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Most everyone who has ridden a chairlift owes a debt of gratitude to Jan Leonard.

The Salt Lake City man, who died Wednesday at age 69, was a pioneering figure in the ski industry, contributing to the development of more than 250 chairlifts and gondolas in the United States, including scores in his adopted Utah.

A service in his honor will be held Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Starks Funeral Parlor, 3651 S. 900 East.

"No one has contributed more to the task of transporting skiers and snowboarders up the ski mountains of the United States than Jan Leonard," said Michael Berry, president of the Denver-based National Ski Areas Association.

"Jan's career as a lift designer and manufacturer was unrivaled," he added. "For over 45 years, Jan was a quiet but significant force in the chairlift manufacturing business. His work was revered — as was he."

A Maryland native who received a civil-engineering degree from Penn State, Leonard's career switched from bridge building to lift manufacturing after a ski trip to Killington resort in Vermont. Catching the ski bug prompted him to join Hall Ski Lift Co. in 1971.

He never looked back.

Leonard moved to Utah in 1974, working for Thiokol's ski lift division in Logan. After two years there, he and colleague Mark Ballantyne formed Cable Transportation Engineering Co. (CTEC), whose first lift was built in 1978 at Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania.

During the next 15 years, CTEC produced 149 lifts, including the much-faster detachable chairs, and gondolas for resorts in the U.S., Canada, Argentina and China. As the industry went through a series of mergers, Leonard's skills always enabled him to rise to the top, and he emerged in the mid-1990s as the president of Doppelmayr USA after the Austrian company took over his Salt Lake City-based company.

For Utah skiers, one of his most visible creations is Alta's Collins lift, which incorporated a mid-mountain angle station to replace the Little Cottonwood Canyon resort's prior reliance on two lifts, Collins and Germania, to move skiers.

That same winter of 2004, Leonard's crews installed the Judge lift in the Silver Lake Lodge area at Deer Valley.

In 2008, he and some partners formed a new ski-lift company, SkyTrac in western Salt Lake City, adding another 111 lifts and ropeways (an industry term that encompasses both lifts and gondolas) to his portfolio.

When he died after surgery to replace a heart valve, colleagues David Metivier, Alan Hepner and Carl Skylling issued a statement, saying, "Jan's immense contributions and passion for the ski industry will assuredly be missed by all who had the privilege of knowing and working with [him]. Such a presence and leadership will never be succeeded."

Earlier, Leonard and Ballantyne also established American Building Supply and an associated foundation that donated thousands of dollars to promote education, youth activities, arts and cultural endeavors and social-welfare programs.

He is survived by his widow, Kay Bauer, two children, one stepchild and two grandchildren.

Jan Leonard