Born in 1915, Paul McCollister graduated from Stanford University with degrees in sociology and economics (hence Jackson Hole's alignment with the color red). Retiring at the age of 42, after a successful career in radio advertising, he then spent a year skiing the world-famous resorts of Europe and working as a gentleman rancher on a 390-acre spread in Teton County, Wyo.
With more than a century of development work in Wyoming, the Morley family has a rich history around the state. Alex Morley started spending summers in Jackson Hole and skiing Snow King in the 1950s. In 1961, Alex and his family moved from Cheyenne, Wyo. — where he had been a successful general contractor — and built a house on Antelope Flats near the McCollisters.
Alex and Paul quickly become friends and dreamed of building a ski area together. First they looked at Cache Creek; then they considered Static Peak in Grand Teton National Park (not a crazy idea in the 1960s, since both Rainier and Rocky Mountain National Parks had small ski areas).
Paul was a great promoter. Advertising was his business in California. And Alex was the developer and life-long Wyoming resident. Together they moved mountains (literally!). In 1963, they formed the Jackson Hole Ski Corporation along with Gordon Graham, a former business associate of Paul's, and Dr. King Curtis (both early investment partners in the resort).
It was Alex's political connections in Wyoming (specifically through Governor Clifford Hansen and Senators Milward Simpson and Gale McGee) that led to the federally subsidized EDA loan that secured Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Hard as it may be to believe today, in those days Teton County was classified as "economically depressed" — thus qualifying for federal assistance. As a developer and contractor, Alex built the ski area and the early village on land that he and Paul bought together from the Crystal Springs Girls' dude ranch at the base.
After building the resort and running it for a few years together, Paul bought out Alex's half. Bruce Morley (Alex's son) remembers his father joking, "It was fun to develop but no fun to run [when few people showed up to ski]." Paul continued to own and operate the resort for more than three decades, often having to rely on his traits of sheer persistence and tenacity. Many others may have given up when Paul only carried on. He sold the resort to the current owners, the Kemmerer Family in 1992.
Alex Morley passed away during the fall of 2015 at his home in Bend, Ore. Morley continued to view things with a developer's eye and — just months before he passed — was able to visit the ski area that shaped his life forever. One of his two sons live in Jackson Hole, so it's safe to say the Morleys will forever have a place in Jackson Hole history.
Paul McCollister died in the spring of 1999 at his home in Jackson Hole, Wyo. "Paul was a true pioneer," said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. "He created Jackson Hole from a dream, and the industry recognized his unique accomplishment by honoring Paul with the first NSAA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994."