We don’t usually run obituaries here on NYC on the Cheap, but Orville Slutzky is a special person in the lives of many of us, a co-founder with his brother of Hunter Mountain, where so many of us New Yorkers learned to ski, including me and both of my children.
Orville was 96, and was a pioneer, along with brother Izzy, who passed away a few years ago. Together, they helped create the ski industry on the East Coast and nationwide, including by advancing the snowmaking techniques which allowed the ski season to start earlier and last longer. Many of the top snowmakers in the industry learned their craft at Hunter Mountain.
As a journalist and regular at Hunter for years, I had the good fortune to know Orville, Izzy, their wives, and several of their sons.
For those of you who did not know Orville, here is his full obit, from Hunter Mt.:
Orville A. Slutzky, age 96, the beloved co-founder of Hunter Mountain, passed away peacefully on April 18, 2013, in the company of loved ones. Orville was born in Hunter on February 13, 1917 and raised on his parents’ farm in Jewett, NY. The son of the late Isaac and Ella (Miller) Slutzky, he is survived by three children (Carol Slutzky-Tenerowicz, Paul Slutzky and Gary Slutzky), in addition to numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In September of 1939, along with his late brother Izzy, he started the I. & O. A. Slutzky Construction Company. In July 1942, he was married to Ethel Phillips. They shared 67 years together, until her passing on January 3, 2010. They were apart from each other for a time when Orville served as a U.S. Army First Sergeant during World War II.
In 1958, Orville and Izzy let it be known through an article in the New York Herald Tribune that they would donate land that they owned with the stipulation that it would be transformed into a ski resort. This was done in an effort to aid in the economic growth of the area surrounding the Village of Hunter. The only stipulations were that the ski resort had to be called Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl and that it had to have snowmaking. Hunter Mountain Development Corp. was founded and subsequently financed by New York City theater investors. The Slutzky brothers’ crews sculpted the slopes and installed a double chair lift.
Hunter Mountain opened to skiers on January 9, 1960. After two brief ski seasons, few paying guests, and mounting losses, the Hunter Mountain Development Corporation declared bankruptcy. However, the Slutzky brothers were not deterred. During the 1961-62 ski season, Orville and Izzy took over control of the ski area. Orville assumed his position as General Manager of the day-to-day operation of Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl, where he remained for half a century until his retirement.
In the community, Orville was a philanthropist who funded many community projects and helped countless people, often anonymously. At work, he was tireless and a treasured employer, working 12 to 14 hour days, seven days a week, year-round. Orville believed that “you’ve got to keep your mind and body busy or the ghosts will carry you away.” Even after he stepped away from the helm, his indomitable presence can still be felt at Hunter Mountain. In 2007, Orville and his brother Izzy were honored with NSAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for their extraordinary commitment to the ski industry.
The Slutzky family, the Hunter Mountain family, and the ski industry as a whole mourn the loss of an innovator, a philanthropist, an inspirational leader, a father, grandfather, and a beloved spirit. A celebration of his life and funeral services will take place on Sunday, April 21, at 10 A.M. in the Colonel’s Hall of the main base lodge at Hunter Mountain.