Max Marolt dies on Ski Trip
Max Marolt – an icon of skiing and politics in Aspen – died Saturday after suffering a heart attack while skiing in Argentina.
Marolt, 67, was making his final run of the day at Las Lenas ski resort when the heart attack struck. He died doing what he loved – and, perhaps, what he is known for – the most, his family said.
“In general, his love of the sport of skiing” will always be remembered, said his son, Mike Marolt. “He told me about a year ago that he loved skiing more now than he had in his whole life.”
Max Marolt was born in 1936, the second of three sons born to Aspen natives Bill and Celia Marolt. The Marolts were familiar faces to the local skiing community – all three boys, Bud, Bill and Max, were there the day the Aspen Mountain ski lift first opened to the public, and were some of the first to join the junior racing team
Marolt was one of Aspen’s most promising young skiers. In 1951, a team led by Marolt and fellow ski star Dave Stapleton made the trip to the National Junior Meet in Stowe, Vermont. Marolt captured third place in the competition, and went on to join the ski team at Denver University.
His speed and skill on the slopes earned him a place on the U.S. Ski Team in 1954. Four years later, a daring run in the FIS Championships led to an invitation to the 1960 Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California.
The 24-year-old Marolt didn’t fare as well as he had hoped, placing 15th overall in the downhill and giant slalom that year. Still, as the first Aspenite to compete in the Olympic Games, he paved the way for dozens of locals with dreams of gold medals. Marolt’s younger brother, Bill, became the second Aspenite to compete with a trip to the 1964 Winter Olympics – and Bill grew up to be the head of the U.S. Skiing and Snowboard Association.
Marolt’s love of skiing sent him around the world. His children recall a trip to Aleyeska, Alaska, where Marolt made a bar room bet with a group of fellow ski bums.
“Some locals in a bar told him nobody could ski the imposing peak looming about town. They didn’t know Max,” Marolt’s son, Roger, wrote in a memorial to his father. “The first pitch was so steep that he more dropped from it than skied it. He lit at the bottom and bent both skis into reverse camber. He descended the rest of the way on those bent skis only to discover that the locals that made the bet didn’t have any money to pay up.”
Marolt didn’t win their money, but he won their respect. The craggy Aleyeska peak is now known as Max’s Mountain.
Though Marolt enjoyed skiing daunting peaks around the world, Aspen remained his home. He became a sales rep for several ski equipment manufacturers. He and his wife, Betty, raised their four children – daughter Marlis, and sons Roger, Steve and Mike – here, and helped foster their ski careers. The twins, Steve and Mike, also became adventurous skiers, and recently returned from an assault on Mount Everest.
Marolt was sidelined by a heart attack once before, his family recalled. In June 1975, his wavering health forced him to give up his seat on the Board of County Commissioners after five months in office.
However, this heart attack helped Marolt focus on the most important aspect of his life, his sons said.
“I think he made a deal with God back then,” Roger Marolt wrote. “He begged the Lord to let him say a proper goodbye to his family and have one last ski run. He swore he would give up smoking, drinking and working so darn hard. Well, God acquiesced and then spent the next 30 years chasing him.”
But Marolt made use of those 30 years with continued contributions to his loved ones and the community at large. He won a seat on the Aspen City Council in 1995, and even made a bid for mayor in 1997 (though he lost to incumbent John Bennett).
Marolt and his wife celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary earlier this month with a visit from their entire family. The group planned to get together again this October, when Marolt will be inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.