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Howard More, 91; Southland Ski Pioneer

July 03, 2006|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Howard More, a pioneer in the Southern California ski industry who helped popularize the sport in the local mountains but who was forced to part with his family's Wrightwood resort after a series of dry winters, has died. He was 91.

More, a longtime resident of Pasadena, died June 10 from complications associated with Alzheimer's disease at Mountain View Estates care center in Altadena, said his daughter, Carol.

"Howard was a pioneer in the early development of skiing here, right after me," said Lynn Newcomb, 86, who recently reclaimed the Mt. Waterman ski area that his family established in the 1930s in the Angeles National Forest. "He was a great developer, and he was a forward thinker."

Facing an absence of safety regulations, More campaigned for oversight with several others in the ski industry in the 1940s and helped develop regulations that the state later adopted, Newcomb said.

More's name often appeared in the pages of The Times in the 1940s and 1950s in the local ski report, a concept that More helped devise to publicize conditions in the mountains, Newcomb said.

In 1943, More took over the resort then known as Table Mountain and ran it for more than 40 years. By the early 1950s, he had built a lodge with timber cleared from the original trails in the San Gabriel Mountains.

"The man was a force of nature. He also took stubborn to a real high," said Bob Roberts, executive director of the California Ski Industry Assn. "And that's what it took in the early days to get going."

Since the early 1970s, the resort had been known as Ski Sunrise. Two years ago it was sold to Mountain High, a neighboring resort that had what More's did not: the ability to manufacture snow on a grand scale when Mother Nature failed to cooperate.

As of early 2001, Ski Sunrise had been open only 35 days in the preceding two years. Business had fallen from 12,000 skiers during the 1997-98 season to 750 the next.

"With a year like this, you better have reserves," More said in 1999.

"He had a lack of snow and a lack of capital," Roberts said. "He had a cute little lodge but not that much terrain, and he didn't have the snowmaking. Mountain High became extraordinarily popular, and you can't play the game when customers are stopping before they get to your doorstep."

The roughly 100 acres of predominantly beginner and intermediate terrain was acquired for about $375,000 by Mountain High, according to ski industry reports.

It was the second time More had sold the ski area.

The first was in 1973, four years after More was disabled in a freak accident at the resort. While he was backing up a tractor, it became entangled with the chain of a garage door that then fell on More and severely injured his spine. Eventually, he was able to walk with crutches.

"It was hard for him to continue actively running the ski area because he was pretty badly handicapped," Carol More said.

The resort was sold to Tamount Inc., a group of four investors who renamed it Ski Sunrise and expanded its facilities. When Tamount defaulted on the loan in 1993, More foreclosed and regained ownership.

"He was very tenacious," his daughter said. "Some would say he encouraged people. Some would say he meddled.... He wasn't easy, but he was a good man."

Howard Vincent More was born Aug. 2, 1914, in Indianapolis to an engineer and his schoolteacher wife.

By driving buses at Rocky Mountain National Park and leading hikes, More paid his way through the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he majored in mechanical engineering.

In 1939, he graduated from Harvard Business School, where he met his future wife, Doris Gasteiger, who attended Wellesley College. She died of cancer in 1976.

In addition to his daughter, Carol, of Del Mar, Calif., More is survived by a son, Dana, of Sun Valley, Idaho; and two grandchildren.

After college, More went to work for Alcoa Aluminum and moved to Los Angeles. During the week, he helped Douglas Aircraft incorporate aluminum into airplanes, making them lighter for use in World War II.

On weekends, the former mountain guide would pile his wife and two children into the car and drive the nearly 70 miles from their Pasadena home to Table Mountain to work all weekend.

"It was an incredible way to grow up," his daughter said.

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