Vail adventurer Steve Boyd remembered as a man of many stories
EDWARDS — Roughly 300 people gathered Sunday, Aug. 12, to pay their respects to Steve “Louie” Boyd, an adventurer who had lived in Eagle County since the mid-1960s and died Friday, Aug. 3.
The gathering was a reunion for Boyd’s numerous friends, many of whom trace their roots back to the early days of Vail. Boyd’s family enjoyed hearing his friends’ stories of their Vail-area adventures, of which there were many.
“It was nice having a dad that did so many cool things,” said Cait Boyd, Steve Boyd’s youngest daughter.
Steve’s elder daughter, Jodi Boyd, said the large turnout was overwhelming at times.
“But just to feel this love is really beautiful,” she said.
SKIER, KAYAKER, HUNTER
Many stories shared about Steve involved his days on the Vail Ski Patrol in the 1960s.
“Those of us who came here at that time were a breed apart,” said Larry Benway, Steve Boyd’s friend from patrol. “We were not institutionalized.”
Jodi Boyd described Steve and her mother, Mary Jo Higginbotham, as rebels.
“They said, ‘we’re leaving the conventional life and we’re running away to Aspen,’” Jodi Boyd said. “They ran to Vail when Vail opened, and I got to ski all these amazing mountains. They chose to divert from the usual path, and I’m really happy they did because I got to go along on all those wonderful adventures.”
The stories of those adventures were varied, as Steve enjoyed many hobbies.
“You used to get really bummed out if you couldn’t do five sports in a day,” Jodi Boyd said of growing up with her father. “I was always 10 steps behind him.”
As a skier, Steve may be best remembered by the photo of him launching the Chair 4 cliffs with perfect form.
As a kayaker, Steve paddled the Grand Canyon and was among the first to take on the many stretches of whitewater in Eagle County that have become iconic today.
“(A local kayaker) went to see this movie, I guess it was at the Vail library, it was about this guy who lived in Vail, his name was Steve Boyd,” recalled kayaker Miron Alt. “This guy Steve, he’s upside down in Lava Falls, one of the biggest rapids in the Grand Canyon.”
Jack Carnie said Steve and he shared in many adventures outside of skiing and kayaking.
“We seemed to like the same things,” Carnie said with a laugh. “Grouse hunting, deer hunting, elk hunting, duck hunting and shooting gophers.”
As a hiker and angler, Steve left a strong impression on his daughter Cait.
“Dad would take me backpacking to the high-alpine lakes, when I was really young, usually the Holy Cross Wilderness,” Cait said. “I would lie on my stomach on the rocks and watch my dad fish down the lake from me. I’d watch the cutthroat trout cruising the edges of the lake and the purest, clearest water.”
THINKER, WRITER, BUILDER
Steve Boyd’s youngest son, Tom Boyd, said while out on adventures with his father, much of the communication was non-verbal.
“We would go on the river together and spend hours and hours quietly communicating through the eddies that we’d catch,” Tom said. “That became our connection.”
In his trade as a home builder, Steve taught one of his employees, Chupa Nelson, the value of non-verbal communication.
“Since we knew each other from skiing, we knew how to work together, and that meant in communication, you didn’t need a lot,” Nelson said. “Having that familiarity, you don’t have to have that communication all the time, because you know intuitively and reflexively what the expectations are and how everybody’s going to respond or react.”
Before he co-founded Nelson-Zeeb Construction, which later became R.A. Nelson and Associates, Nelson worked for Steve for a few summers at Steve’s construction company, Closer Than Most.
Nelson said Steve taught him a lot about the business.
“He insisted on doing it right, so you wouldn’t have to do it again,” Nelson said. “Spend the time thinking about what you’re doing — we want to work hard and fast, but we want to think well.”
In addition to being an adventurer, Steve was known as a thinker and a writer.
“At the end of the day, he would come home, slowly back the truck into the driveway and sit there for a long time, writing his notes,” Cait said of her father.
Those traits carried over to Tom Boyd, who — after writing for the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News — helped his father author two editions of a book called “The Understories,” which sold 500 copies and is now out of print (see http://www.theunderstories.com for more).
At the Aug. 12 memorial, longtime local Jim Clark revealed that Steve was also working on a third edition of that book at the time of his death.
“We’re talking about maybe helping out with that third book,” Clark said. “Because I know (many people) want to record how significant the Ski Patrol was in the formation of Vail and the ski mountain.”
Tom said collecting the stories of his father’s life was an important part of the memorial. Paper and pre-addressed, stamped envelopes were passed out in an effort to collect more stories.
“Dad was a man of many stories,” Tom said.
The memorial was also attended by the family of his eldest son Steve Boyd Jr., as well as Steve’s companion Pam Timmins, with whom he spent the remaining 12 years of his life.