ASPEN, Colo. – D.R.C. Brown Jr., a seminal figure in Aspen’s modern ski-based era, has died. He was 95.
Brown piloted the Aspen Skiing Co. from 1958 to 1979, a time of enormous growth for the company, which expanded operations to Breckenridge in Colorado, Blackcomb in British Columbia, and Fortress Mountain in Alberta.
When Brown became president and chief executive officer of the company in 1958, it had three lifts and a staff of 40. When he left the company in 1979, there were nearly 1,200 employees and operations in three countries.
More remarkable yet is that Brown’s father, David Robinson Crocker Brown Sr., was one of the seminal figures in Aspen’s roots as a mining town.
The senior Brown had been working at Blackhawk, a mining camp west of Denver, and was headed to New Mexico when he was drawn by the mining excitement in the Roaring Fork Valley. That was in 1880, and the senior Brown drove a wagon from the Gunnison Country across the Elk Range and into the emerging camp of Ashcroft, eventually making his way to Aspen.
In Aspen, the senior Brown became a millionaire mine owner — with properties on Aspen Mountain, where the ski area is now — but was wise enough to diversify prior to the silver crash of 1893.
Darcy, the junior, was born in 1912, when his father was 48. Although summering in Aspen, he was reared mostly in Denver, and attended high school at a boarding school in New Hampshire before graduating from Yale University in 1935 with a degree in economics, and a minor in French.
After that, he worked as a roughneck in the oil fields of Colorado and Wyoming, later taking landman and other oil industry jobs. During the late 1930s he skied at Berthoud Pass, near Winter Park, but also at Aspen Mountain, where a ski trail had been laid out by Swiss skier Andre Roch.
During World War II, he hoped to become a pilot in the Navy, but was too old. Instead, he was a skipper of a PT Boat in the South Pacific. After the war, he bought a ranch near Vernal, Utah, and then at Carbondale. He also served one term, from 1952 to 1956, as a state senator in Colorado.
His family’s ownership of a mine on Aspen Mountain became the conduit to his involvement with the skiing company. The family leased the hundreds of acres to the ski company, and Brown, who lived in Carbondale, became the managing director and then CEO.