Avid backcountry skier Murray Cunningham retires after decades leading Aspen Mountain Powder Tours
Carbondale resident and avid backcountry skier Murray Cunningham has been leading a mix of locals and visitors from all over the world on Aspen Mountain Powder Tours along Richmond Ridge off the backside of the mountain for more than three decades.
He turned 70 this spring and is retiring as director of Powder Tours at the Aspen Skiing Company at the end of this month.
“You find something in life that you love to do and the time just disappears,” Cunningham said. “I’ve been interested in skiing, in general, and powder skiing, in particular, for most of my life.”
Cunningham’s first job in the ski industry was selling lift tickets on the ski train from Denver to Winter Park on the weekends when he was in middle school.
“That provided me with the opportunity to get a lift ticket myself and lunch money,” he said. “What better deal than that? To start as a ski bum.”
His first short stint working for the original Powder Tours was with the backcountry ski operation Deep Powder Inc. in 1978.
“Oh, my God, has it been an evolution,” Cunningham said. “If I recall correctly, when I started the cost of a Powder Tour was $45 a person. It’s gone up multiples of that now.”
After a few years away, he returned to the job in the late 1980s and has worked there ever since.
“I hope that Powder Tours can exist with the same spirit and essence of how it began, which was enjoying the backcountry and the solitude and peace of that ridge,” he said. “And no one should take those things for granted.”
Aspen Public Radio joined Murray Cunningham, his fellow guides, and a group of guests on a spring powder day last month for one of his last tours on the job.
Listen to the story above.