Vail pioneer Dick Bass dies in Dallas
VAIL — Dick Bass not only helped found Vail, but he was the first person to ascend the Seven Summits — the seven highest peaks on all seven continents.
Bass died Sunday in Dallas. He was 85.
Bass was one of the two legendary Bass brothers who played such a major role in founding and building Vail.
Dick and his brother Harry did not disagree about much, but in 1961 and ’62 they were at loggerheads about Vail’s future. Dick wanted to invest, and Harry was a die-hard Aspen fan.
Dick became one of Vail’s original investors, putting $10,000 into the upstart ski area. He and his wife, Rita, built the largest house on Mill Creek Circle.
It’s that house where Dick hosted Jerry and Betty Ford and their kids during the Fords’ initial trips to Vail.
Harry visited his brother Dick and his family at their Mill Creek Circle home, and Harry did a turnaround in his opinion about Vail.
In 1966, Dick was invited to join Vail’s board of directors.
When Dick helped found Snowbird in Utah in 1971, Harry took his place on Vail’s board. Dick and his family were Snowbird’s sole owners for four decades until they sold the majority interest in May 2014.
Dick completed the Seven Summits in 1985, when he was 55 years old. He summited Mt. Everest on his fourth attempt.
In 1986, Bass and his climbing partner, former Disney president Frank Wells, published their account of the climbs in the book called “Seven Summits,” and mountaineering adventure travel took off. Where there were only a handful of guiding services in the 1980s, there are now hundreds.
“When Frank and I climbed, there wasn’t much of an industry,” Bass told Forbes magazine in 2003. “We learned the basics with traditional guides on Rainier and McKinley, then paid world-class climbers to accompany us to more distant peaks. They were just thrilled to have the opportunity to go to such remote places.”
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1929, Bass moved with his family to Texas in 1932. After graduating from Highland Park High School, he enrolled at Yale University at 16 and graduated in 1950 with a degree in geology. After completing some graduate work at the University of Texas, Bass served two years with the U.S. Navy on board the aircraft carrier USS Essex during the Korean War. In 1953, he returned to Texas to help run the family oil and gas business and ranching operations.
Bass is survived by his wife Alice, four children and 13 grandchildren as well as five step-children and 11 step-grandchildren.
Friends say he loved 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 are scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas.
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