Glider pilot who died was ex-ski patrolman |

Glider pilot who died was ex-ski patrolman

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyEagle-Vail resident and former Vail Ski patrolman Stewart Kissel, here3 with his dog Blue, was found dead in the wreckage of his glider Saturday night after it crashed south of Salida.

EAGLE-VAIL ” Stewart Kissel loved flying his glider and his beagle, Scout, his family and neighbors said.

Stewart Kissel, 53, of Eagle-Vail, was found late Saturday in the wreckage of his aircraft in rugged terrain south of Salida, about 100 miles south of Minturn, the Civil Air Patrol said Sunday.

His single-seat Schempp-Hirth glider disappeared after it was released by a tow plane Friday afternoon, Civil Air Patrol Capt. Steve Hamilton said.

Civil Air Patrol search planes spotted the wreckage at about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and ground crews reached the site later that evening, Hamilton said.

Eleven aircraft from Colorado and New Mexico had been searching for Kissel since Saturday morning.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Authorities have not released the cause of the crash or that of Kissel’s death, said his brother, Steve Kissel.

Ken Zimmerman, a Vail ski instructor, lived next door to Kissel. Zimmerman used to walk his daughter’s dog, Otter, with Kissel and Scout.

“We talked about skiing in the old days,” he said.

Kissel was born in San Jose, Calif., to Mary Lou Kissel and Emil Kissel. He started skiing and sailboarding in his early teens.

He earned a master’s degree in land management from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and worked for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as a forester.

He later worked for Vail Ski Patrol and did construction for Vail Resorts.

“Vail Resorts and the Vail Ski Patrol extend their deepest sympathy and support to Stewart Kissel’s family and friends,” said Spokeswoman Jen Brown.

Kissel was one of three pilots who regularly flew gliders from the Salida airport, said Bela Szalai, of Pueblo.

Szalai used to talk to Kissel on the radio about flying conditions and the men would go out to dinner afterward sometimes, he said.

A pilot has to have extensive experience to fly in the rugged mountains near Salida, he said.

“He was able to stay up with the best of us,” he said about Kissel’s flying expertise.

Kissel’s father took him and his brother flying when they were young, Steve Kissel said.

“He was very aware of safety issues,” he said.

Shawn Behlendorf lived next door to Kissel for several years.

“He did die doing what he loved,” Behlendorf said.

Zimmerman saw Kissel Friday morning as he was getting into his car.

“I liked Stew a lot and I was very upset when I heard about” his death, Zimmerman said.

Memorial services for Kissel have been not scheduled yet, Steve Kissel said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or

Support Local Journalism