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Legends of Famous Ski Instructors

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
On Hyperchange, Robin made mention of some instructors who have been around for awhile and have made an impact on the skiing industry today. I found this topic really fascinating.

I have only been skiing for a relatively short period of time, but many of you have been in the industry for many years. What interesting anecdotes can you tell us about these legends of ski instruction?


Then I saw my reflection in a snow covered hill......

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Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #2 of 5
I want to hear some good stories about P.J. I hear he's got quite a history.

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Spank Me
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
I'm gonna' really show my ignorance. Who was P.J.?
post #4 of 5
Dunno who P.J. is/was, but your topic is interesting. Seems like a good opportunity to indulge in a little nostalgia.

I was fortunate enough (or old enough) to have started skiing and then gotten into instruction when there were a lot of the USEASA originals still around here in New England. The first private lesson I ever had as a kid was with Paul Valar at Mittersill.

When I went through the routine of clinics and workshops leading up to certification in the early 70's I had the chance to be in sessions led by people such as Kerr Sparks from Stowe, Chris Rounds from Lake Placid, and Cal Cantrell, probably the most dominating personality and arguably the best ski instructor in the East in those days. My examiners at certification were "Woody" Woodward, who was recently given a lifetime achievement recognition by PSIA-E, and Brian Fairbank, who is now the chairman if the board for NSAA, and who could probably do more hop turns per vertical foot than anyone else alive. But who counts that sorta thing? Also, Stu Campbell, who was a member of the Sepp Ruschp Ski School, an English teacher, and a writer, was also an incredible clinic conductor and mentor. Stu is, of course, still active and is an editor at SKI magazine. His 1974 book "Ski With the Big Boys" is still relevant

(Then, as now, the ranks of the examiners were decidedly skewed toward the masculine gender.)

At the certification at Stowe in the spring of '73, during the slalom portion held at Spruce Peak (instructors were expected to be able to run gates then, but weren't timed) one of the candidates, who was a former college racer, delivered an absolutely picture-perfect run that even had people on the chairlift cheering. As he crossed the finish line, elated, he boldly skied right over to Cal Cantrell, who was scoring him "9" out of a possible "10".

"9!!! That was a perfect 10!"

"If I gave you a 10, what would I give Jean Claude Killy?"

The candidate passed anyway, of course, and spent three or four more years as a legendary instructor himself before going to work for the engineering firm that built the current observatory on top of Mount Washington.

Chapter 2: I stayed at the ski area, became ski school director, and a couple of years later had a proposal to the local college accepted for a "January Term" course in Alpine skiing history and technique. We had indoor and on-snow sessions. I brought in some guests, including Jim Branch who was president of Sno Engineering, who gave a slide presentation on the construction of Bretton Woods, And Herb Schneider from Cranmore who showed us an old black and white film of his father, Hannes Schneider ("the father of modern skiing" or something like that) skiing with a group in the Alberg in, I think, the late 1920's. They would climb up for about four hours, take the sealskins off their skis, and point 'em back down. Herb would say that it was during one of these 60 mile per hour schusses that Hannes came up with the idea of inventing turning.

My favorite was when Paul Valar himself accepted my invitation to speak on the development of the American Technique and then ski with us. His talk was good enough, but the college kids really wanted to get out on the hill to see what this former Swiss Olympian and legend (according to me) was all about. In those days the equipment of choice among hotshots was 180cm K2 Bermuda Shorts and Nordica Boots,sometimes red, sometimes yellow, sometimes one of each. There was some noticeable perplexed snickering when Mr. Valar put on a pair of black LEATHER boots (albeit custom hand made for him by a seventh-generation Swiss bootmaker) and a pair of 215cm Rossignol Statos.

Without taking up any more room with the turn-by-turn details, suffice it to say that the kids soon found out what a real legend is, and gained some profound respect for their elders. Like Tom Rush said in the old folksong: "The hoboes don't mess with that train. They just stand by the tracks with their hat in their hand."


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post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Wonderful stories, David, thanks! Too bad more colleges don't do combination history/phys.ed classes combining ski history with skiing itself. I did not hear about the World War 2 skiing fighter squads until after I became a skier.

In creating such a course for the college curriculum, perhaps you too will one day be a legendary ski instructor!

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Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
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