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Richard Daniel “Dick” Bass, the first person to climb the highest point on each of the seven continents, passed away Sunday, July 26, 2015 at the age of 85 surrounded by family in Dallas, Texas.
Born Dec. 21, 1929 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Bass completed the “Seven Summits” at age 55 in 1985 when he summited Mt. Everest on his fourth attempt with guide and lifelong friend David Breashears. Bass co-founded Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in 1971 with Ted Johnson and maintained sole ownership of the Utah resort for four decades until the Bass family sold majority interest in Snowbird to Ian Cumming in May 2014. Bass suffered from pulmonary fibrosis.
“The Snowbird family is mourning the loss of a great man who changed so many of our lives for the better,” said Snowbird President Bob Bonar, who worked for Bass since before the resort opened.
Bass is survived by wife Alice, four children and 13 grandchildren as well as five stephchildren and 11 step grandchildren.
Bass was known for his love of poetry, art, travel, literature and people. A conversation with Bass was never brief but always entertaining with his homespun aphorisms he called “Bassisms.”
Funeral services will be Friday, July 31, 4 p.m., at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas.
Richard D. Bass (Dick) was partner and Chairman of Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, located at Snowbird, Utah, only 25 miles southeast of the center of Salt Lake City. He spent the last 44 years building Snowbird into a world-renowned, year-round destination mountain resort, dedicated to the enhancement of Body, Mind and Spirit.
Dick was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in December 1929, moved with his family to Dallas, Texas in October 1932, and had his legal residence there ever since. His father, Harry W. Bass, was a true pioneer and industry leader in the independent oil and gas world, having been the developer of the first portable drilling rig (today’s industry standard), the first person to create a producing petroleum field unitization of ownership interests on a reservoir acre-foot basis, and the largest independent processor of natural gas in the United States during the late 1950's and early 1960's. Dick always said, "I picked my father very carefully. He gave me a great launching pad.
At age 20 Dick received a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from Yale University in June 1950, and then did graduate work at the University of Texas in geology and petroleum engineering prior to being called into active duty in June 1951 for two years during the Korean War. He was an officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex in Task Force 77 in the Sea of Japan, which naval action was well portrayed by James Michener in his book, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, and later made into a stirring movie with William Holden and Grace Kelly. Upon discharge in July 1953 he joined the family oil and gas business and ranching operations.
In 1962 he invested as one of the original limited partners in the Vail Ski Resort development in Colorado, and joined the Board of Directors of Vail Associates Inc. in 1965. In the mid 1970's, Dick's family acquired 58% of Vail Associates and this led to Vail's then developing the Beaver Creek Ski Resort under his brother, Harry Jr., during the 1980's. The Bass family's Vail stockholdings were sold in 1985. In addition to Vail, Dick and his brother were 10% stockholders in the Aspen Ski Corporation until it was purchased by Twentieth Century Fox in 1977. Until recently Dick was also an owner of 10% of the Alta Ski Lifts Company, adjacent to Snowbird.
The above involvements gave Dick a varied and significant degree of experience and understanding of the ski industry in particular and recreation business in general.
Dick Bass was, in his own words, “not super strong, not super smart and not super courageous, but I am super curious and super enthusiastic.” As others have said, “to know Dick Bass is to know a human dynamo, an individual full of energy and dreams. He was a multi-dimensional, human perpetual-motion machine, always striving toward lofty goals - goals not just for himself, but for the betterment of everyone. Snowbird is living testimony to Dick Bass's unflagging optimism, energy and determination.”
In October 1969, after visiting the site of Ted Johnson’s vision for a year-round mountain resort in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, Bass undertook the pursuit of a new and lifelong quest - and Snowbird was hatched. “If man had sent God a request for the perfect potential place for skiing, Snowbird is what He would have sent back,” says Bass. “No other ski area in the whole world gets the quantity and quality of snow and has the variety and scale of skiable terrain in one package!”
After a year and a half of extreme weather obstacles and cost overruns, Snowbird opened in December 1971. In spite of financial and regulatory roadblocks and setbacks that would have deterred those less committed, Bass oversaw the continued growth of Snowbird into a world-class destination ski and summer resort.
While pursuing his dreams, Bass discovered through climbing major mountains an effective outlet for his frustrations and anxieties. “Mountain climbing,” said Bass, “recharged me with a greater sense of self-confidence and self-respect, and enabled me to put my troubles and pressures into better perspective by more fully realizing, ‘If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me!’”
Bass' infectious energy and enthusiasm enabled him to summit the highest mountain on each continent, and is chronicled in the book, Seven Summits, authored together with his climbing partner Frank Wells, former President of Warner Brothers and then Disney. On April 30, 1985, Bass at 55 became the oldest person by 5 years (at that time) to reach the top of Mt. Everest and the first to climb the seven continental highs.
Frank Wells perhaps best summed up his friend by saying, “Dick is a Renaissance Man in the ultimate sense of the word, with an inherent, insatiable curiosity about everything and everyone around him. That fascination with ideas, and especially people, becomes infectious.
In 2006 Dick was awarded the National Ski Area Association (NSAA) Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2009 he was inducted in the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame.
Dick Bass and his family sold a majority interest in Snowbird to the Ian Cumming family in May of 2014.
In June of 2014, as a tribute to Dick Bass, the cofounder of Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, the state of Utah proclaimed June 18 as “Dick Bass Day”.
Dick had a “third time’s the charm” wife, “Sweet Alice from Dallas”, and between them they are blessed to have 5 daughters and 4 sons from former marriages, who in turn have doubly blessed them with 14 granddaughters and 10 grandsons.
Despite all his achievements, Bass never rested on his laurels. His life continued at a frantic pace, seeking new horizons, more mountains to climb, literally and figuratively. He was an undaunted optimist who believed: “To participate is to live; spectators only exist. Nothing in the world can take the place of determination and persistence... they are omnipotent. If we never stop we can't get stuck. You’re not a champion ’til you come up off the mat.” As he often said, “I have this abiding faith that someday I'll finish everything I've started.”