Trivia 2018 Week 16

This week is Skiing History Week. Some may remember that last year this event was held here in Stowe. This year it’s being held in Squaw Valley. So this week’s trivia question is:

Which of this year’s U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame inductees was the youngest fully certified ski instructor in the history of the Professional Ski Instructors of America?

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La Proell

Annemarie Moser-Proell and Lindsey Vonn

Annemarie Moser-Proell and Lindsey Vonn

A couple weeks ago Mikaela Shiffrin broke the record for most FIS World Cup wins before the age of 23. A couple of years ago Lindsey Vonn broke the women’s record for most total FIS World Cup victories. In both cases the woman who held the previous record was Annemarie Moser-Proell.

I received no answers to last week’s trivia question. I’m assuming everyone was too busy skiing the amazing conditions to bother with such matters.

(Note: The correct spelling of Annemarie’s last name is “Pröll”, mit der umlaut! However it’s easier to type the anglicized version, Proell, so that’s what I’ve used!)

Annemarie Proell was born in Kleinarl, Austria, the sixth of eight children. She began skiing at age four on homemade equipment. The local priest recognized potential talent and recommended her to the Austrian ski association. She won her first regional championship at age 13.

Proell joined the Austrian National Team for the 1969 World Cup season at age 15. Her first victory came the following season at age 16, winning a Giant Slalom.  She actually finished 6th for the overall 1970 World Cup.

Annemarie Moser-ProellIn 1971 Proell’s racing career took off. She won seven races – two slaloms, two downhills, and three giant slaloms. She won what would be the first of her five consecutive overall World Cups. Between 1972 and 1974 she won 11 consecutive downhills. Speaking of 1974, Annemarie married her ski technician, Herbert Moser, to become Annemarie Moser-Proell.

Annemarie Moser-Proell at the 1980 OlympicsProell did not fare as well in the Olympics. In her first Olympics in 1972, she took two silvers being edged out by the Swiss skier Marie-Theres Nadig who won two golds. Proell took the 1976 season off to tend to her terminally ill father, so she missed the 1976 Olympics in her home country. She would finally get her Olympic gold at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics winning the downhill.

After her father died, Proell returned to the World Cup circuit for the 1977 season finishing second in the overall standings. She would win one more overall World Cup in 1979.

Moser-Proell with her 6 Overall World CupsShe retired after the 1980 season at the age of 26. She had raced for a total of 11 World Cup seasons and accumulated 62 wins and 113 podium finishes. She won 35% of the races she entered. The 62 wins set the standard for women until Lindsey Vonn exceeded it in 2015.

Comparing athletes across generations in any sport is difficult. For example, there are more events today with the addition of Super G than there were when Proell raced. And there are more stops on the World Cup circuit which means more races. So in some respects it’s amazing her records lasted as long as they did.

One aspect of Annemarie Moser-Proell’s success was that she was the first woman to gain a superstar status in the FIS World Cup. Austrians love their ski racers and they loved Moser-Proell. After winning her first overall World Cup, 10,000 fans greeted her return to her hometown of Kleinarl. She was highly competitive, but still respected by her fellow competitors. Former U.S. ski racer Christin Cooper says of Moser-Proell, “She modeled gnarly, unrepentant competitiveness before women athletes had come to own that space with pride and confidence.” Annemarie Moser-Proell was voted the Austrian Sportswoman of the Century!

Annemarie Moser-Proell still lives in Kleinarl. You can view many of her trophies at the Café-Restaurant Olympia. Moser-Proell started the business, but sold it after her husband passed away in 2008.

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Trivia 2018 Week 15

Mikaela ShiffrinHappy 23rd Birthday to Mikaela Shiffrin this week! She’s got a lot to celebrate: her second overall World Cup, her fifth Slalom World Cup, and the record for most World Cup wins before turning 23! So this week’s trivia question:

Who previously held the record for most World Cup wins before age 23?

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Bill Briggs

Last week I wrote about Fritz Wiessner who was a skiing mountaineer best known for his ascents. This week I’m writing about a skiing mountaineer best known for his skiing descents – in particular, the first skiing descent of the Grand Teton.

Chuck Perkins was quick to identify Bill Briggs as the first person to ski the Grand. Bill is a personal friend of Chuck and Jann’s. Bill was here in Stowe last October to help celebrate Chuck and Jann’s induction into the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Christian Theberge also identified Bill Briggs. Christian is a rock climber and went on to say that he has climbed some of Fritz Wiessner’s routes. He says they are “bold and scary!”

Bill BriggsBill Briggs successfully skied the Grand Teton on June 15, 1971. He had tried once before, but weather had forced him to abandon the attempt. However on that day in June the weather and snow conditions cooperated to produce a successful descent. Briggs says he was never worried about skiing down, but the climb was the challenge. He says that like all major mountaineering expeditions, planning was the key.

Briggs Route on the Grand TetonDespite the fact that Briggs wasn’t worried about skiing down, anyone who has looked at the Grand Teton can see there isn’t a connected path of snow from top to bottom. Instead there is a collection of steep snowfields and couloirs connected by cliff bands. Much of the terrain is fall-and-you-die territory. Briggs actually rappelled down one cliff with his skis on to get to the next skiable section! And snow conditions were variable – from wind crusted powder to spring corn to what Briggs described as “frost feathers.”

After successfully completing his descent, Briggs returned to Jackson only to be faced with a lot of doubt from the locals. He contacted the Jackson Hole News. Virginia Huidekoper, founder and owner of the paper, and photographer Roger LaVake, went up in a plane the next day and took pictures of Briggs’ tracks down the Grand! My understanding is that you can still buy a poster of that picture.

Skiing the Grand Teton was not the biggest challenge Bill Briggs ever faced. Briggs was born in Maine in 1931 missing one hip socket. When he was two years old, surgeons were able to etch out a socket in his pelvis to act as a joint. While his participation in sports was limited by the hip, Briggs did take up skiing at an early age. Most of his skiing was done on a slope near his house using his father’s skis.

Briggs went to Philips Exeter Academy where he met a mentor that would shape his life. A teacher at the school, Bob Bates, was an accomplished mountain climber and had been part of the K2 expedition headed by Fritz Wiessner (aren’t connections like that amazing?). Bob Bates was also an inspirational teacher and Briggs decided to follow in Bates’ mountaineering footsteps.

Philips Exeter also encouraged Briggs to continue skiing. Every Sunday he would take the ski train to North Conway, New Hampshire, for a day of skiing. On the return train trip, Briggs loved singing ski songs with the other skiers. Music would become Briggs’ second passion. He taught himself to yodel, something he demonstrated at the Hall of Fame gala here in Stowe!

Briggs went on to Dartmouth in 1953 where he immediately joined the Outing Club. Through this he extended both his skiing and mountaineering experience. Skiing Tuckerman Ravine introduced him to steep skiing and he developed his own style for the steeps. One companion described Briggs as “the most concise and controlled skier” he had ever seen.  In the first summer with the Outing Club, Briggs was introduced to climbing in the Tetons and Canada’s Bugaboos, places that would become integral parts of Briggs’ life.

Briggs left Dartmouth before graduating and chased his dreams of skiing, climbing, and music. During the rest of the 1950s, Briggs would move around as a ski instructor, from Franconia in New Hampshire to Aspen and eventually to Woodstock, Vermont. It was from Woodstock that Briggs planned an expedition that many might consider more of a challenge than skiing the Grand. He and a bunch of his former Dartmouth Outing Club buddies would climb and ski a traverse of the Canadian Bugaboos in 1958!

Briggs Playing the BanjoBy the 1960s, Briggs’ hip became a problem and he had it fused. His initial rehab did not go well and he became worried that he might never be able to ski or climb again. Briggs credits his conversion to Scientology for his physical and mental recovery that allowed him to resume skiing and climbing. In 1966 Briggs was named ski school director at Snow King Mountain in Jackson, Wyoming.

Bill Briggs still lives in Jackson and if you drop into the Virginian Bar at the right time, you’ll find Bill holding court and maybe doing a little singing.

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Trivia 2018 Week 14

Who was the first person to ski the Grand Teton?

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Man For All Mountains

What does a wooded trail network on conserved land in Stowe have in common with a peak in British Columbia’s coastal range? Both Wiessner Woods and Mount Wiessner carry the name of one of the greatest mountain climbers of the 20th century.

Fritz WiessnerFritz Wiessner was born in Dresden, Germany in 1900. He became an accomplished climber by the age of 18. Wiessner was influenced by the Dresden climbers who emphasized free-climbing – climbing without aid whenever possible. In his twenties he recorded first ascents on some of Europe’s most challenging cliffs.

In 1929 Wiessner moved to New York City and found that climbing in the United States wasn’t as advanced or organized as in Europe. Initially he explored the climbing possibilities near New York City working his way up the Hudson River. Wiessner discovered the Shawangunk Mountains in the New Paltz area making many first climbs. “The Gunks” are now a hotbed of rock climbing and many of the routes still bear the name that Wiessner gave them.

Looking to find more challenging climbs in the Northeast, Wiessner reached out to Robert Underhill, a Harvard professor who was considered one of the best American climbers. Underhill introduced Wiessner to Cathedral Ledge and Cannon Cliff in New Hampshire. On their first visit to Cathedral Ledge in 1933, Underhill showed Wiessner a route that had only been climbed once and represented the most difficult climbs being attempted in America (5.7) at that time. Wiessner led the first pitch with no difficulty, but Underhill wouldn’t attempt to follow Wiessner’s lead. So Wiessner unroped and free-climbed the remaining three pitches with no protection. Underhill knew that American climbing was about to take a major step forward!

By 1936 Wiessner was taking on major North American ascents. He and a team achieved the first ascent of British Columbia’s Mt. Waddington, the highest peak in the Coast Mountains. A month after that success, he was poised to make the first ascent of the North Face of the Grand Teton only to be beaten by hours by another group of climbers. In 1937 Wiessner recorded the first free ascent of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

Fritz Wiessner on K2In 1939 Wiessner led an American Alpine Club expedition to K2 in the Himalayas. They would make it within 700 vertical feet of the summit, but weather and illness forced a retreat and resulted in tragedy with one American and three Sherpas dying. The American Alpine Club placed the blame on Wiessner despite his superhuman efforts to perform a rescue. Experienced climbers of that era disagreed with the club’s assessment, but it still damaged Wiessner’s reputation. Many believe the political climate of the era influenced the club’s findings. Even though Wiessner had become an American citizen, the German connection provided a convenient scapegoat. Many years later (1965) the American Alpine Club would honor Wiessner with a lifetime membership.

When WWII began, Wiessner supported the war effort by providing technical support to the 10th Mountain Division. This included advice on equipment for cold weather and ski wax! Wiessner’s chemical company specialized in ski waxes including Wiessner’s Wonder Wax! After the war Wiessner would set up a factory in Burlington, Vermont, to produce Fall Line ski wax.

Dean Economou, Larry Heath, and Bill Kornrumpf all named Fritz Wiessner as the founder of Fall Line ski wax.

John Dostal also identified Wiessner, but added that it was “crappy wax!”

Pat Ostrowski heard of Wiessner when Pat lived in Dutchess County and hiked in the “Gunks”. Wiessner’s name was, and still is, well known there. The Fall Line connection came when a mutual friend of Pat’s and mine acquired F. H. Wiessner Inc. in the 1970s. Bob Penniman ran the company and kept us well supplied with ski wax!

My experience with Fall Line wax is more favorable than John Dostal’s. Granted, my usage was primarily on alpine skis, but I liked the wax. The Fall Line product in greatest demand was their cold weather wax. When temperatures were below zero, Fall Line outperformed many of the bigger name companies. How appropriate for a wax made in Vermont.

While better known for climbing, Fritz Wiessner was a downhill skier as well. He had started skiing in Stowe even before there was lift-served skiing. In 1952 Fritz moved his family to Stowe. That family consisted of his wife Muriel (better known as Moo-Moo) and their two children, Andrew and Polly. Fritz taught all of them to climb.

Fritz Wiessner climbing at age 86

Fritz Wiessner Climbing at age 86 Phot0 By John Rupley

As he got older, Wiessner became a mentor to many young climbers. He was an equal opportunity teacher who encouraged both young men and young women. He insisted on leading the climbs which struck some as being egotistical, but it still provided a new generation of climbers with priceless experiences. Wiessner continued to climb until he was 87, just one year before he passed away in 1988.

The current Curious & Cool exhibit at the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum includes Fall Line ski waxes and a life-sized painting of Fritz Wiessner! The painting is on loan from River Arts in Morrisville. Drop by the Museum to check it out. After its stay as part of the exhibit, River Arts plans to auction the painting as a fundraiser.

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Trivia 2018 Week 13

Who was the founder of Fall Line ski waxes?

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Ski Boot Trees

There are two types of skiers in the world: those who put their ski boots on in the parking lot and those that put theirs on in the lodge. However there was a time when there was only one type of skier.

In the era of lace-up leather ski boots, we all put our boots on in the lodge! The process of tightly lacing a ski boot took long enough that it was not something you wanted to do in the cold. This did mean you had to schlep all your equipment to the lodge, but to help carry ski boots everyone had a ski boot tree. The ski boot tree had two purposes in the leather boots days – as mentioned it helped you carry them plus it was used to store the ski boots and keep the soles from curling.

Mark Fore Boot TreeI had a Mark Fore ski boot tree with a green frame, silver clamps, and red rubber on the clamps. I’m sure many Retro-Skiers had these or at least remember seeing them. I’m sure because in the 1960s every ski area I went to, the base lodge floor was littered with them! Indeed, you were lucky if you went home with the same one you brought! Even putting your name on them didn’t guarantee you’d maintain ownership.

In 1965 Ivor Allsop invented a better mousetrap, I mean, ski boot tree. It was made out of plastic and had a spring-loaded mechanism that made it easier to put boots in the tree. He called it the Ski-Boot-In.

Allsop Ski-Boot-In

Allsop Ski-Boot-In Courtesy Sue Dirmaier

Sue Dirmaier not only knew the answer to last week’s trivia, she went immediately to their ski closet and pulled out a yellow Ski-Boot-In! She even sent me a picture.

Sue doesn’t remember when or where they got the Ski-Boot-In and is not sure either she or her husband ever used it. I have a similar story in that someone in the past gave me one and I never used it. If whoever gave me a Ski-Boot-In reads this, I apologize!

Sue’s husband, Greg, does remember using Allsop ski poles with the shock absorbers under the grips and liking them. Allsop had a series of skiing-related inventions: the Boot-In, shock absorbing ski poles, and ski bindings. As I recall their ski bindings featured an upward releasing toe which helped in backward falls. When the younger Allsops took over the company, they moved it into more consumer-electronics-based products. Today they sell printer and laptop stands.

I found a 1969 advertisement for Ski-Boot-In that listed the price at $4.95. I also found some folks on eBay trying to sell them today for $37! I should have saved my old unused Ski-Boot-In!

The advent of plastic buckle ski boots ruined the ski boot tree market and created the two types of skier I mentioned back at the beginning of this column. There are lodge skiers and parking lot skiers and either approach is fine. However the problems arise when a parking lot skier goes skiing with a lodge skier! Something has to give.

I am a parking lot skier and have been for years. The first time I realized the mismatch between parking lot and lodge skiers was 30 years ago when I was a weekend warrior skiing at Sugarbush . My wife and I had met a couple during the summer and they came to visit us that winter for a ski weekend. They were “ski instructors” from a small Pennsylvania area. Maybe I didn’t need to use those quotation marks, but ski instructors at small Pennsylvania ski areas aren’t necessarily the same as ski instructors at Stowe.

My first inkling that things were going to be different skiing with them was the size of their boot bags. My stepson who played high school hockey at that time didn’t use a bag as big! We got to Sugarbush Saturday morning a little after 8:30. They were lodge skiers, but I wasn’t going to change my stripes so I directed them toward the lodge and began putting on my boots. I was a little surprised at how long it took them to get their stuff together so by the time I had my boots on, they hadn’t made it the short distance to the lodge. Suffice it to say I waited quite a while for them to get ready before we made it to the slopes!

I won’t bore you with the rest of the weekend except for one detail. At the end of the second day, after waiting in the lodge for them to take off their boots and re-pack those gear bags, we came out to find that someone had stolen his skis!

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Trivia 2018 Week 12

Who invented the Ski-Boot-In?

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Wet T-Shirt Contests

This week’s topic for my column has been on my list almost since I started writing eight years ago.  Cowardice and perhaps some hint of good taste have kept me from writing about it sooner.

So what prompted me to write it now? Well, a couple weeks back Boston’s KISS 108 FM was at Smuggs and one of their advertised events was a “Frozen T-Shirt Contest.” I guess I’ve been out-of-touch because this was new to me so I had to look it up online.  It involves soaking T-shirts, rolling them up, freezing them, and the contest is to see who can put one on first. In checking videos, there were guys as well as girls competing.

Guys competing? Putting on a T-shirt rather than taking it off? Oh, how times have changed!

The year was 1971. Freestyle skiing was in its infancy. K2 was a new ski company and had hung their hat on freestyle. They assembled an amazing demo team that included Bob Burns, Wayne Wong, and almost every big name in early freestyle. K2 hired ski filmmaker Dick Barrymore to follow the team around the United States and capture the excitement of freestyle. The result of this would be an extremely popular ski movie called “The Performers.”

In January of 1971 the K2 demo team was in Sun Valley and as fortune would have it, it was Airline Week. That was when Sun Valley offered ski-week deals for stewardesses. To capitalize on this, Barrymore organized a “K2 T-Shirt Contest.” The stewardesses would wear K2 T-Shirts, dance to music, and be judged by the K2 demo team.

As it turned out, there was a ringer among the stewardesses who was a professional stripper. She raised the ante in the competition by doing what she did best. The amateurs resorted to soaking their T-shirts to, uh, even the playing field? The wet T-shirt contest was born!

Long-time friend Pat Ostrowski had the correct trivia answer all the way from Saint Augustine, Florida! He remembers seeing “The Performers” and the scene with a wet T-shirt contest.

Spruce Peak Events Manager Dave Hatoff, a former freestyler himself, remembered the Sun Valley tie-in. (I don’t think Dave is planning any T-shirt events at Spruce Peak.)

Back to 1971. Guess where the next stop for the K2 demo team was? That’s right, it was right here in Stowe! Barrymore talked Gar Anderson at the Rusty Nail into hosting the second K2 Wet T-Shirt Contest. The way Barrymore tells the story, word spread around town and not everyone was excited about the prospect. The select board eventually approved it, but there could be no nudity. To enforce that, a deputy sheriff would be there “with express order s to arrest Barrymore” if things got out-of-hand.

Things didn’t get out-of-hand although one contestant “accidently” dropped her T-shirt. Hey, accidents happen! So Barrymore escaped Stowe without a criminal record.

K2 Wet T-Shirt Finals PosterThe wet T-shirt contests followed the K2 demo team on their tour and culminated in the K2 T-Shirt Finals held at the Red Onion in Aspen on March 10, 1971 (see poster.)  In addition to the demo team, the judges even included Stein Eriksen. The event overflowed the Red Onion and Barrymore had to sneak in the back to get in! Playboy was there and would later publish an article that popularized wet T-shirt contests beyond the skiing world. My understanding is that they are still a staple of spring break beach gatherings.

Going back to Smuggs, their T-shirt contests weren’t always frozen. Back in the 1970s before Smuggs earned its reputation as a “family” resort, they used to offer college groups big discounts in early January. I was living in Smugglers Village in January 1976 when a couple of busloads of out-of-state students arrived. Now the resort didn’t really plan a lot of events specifically for these students, but college students are pretty good at creating their own entertainment. And part of that entertainment turned out to be a wet T-shirt contest. Apparently the resort did have some experience with this in the past, since they made sure the event was in the evening at the Madonna base lodge bar, not in the village. The winner came out with her wet T-shirt……in her hand!

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