Carroll Reed Ski Shops and Toni Matt

Last week I wrote about how an injury motivated Carroll Reed to establish a ski school. But most people associate the Carroll Reed name with ski shops and clothing.

It turns out that during his recovery from the broken back, Reed came up with two skiing-related business ideas. In 1936 while Reed was in New York City negotiating to get Benno Rybizka into the United States, he also met with Saks Fifth Avenue management and proposed opening a branch in Jackson, New Hampshire. Saks was already planning a shop at the new Sun Valley ski resort so they gave Reed approval to open one in Jackson.

For the 1936-37 ski season Carroll Reed would run the Eastern Slope Ski School and the Saks shop in Jackson. The following season Saks decided not to continue the Jackson location, but Reed bought up the inventory and the shop became the first Carroll Reed Ski Shop. That same season Reed would open his second shop at Cranmore in conjunction with the second location for his ski school.

As mentioned last week, for the 1938-39 season Harvey Dow Gibson would buy Reed’s ski school in preparation for Hannes Schneider’s arrival. Reed used the proceeds from that sale to start a mail order catalog business for his ski shops. With Harvey Dow Gibson’s help, he secured a location right on the main street of North Conway for his anchor store.

Carroll Reed LabelThe Carroll Reed name became synonymous with quality, not just for skiing-related clothing and equipment, but for durable year-round fashion. Reed would open new shops as the brand’s popularity grew. Eventually there were 50 Carroll Reed shops just in New Hampshire. The Ski Industries of America (SIA) would name Carroll Reed “Ski Retailers of the Year” for 1966-67.

For those of us who grew up in the Conway area, the anchor store right in the center of North Conway was the combination of a tourist attraction and a locals’ resource. I remember as a kid going downstairs in the shop with my father to find a pair of used ski boots for me. I also bought my first pair of completely new ski boots there. They were a pair of Nordica leather buckle boots and I got a great deal!

Toni Matt

Photo courtesy of New England Ski Museum

You could also run into local skiing stars who worked at Carroll Reed’s. One such notable was Toni Matt who had come over from Austria in 1938 at age 19 to teach in the ski school. A racer, he quickly made his mark in the United States. In that first season he would win the Eastern Downhill and Slalom Championships held here on Mount Mansfield, the Sun Valley Open Downhill, and the National Downhill held in Oregon.

Matt’s most-remembered accomplishment was winning the third Inferno race on Mount Washington held on April 16, 1939. The Inferno was a ski race from the summit of Washington to Pinkham Notch.

The course ran right through Tuckerman Ravine and the most challenging section involved negotiating the lip and headwall of the ravine. The accepted strategy was to check speed above the lip, carefully pick your way into the ravine, and then schuss from as high up in the ravine as you dared.  However Matt was unfamiliar with the terrain and by the time he realized he was at the lip, it was too late to check his speed. He schussed over the lip into the ravine which is sort of like dropping into an eight-hundred-foot-deep hole!

Somehow Matt stayed on his skis, reaching speeds in excess of 80 miles-per-hour. He would win the race in a time of 6 minutes 29.2 seconds, more than a minute faster than famous American skier Dick Durrance who was second. By the way, Durrance won the second Inferno held in 1934 with a time of 12 minutes 35 seconds so both skiers almost cut the previous record in half.

Once again Gary Tomlinson all the way from Fernie, British Columbia was the first to identify Toni Matt. Gary says that The Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana has a trail named after Toni Matt. Matt spent time there as an instructor and racer after World War II before returning back east.

Frank Kinslow now of Punta Gorda, Florida grew up in the Conway area and was also quick with the right answer. His aunt worked at Carroll Reed’s as did Toni Matt and she introduced Frank to Toni. I remember Frank doing a Toni Matt imitation off a jump at the bottom of Tuckerman Ravine!

Other correct answers came from Stowe Host Bob Stewart, Facebook friend Marc Cousineau, and Stowe instructor Bob Dimario.

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2 Responses to Carroll Reed Ski Shops and Toni Matt

  1. randy knaggs says:

    Fun perspective! and very timely as for xmas I was given a Carroll Reed , still with sales tags on it, that has a tag just like the one pictured. While it is a good shetland wool, it is not a color/patern I care for. I was gonna relegate it to my “work” clothes pile i.e. plowing, mechanical, carpentry…..

    Is there some place it might be more apreciated for it’s earlier branding?

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