For decades, Luke Slottow paddled Lake Dillon’s waters, sharing his love of the Colorado mountains and rivers with everyone from his coworkers to his sons.
Michael “Luke” Slottow died Feb. 26 in his home, after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He had just turned 61.
Born in Upper Darby, Pa., Slottow grew up in Evanston, Ill. He graduated from the University of Colorado with a business degree and later earned an MBA from Denver University. After graduation, Slottow moved to Dillon, working as a ski patroller in winter and running Keystone Resort’s river rafting program in the summers.
Jim Gentling was a ski patroller with Slottow in the late ’70s. Slottow taught him how to hang glide and kayak.
Gentling remembered one time, after expressing concern about running into a barbed-wire fence at the far end of a hang-gliding runway, Slottow said, “Oh, you don’t want to do that, that’s gonna hurt,” and then took off.
After moving to Summit County, Slottow met Annie DeGrood; the two began skiing together and married three years later.
During his 33-year career at Keystone, Slottow served as the director of ski patrol, mountain manager, director of property management and general manager of the Keystone Lodge and Spa.
Slottow also headed the ski patrol at New Zealand’s first major ski resort, worked as a hang-gliding instructor in Golden, as an aluminum-factory worker in Switzerland and as a bartender in Boulder.
Gentling said Slottow was an example of how people should behave toward one another, and loved getting people out on the water to share his love of kayaking. In fact, Gentling’s first time out on a kayak was with Slottow.
Ice was still covering most of Lake Dillon, and the two were navigating the Snake River arm. Gentling asked what he should do if the boat tipped over, and like always, Slottow responded, “Oh, you don’t want to do that, you’ll be really wet and cold,” with a smile.
In his time in Summit County, Slottow also contributed to the growth of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center. Executive director Tamara Drangstveit said not only did Slottow help her get her job, but he once saved her life.
“He really got to know us; that’s part of what made him so special. He got to know all of the people he worked with,” she said. “He really cared about us all outside his work.”
Besides directing Drangstveit to the opening for the FIRC position, Slottow served as the secretary and vice president of the organization over the years.
“He genuinely cared about families in Summit County,” she said.
Drangstveit’s favorite memory of Slottow, like Gentling’s, involves kayaking. She said she was terrified of going, convinced she was going to drown. She was in the boat all of 30 seconds before flipping upside down, unable to roll herself upright. She said Slottow calmly managed to help her get out and back over to the shore, saving her life while jokingly telling her she should have tried to roll more.
“He wasn’t this huge, big, in-your-face personality,” she said. “He helped move everyone in the right direction, and there are a lot of things we credit him for here.”
A steady voice of reason, polite and cheerful, Slottow was always willing to help someone in need. He had a passion for his family as well; he and Annie raised two sons, Derk and Gabe. Slottow loved kayaking with Derk, who died in 2009 in a kayaking accident.
“Hanging with Luke was always an adventure,” Gentling said. “I’m grateful I got to know him. We’re going to miss him a lot.”