Ski industry pioneer remembered by special friend
Nearly 20 years after the death of a South Shore ski industry pioneer, a fitting tribute for Hugh Killebrew has been placed on the mountain he loved.
Now mounted on Stateline Rock above Killebrew Canyon is a pair of deep-powder skis that originally belonging to Killebrew, the managing partner of Heavenly Valley Ski Resort from 1964 until his death in a plane crash in 1977.
“Killebrew Canyon is famous for its deep powder,” said his son, Bill Killebrew.
Now a collector’s item, the skis were donated for the memorial by long-time family friend and early Heavenly employee, Martin Hollay.
On April 19, a handful of friends, family and coworkers from the early days of what is now known as Heavenly Ski Resort gathered at the top of Killebrew Canyon to dedicate the memorial in a private ceremony.
“I spent half my life up there (working for Killebrew and Heavenly),” said Hollay, who began working at the resort shortly after moving to Tahoe about 38 years ago.
Hollay remembers Killebrew as a dedicated family man who was a friend as well as an employer.
Pointing to a quote from Killebrew’s memorial folder, Hollay indicated it expressed the inner strength of the man: “Bring me men to match my mountain.”
Killebrew died on Aug. 26, 1977 in an airplane collision above Echo Summit. All in both planes died including Killebrew and three other key Heavenly employees.
Following the accident, Hollay received Killebrew’s deep-powder skis.
“They have been sitting on my fence,” Hollay said. “I thought, that’s where they belong, overlooking Killebrew Canyon.”
Although retired since 1991, Hollay still goes to the mountain every day, according to Bill Killebrew who, after his father’s death, took the helm of Heavenly operations at the age of 23.
“Martin is the oldest remaining Heavenly employee,” said the younger Killebrew, adding that Hollay is still a friend of the family. “He’s the senior person on the mountain.
“It was a nice thing, a gracious thing (to donate the skis). Martin wanted to do something for a good friend,” Killebrew said.
The ski memorial is not the first memorial to Hugh Killebrew at Heavenly. Soon after the accident, a memorial plaque was mounted in another location. But due to its easy vehicle access, it was soon stolen.
In a more remote location, the new memorial is expected to fair much better. A new plaque has also been made and will soon be installed.
Because the Killebrew family sold its financial interest in Heavenly in 1990, permission for the memorial was needed from the current owners, the Kamori Kanko Company.
“It was gracious of Heavenly management to allow the memorial,” Killebrew said.
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