays were added. I remember a powder-day hike up Scott’s Bowl to catch some amazing snow. My chest pounded from the climb and also from the certain knowledge that such a powerful, perfect skier had already reached the bottom and was looking up at me, this floundering flatlander from the Midwest. I did connect some nice turns, and some bad ones, but Harry had nothing but praise for my wretched form.
I never heard him speak ill of anyone. I never heard anything but kindness. He was one of the pioneers who reinvented the Park City we all love today.
Writer, filmmaker and author Larry Warren has made the West his beat for the past three decades. He is the general manager of KPCW.