Vail honors pioneer Dave Gorsuch at Ford Amphitheater
Laughter, tears, hugs and a waltz honor the legacy of a loving father, husband and friend who left his mark on the ski industry
The many families of David Gorsuch on Monday filled the covered seating at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.
Those families — children, grandchildren, former and current employees and those from the skiing world — turned out to honor the memory of one of the pioneers of the American ski industry, and a pioneer of the Vail community.
The memorial started before the gates opened, with handshakes, hugs and fond memories shared under the canopy at the amphitheater’s entrance.
As those in the crowd found their seats, alphorns began playing “Amazing Grace.”
As people settled into seats, Larry Leith, a member of the Gorsuch professional family, sat down to share his memories of working for the family in the 1980s.
Leith, now the owner of the Yeti’s Grind coffee shops in Eagle and Vail as well as the Tokyo Joe’s restaurant chain on the Front Range, said he saw any number of former Gorsuch colleagues at the memorial. Many of those people have gone on to successes of their own.
“People ask me, ‘Where’d you go to grad school?’” Leith said. “I tell them, ‘At Gorsuch.’”
Leith said he got a master-level education in personal and professional integrity in his years at Gorsuch. He also learned about punctuality, noting that “8 (a.m.) meant 8 (a.m.), not 8:01,” Leith said.
Integrity, and love
Speaking to Monday’s audience, friends and family members talked more about Gorsuch’s integrity, grit, humor and charm, as well as his love for his family and the sport of skiing.
It was high-level skiing that led to Gorsuch and his wife, Renie, meeting in Jackson, Wyoming, at a U.S. Junior event in the 1950s. Gorsuch, the son and grandson of miners, was born in the now-defunct town of Climax, atop Fremont Pass. Renie was from the Northeast.
The two earned spots on the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team, and married shortly thereafter.
The couple’s early life took them to Gunnison, where they opened a ski shop in an unused gas station in Gunnison. In his remarks, John Gorsuch, the couple’s eldest son, noted that Gunnison is a place so cold that “February lost two days to frostbite.”
Seizing an opportunity to move the fledgling business to the fledgling ski resort on the west side of Vail Pass, the Gorsuches began building a family that eventually grew to three sons and 10 grandchildren. All three sons honored their father, as did several of the grandchildren. All showered love on the family patriarch.
“We love you, and we are you,” John said.
Jeff Gorsuch was among many who praised Dave Gorsuch’s integrity.
“His word was his bond,” Jeff Gorsuch said. “… He moved through life with dignity.”
Dave Gorsuch passed those values to his grandchildren, along with his love of music and love of fun.
Luke Gorsuch, the eldest of the grandchildren, said he saw how his grandfather “never quit until the job was done.”
Hard work led to enthusiastic play, from skiing to hang gliding and other adventures.
All of it came from a place of love.
A passion for others
“He had a passion for loving others,” granddaughter Zella Gorsuch said.
And, John said, even if his father didn’t agree with the choices a child or grandchild made, “he never withdrew his love.”
The family learned that love also means support.
Longtime friend Jack Binion had a hard time getting through his remarks. Almost instantly, John was at the podium, arm around the shoulder of his father’s longtime friend, putting form to Binion’s belief that “If you were (Dave’s) friend, he was with you all the way.”
Binion noted how taken he was with his friend’s “pure joy for life.”
In later remarks, John said his father’s affection and attention were spread from people from busboys to company presidents.
Before six couples danced to “The Blue Danube” waltz on the amphitheater stage, Renie Gorsuch shared her thoughts with the audience.
“I can’t wear black,” she said, adding she decided she had to “wear something happy.”
Renie noted that she and her husband of 60 years “had a fabulous life together.”
After coming to Vail in 1966, Renie said she and Dave “knew we were the luckiest people to embrace Vail,” adding that her husband was the “cornerstone” of the family, and one of the cornerstones of the community.
And, she added, “We’re not here because of brilliance,” noting that she and Dave made plenty of mistakes along the way, but persevered because of hard work and love for the family, the community and ski racing.
Over the last World Cup ski racing season, Renie recorded all the races, then planned for she and Dave to watch them this summer on the family ranch near Lake City.
That plan came to an end after Dave’s May cancer diagnosis. In the weeks before his June 26 death, all the family, and many friends, came to pay their respects and say their farewells.
“I’ll be talking to you the rest of my life,” Renie told the love of her life.
Without hesitation, Dave said, “I’ll be listening.”