George Theodore “Ted” Johnson, a pioneer of the U.S. ski industry and a refugee of the Montecito mudslides, was struck and critically injured by a drunk driver on the evening of Tuesday, January 23, in a marked crosswalk at the intersection of State and Micheltorena streets. He died the following Monday, according to his family.
The driver, 26-year-old Goleta resident Nicholas Hart, has been charged with second-degree murder and is being held on $1 million bail. Police said Hart was speeding on a suspended license and has two prior DUIs on his record. This would be his third DUI in under three years, police said. Hart’s blood-alcohol content was allegedly over three times the legal limit at the time of the collision.
Johnson, 91, was a resident of Montecito’s Casa Dorinda retirement community and had evacuated with his wife ahead of the January 9 storm. They were staying at the La Quinta motel.
Always an avid skier, Johnson moved to Utah in the 1960s, where he worked at the Alta Ski Area resort. He materialized a dream of opening his own ski mecca buy buying up mining claims and courting investors, including a wealthy Texas rancher who helped him found Utah’s famous Snowbird resort in 1971. “Almost everything at Snowbird – from the tram to the village to the spirit of Snowbird’s first employees – started with Ted,” said current Snowbird CEO Bob Bonar, who worked for Johnson before the resort opened. “It was Ted’s vision, intellect, endearing personality and persistence that brought Snowbird to life.”
The Silver Fox, one of Snowbird’s iconic runs, is named in Johnson’s honor, and he was twice featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Johnson is survived by his wife, two children, and three grandchildren. A celebration of his life is being planned for this spring.