After a tender week of family visits, a rekindled love for Vernor’s ginger ale, sharing stories and offering wisdom, Peter Alford passed away peacefully at home on the evening of 27 August, 2021.
Peter told his grandson, Sam, that he never wanted to leave this world with his body, only with his memories, a mantra that he embodied throughout his 83 years on earth. He lived a full and exuberant life, festooned in Madras and brightly colored sport coats, skiing in the winter, windsurfing in the summer, and traveling the globe extensively with his beloved wife, high school sweetheart, and lifelong partner, Joan. He was athletic, suntanned and clear eyed, with a full head of hair that accompanied him to the end.
Peter was born in 1938 in London, Ontario, to William and Ruby Alford. Peter was the youngest of four, preceded in life by his brother Parker and his sister Donna (Lansing), and is survived by his sister Marylin (Beerman).
In ninth grade, Peter met Joan Campbell, a smart, beautiful and athletic gal, who would go on to become his cherished partner for 63 years. On their first date, Peter parked his bike behind Joan’s mother’s hedge, and her father escorted them to the Rugby Dance, stopping for a milkshake on the way home at the Three Little Pigs. They separated briefly, while Peter attended summer camp on Lake Tamagami. When he returned, tan and toned from a months- long diet of fish and cereal, they continued their courtship.
In 1956, Peter attended Princeton University on a full scholarship, where he studied chemical engineering and played hockey. He truly loved his time there, and often regaled his friends and family with tales of supper clubs, hockey games, and raucous nights with the boys. Princeton was in Peter’s blood and was a source of lifelong pride.
Joan and Peter were married at First St Andrews United Church in London, Ontario on February 17, 1958. After their wedding, they moved to Rochester, NY, where Peter finished his degree in Chemical Engineering in 1960. Together they had three children – Craig, Kelly, and Pete Jr. (who shared his dad’s birthday).
In 1963, after a brief time with Delta Engineering in London, Peter started his own engineering consulting firm, Alford International — later the Alford Design Group — which he would lead until his death. His first snowmaking design project was for Loon Mountain, in New Hampshire. Then Governor Sherman Adams, who owned the mountain, was reportedly looking for “a place to go to get honest answers.” He found Peter Alford.
Peter’s snowmaking career bloomed into an international affair, with projects in Canada, South Africa, Italy, Austria, Spain and of course, the United States — there is hardly a ski area in the American West that does not boast an Alford Design Group snowmaking installation. Peter had a determined work ethic, but more than anything, he had a passion for the outdoors and for skiing, which lent a charisma and authenticity to his company that was undeniable.
“Peter Alford was one of the most prolific contributors to the modernization of ski area design and operations. A brilliant engineer whose snowmaking systems always challenged the latest technologies to perform in extreme conditions. A true innovator of system design and control, he continually looked for ways to improve the performance of any system he designed or worked on and always strived to bring the operational cost down for the owner. To use a golf analogy, Peter was the Pete Dye of snowmaking design. The design and construction process could be frustrating, but in the end, the owner ended up with one of the best performing systems the industry had to offer.”
— Robbie Scholl, former Mountain Manager, Copper Mountain
“Peter was a remarkable snowmaking pioneer having designed many of the major systems that were installed in the West during the late seventies after the disastrous winter of 1976-77. I was introduced to Peter by Chuck Lewis and Fred Jones who were working with him to design a system for Copper Mountain, which I then had the pleasure of building, working closely with Peter. Peter Alford basically taught me everything I know about snowmaking and has continued to do so for the past 45 years. He was a brilliant and practical engineer whom we will all miss. Blessings to you and the family.”
— Andy Daly, former CEO, Vail Resorts
In 2009, Peter founded PNP Supply LLC, the exclusive North American importer of TRM Austria’s world renown ductile iron pipe and fittings. This state-of-the-art piping continues to revolutionize the snowmaking industry.
“TRM Austria is deeply saddened by the painful news of the passing of Peter Alford, Peter will always be well remembered by us as a friend and business partner. TRM is committed to work with the PNP Supply team for success in the years ahead.”
— Max Kloger, President, TRM Austria
Due to the nature of his work, holidays were often spent skiing with his family. They toured ski resorts all over the West – Breckenridge, Keystone, Alta, Sun Valley – but ultimately, Joan and Peter settled on a vacation home in Aspen, Colorado, where Craig, Kelly and Pete Jr. would hone their skiing skills. Inevitably, Peter designed snowmaking installations at all four of the local mountains in the area, Snowmass, Buttermilk, Highlands, and Aspen Mountain.
When not preoccupied with all things snow, Peter, Joan, and the kids loved to spend summers between their family cottages on Elephant Lake and in Rondeau, Ontario. They would spend a month at each, soaking in the rustic simplicity, swimming in the fresh water, and basking in the unique creative boredom that comes with extended leisure. Peter loved his long days on the golden beach at the edge of the lake in Rondeau, swimming, suntanning, windsurfing, and entertaining friends and family that stopped in to visit. Coolers would be filled with tuna sandwiches and Vernor’s ginger ale to sustain the day, and gin & tonics would be brought down to cool the evenings. In the warm, wood paneled cottage, lively games of May I would stretch on into the night to the chorus of frogs and crickets in the trees outside. Even as the kids grew up, Joan and Peter continued to visit Rondeau each summer, maintaining the glorious cottage from the start of the summer, till the chill of Autumn would send them home.
Joan and Peter were faithful members of Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver and were also lifelong members of the London Hunt & Country Club, where the family enjoyed playing tennis and golf, and where many family milestones were elegantly and festively celebrated — weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and more.
Peter was a dedicated grandfather, traveling for hockey and soccer games, weddings and graduations, adding a dapper flair to every event. He made his love and adoration of his grandchildren apparent, sharing his favorite memories and stories of them so many times they became family lore, beloved touchstones of his pride.
Diagnosed early with otospongiosis, an inherited disorder that causes hearing loss, Peter lived with some degree of deafness for much of his life. In 1997, he was fitted with a cochlear implant, which was a life changing experience. This also earned him the lovingly goofy nickname “Grandpa Silly Magnet Head” from his grandchildren, due to the way the contraption was attached.
Peter was strong willed, passionate, and uniquely charismatic. Joan remembers him as a good, honest and determined man, reliable and driven to build a dynamic and exciting life. Together, Joan and Peter built welcoming and comfortable homes wherever they went, always centering family, dinners, and a perfectly appointed happy hour. He left this world as a beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend, having touched many lives.
The simple ethos of Peter Alford can be summed up by his favorite place to ski: Sun Valley, a three-sided mountain, so you can always be in the sun.
We love you Pete.
Peter is survived by his beloved wife Joan (Campbell), sons Craig and Pete Jr., daughter Kelly, son-in-law Glenn Rappaport, sister Marilyn (Beerman), grandchildren Nelson Harvey (wife, Caroline Glover), Sadye Harvey (partner, Jonny Marlow), Sam and Ruby Rappaport and Walker Alford. In lieu of a funeral service at this time — and honoring Peter as a man who loved a party — the family will host two celebrations of life in the months ahead — one in Denver, Colorado and one in London, Ontario, Canada. Details to follow.