Remembering Bob Murdoch: 98-Year-Old Alta Ski Area Utah Legend

Months after celebrating his 98th birthday, Bob Murdoch, a longtime member of the Alta community, passes away, leaving behind a skiing legacy in Utah’s world-class ski area.

Alta Ski Area shared Murdoch’s passing in a blog post this morning and detailed his remarkable life. Alta shared,

Bob was born in Salt Lake City and learned to ski at an early age, even hitting the slopes of Alta before the chairlifts arrived. In fact, Bob rode the Collins Elevator on the day it opened, January 15, 1939. In a 2006 Deseret News interview, Bob said:

He took the elevator at least 30 times that first day. “There were no crowds,” he recalls. “You can just ski down, back up and keep going. We never stopped. This philosophy more or less sums up Bob’s approach to skiing. He hasn’t skied in his entire life – World War II hampered him for a time and there were several years when his five children were young that he and Alta weren’t named – but he did ski most of the time . – Desert News | January 18, 2009.

After graduating from East High School, Bob served in the Navy during World War II. While in service, he married Delores Reeve Murdoch and returned to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah. He had a long career, raised a family and started skiing again. Bob was a longtime member of Alta’s famous Wild Old Bunch.

Bob skied happily until he was ninety-seven. Alta loved him just as much, naming two races after him. He was part of the ski group called Wild Old Bunch. – Salt Lake Tribune | May 10, 2022.

Bob was a close friend of Harriet Wallis, local ski journalist and director of communications for the Wild Old Bunch. She called Bob a “senior senior skier.” After Bob celebrated his 96th birthday on the slopes of Alta, Harriet shared a little piece of Bob Murdoch’s Alta history for SeniorsSkiing.com.

Bob has a long Alta ski history. He recounts his early years when he had to climb the mountain to be able to ski down. These were the days before 1938, when Alta was founded as a ski area with a single chairlift suspended so low that it often had to be dug out of the snow. Alta reveres its history. Alta also reveres its older skiers because they add depth to Alta’s ski family. – SeniorsSkiing.com | March 26, 2018

Jim Tipton first met Bob Murdoch in Alta. Although he was a few decades younger than Bob, he could barely keep up with the tracks.

An older gentleman {…} asked me if I wanted to ski with him that morning. I looked at Bob and I really didn’t want to ski with such an old man but I didn’t want to hurt him so I said yes. He then told me that he had a buddy who skied with us and that he looked older.

The 3 of us took the elevator to Crooked Mile. I think I’ll run a few errands with them and then apologize. We got off the lift {…} I was quickly shocked as I almost had to point my skis downhill to keep up with them.

I asked again and Bob gave me some advice. He told me that the older you get, the faster you have to ski. I couldn’t believe my ears and told him that was the craziest thing I had heard. Bob said to listen to my advice, if you follow it, it will reduce the time you spend in the nursing home. I said sign me up. I’m glad Bob escaped the long stay in a nursing home. –Jim Tipton

Bob’s oldest ski buddy that day was none other than Geroge Jedenoff, the century-old hunting dog who skied powder in Alta until he was 102.5 years old. George’s days on skis may be behind him (at age 103.5 he skied at the Sugar Bowl in California), but he and Bob had some great times together on and off the slopes.

Bob was one of my closest ski friends and we were both active members of the Wild Old Bunch in Alta Utah. For at least 25 years we skied together, whenever I had the opportunity to visit Alta from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Until his passing, we skied with Bob Marshall for many years and always had a great time together.

Although the age has now progressed and I can no longer ski in Alta, I am very grateful for the many wonderful memories I have of the two of us skiing together. Thank you for these wonderful memories and for the pleasure of knowing Robert and having him as such a great friend.

We were fortunate to host Bob Murdoch’s 95th and 96th birthday parties at Albion Grill. In 2021, we helped Bob celebrate his 97th birthday with a socially distanced BBQ on the grounds of Albion. Unfortunately, that would be the last time we could celebrate with Bob in Alta.

Bob Murdoch was an Alta skier who loved the ski area and the community of Alta. He also loved powder skiing. He spoke about his love of skiing and the Alta for a Seattle Times article on the Wild Old Bunch in 2006:

“It helps you stay young. Without sounding corny about it, when you’re skiing in fresh powder and trees, there’s almost a spiritual quality to it. It’s something special that keeps us coming back year after year. And you never want to lose that.

–Bob Murdoch

Thank you Bob for sharing so many winter days in our beloved Alta. His story runs deep – Bob not only rode the slopes of Alta on our opening day in January 1939, but he also earned his turns and climbed before the first chairlift was put into operation. Thank you for your contributions to our community and the many cups of hot chocolate and stories shared among the Wild Old Bunch. Your love for our sport will live on with future generations of Alta skiers.