The new Viewline Resort – at the foot of the slopes in Snowmass Village – has named its flagship restaurant, downstairs from the main lobby, Stark’s Alpine Grill. It’s a nod to Stark King, a former resident of Snowmass known for his passion for nature and his commitment to making the village the best possible place for families, community and outdoor recreation.
“Everything that Stark King has embraced about what is special about Snowmass Village is what we are trying to embody in the ethos of this new hotel,” said Karim Souki, representing the ownership group that purchased the old hotel. Westin.
As part of the rebranding with Marriott – among the hotel group’s Autograph Collection portfolio – the Viewline offers fully renovated and updated public and guest rooms.
“Stark embraced the outdoors and was integral in creating the trail system at Snowmass. When I came across his poem, I couldn’t think of anything that fits better with what we’re trying to do here at the hotel now,” Souki said.
The poem is immortalized at the “sacred site” – recognized by a yin-yang symbol and surrounding maze of stone – on Rim Trail, where the words are inscribed in a rock overlooking the mountain. This is fitting for a myriad of reasons, including that Rim Trail itself can be counted among King’s vast legacy in the Snowmass region.
“When people remember my dad, they always talk about how much he cared about his family and the community of Snowmass,” said Jonathan King. “He found where he wanted to be in Snowmass. His ambition was to make the most of the human experience for himself and for others. This notion is reflected in his work creating new trails around Snowmass, creating the idea of sacred sites and his poetry.
Longtime friend and colleague BJ Adams remembers how inspiring Stark was. “His idea of ’Special Places’, subtly commemorating sites in our surroundings that locals knew were out of the ordinary, but weren’t marked on any map, was brilliant. Stark was the cheerleader you’d want. on your team, and his commitment to his friends, through thick and thin, was legendary.
Born in Port Arthur, Texas, and a graduate of the University of Mississippi Law School, Stark was working as an attorney at the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. in the early 1970s when he visited a friend in Snowmass and immediately fell in love with the place.
“Stark said going up Brush Creek Valley and seeing Mount Daly and Capitol was the best view he had ever seen,” Geni King said of how her husband ended up in Snowmass. “He returned to Washington, quit his job and moved to Snowmass. It was the 1970s, the town was young, we were all in our twenties – and it was a fun, fun time.
King arrived at a time when the Snowmass ski area had only been open for a little over five years and the town was in its infancy.
“Stark’s charm and wit in Mississippi was unmatched. He could disarm the most stuffy people in a flash,” Adams recalled. “Stark was very, very passionate about Snowmass, throwing himself into its future development at the height of his career, wanting to do what he could to influence its growth in a measured and beautiful way that was in concert with its beautiful surroundings.”
After moving to Snowmass, King worked as a bartender, carpenter and restaurateur before getting his real estate license and working for Snowmass Real Estate and Snowmass Land Company, according to his former boss, Jim Light.
King bonded with the mountains of Snowmass, climbing several times a week in the winter before working with Snowmass Real Estate colleague Bruce Baker and Jeff Tippett, who was the mayor of Snowmass at the time – meeting in the black at 5:30 p.m. or 6 a.m. at the bottom of Fanny Hill, peeling Sam’s Knob, then skiing and changing clothes before going to work.
“The village was really small at the time, and everything was planned. Stark and Tip were talking about the town and the resort. They talked about the vision for the city and the master plan, all that stuff,” Baker said.
In the early 1970s, Snowmass, the town and resort, grew as new town features were created, such as roads, trails, affordable housing and civic organizations.
“Stark holds a special place in the hearts and memories of all the original villagers of Snowmass,” said longtime friend Judi Harris.
Wayne Harris, who went to college with King in Mississippi, agreed.
“Stark was instrumental in the planning and physical creation of the Rim Trail, which surrounds Snowmass, and it has been commemorated with a sacred site above the village,” he said.
King died of pancreatic cancer in August 1996 and is survived by his wife Geni and their children Jonathan and Alex. His legacy survives and endures through the many community projects he led or encouraged at Snowmass – and because of his unique personality.
“Stark had such a great laugh and he was full of life,” Geni King said. “He saw the best in people and the best in life. He was quick to help others and volunteer in the community, and was a great father to Jonathan and Alex.
In a letter King wrote to colleagues just before his death, he noted that it was the people of Snowmass that set the town apart from other places: “While it was the surroundings that first attracted me , these are the people who brought me back permanently . I found a timeless quality there: lively, dynamic people, who were not afraid to succeed or fail, people passionate about their convictions. Like the mountains, they would be there for you, today and tomorrow.
The sacred site is about a mile and a half from the Rim Trail trailhead. With 360 degree views of Mount Daly, Snowmass Ski Area and Ziegler Reservoir, it is a maze built on a black and white granite platform with the yin-yang symbol in the center, a space meant to meditation and reflection.
“I spoke to Stark’s service, as did many others,” Jim Light said. “It was such an overwhelming sense of loss for us personally and for the community. We all loved him, and there was a huge sense of appreciation for what Stark had accomplished at Snowmass while he was here.
Given King’s love for the Snowmass community, its people and the outdoors, it’s only fitting that he be honored and memorialized at a community gathering place like Stark’s Alpine Grill at the new Viewline Resort.
“I thought having his name on our restaurant that we invested so much time and energy in was perfect,” Souki said.
Souki and her partners hope to make Stark’s Alpine Grill one of the most beloved restaurants in the Roaring Fork Valley. From now on the restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner.