The memory of Keystone icon Ina Gillis honored on what would have been her 95th birthday
Keystone Resort honored local legend Ina Gillis on Monday, a woman whose amazing work ethic, feisty nature and “Tenmile smile” made her name inseparable from the resort.
Gillis is renowned at Keystone for her work, first as a ski school instructor, then leading a flower-planting crew and later in life greeting countless visitors every day as they crossed a bridge in Keystone’s River Run Village named in her honor.
Gillis died at her Keystone home on March 5. In addition to “Ina’s bridge,” Gillis also has a run at the resort that’s been named, “Ina’s Way.” It’s fitting because Monday’s celebration was all about remembering “Ina’s Way.”
Though Gillis is best known at Keystone for her work on and off the mountain, Monday’s celebration brought different aspects of her life into focus, as her family, friends and co-workers took turns remembering, laughing and crying over some of their fondest moments with Gillis.
Some common themes emerged from the speakers, too. Gillis might have been small in stature, but everyone agreed she was as “feisty” as anyone out there. Apparently she had a knack for giving the resort’s highest-ranking officials pieces of her mind — and getting her way in the process.
Later in life, her friends said, Gillis hoped that she would be a role model to senior citizens, showing them they can remain active with all kinds of activities. And active Gillis was.
Gillis worked up until she was 92 years old, her two daughters recalled, saying that Gillis took on the role of welcoming people to resort when she was unable to continue working in other roles anymore. In that position, she really became an “icon” for the resort.
Boards set up outside Monday’s celebration of life featured numerous comments from her students and from many of the people who had come to know Gillis and expected to see her at the resort.
In fact, it was estimated that Gillis welcomed between 30,000 to 40,000 people to Keystone every week. Gillis apparently knew that she had a strong following among the skiers and snowboards because, her daughter said, even after it got to be too cold for Gillis to stand outside for prolonged periods of time, she would still make regular appearances at her bridge, just so people would know she was still going strong.
Gillis had three children — Heather Hyde, Brian Hyde and Brenda Berman — and they might as well have grown up with skis strapped to their feet, according to how her daughters detailed Gillis’ family life.
But while the winters were for skiing, Gillis and her flower crew “transformed” Keystone every spring, co-workers said, recalling that Gillis continued planting flowers at Keystone well into her late-80s.
As an instructor, Gillis became close friends to Olympians, and she was said to be a perfectionist with her students and took great pride in their progression on the slopes, as she did with everyone that she impacted.
More than one speaker recalled how Gillis was “fiercely passionate” about the resort and told them that she thought, “Keystone had arrived.” In reality, though, they said that Keystone actually arrived in 1971, when Ina Gillis and her husband, Gene, showed up on the scene, only about a year after the resort opened.
The celebration of life was held Monday because it would have been Gillis’ 95th birthday, and a crowd of well over a hundred people filled the ballroom inside the Keystone Lodge and Spa to honor her.
“Personally I did not realize the impact that my mother had on so many people,” Heather Hyde said. “It’s amazing.”
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