Trivia 2017 Week 19

This weekend will be the Sugar Slalom, Stowe’s annual end-of the-season race. Who gets the credit for naming it the “Sugar Slalom?”

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Knee-High Ski Boots

Can a ski boot with a novel new design influence other ski boot manufacturers even if that novel boot never made it to market?

Based on the story of the Kastinger Porsche, apparently the answer is “yes!”

Daniel Post was a mechanical engineer and a skier. In the late 1960s while he was teaching at RPI in Troy, New York, he’d take his entire family skiing at Jiminy Peak. All of the Post kids became accomplished skiers. In fact his twin daughters, Ellen and Marion, will be inducted into the United States Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame this Saturday right here in Stowe!

In those late 1960s, plastic boots were taking over the market. But Daniel Post still wasn’t that happy with his ski boots, particularly the beating his shins took from the stiffer plastic boots. Being a mechanical engineer he believed extending the front of the boot higher could provide better leverage and spread the pressure over a greater area. He experimented with his own boots by extending a cuff almost up to the knee. Post was very pleased with the results on his skiing.

Post patented his idea for a “lever-type ski boot” in 1973 and started marketing the idea to ski boot companies. Lange took a one year option on the patent, but never came up with a viable design. Daniel Post further refined his idea and this time drew the interest of Herman Kastinger, head of Kastinger ski boots.

Kastinger Porsche Ski BootKastinger enlisted Ferry Porsche’s design group to design the boot. Yes, that’s the same Porsche as the car! They came up with a rear entry boot that had a separate cuff which wrapped around the calf. Forward flex was controlled by a hydraulic cylinder – that’s what you get when you let a car company design a ski boot!

Dolomite Secret WeaponFinancial problems at Kastinger slowed the production of the Kastinger Porsche ski boots. During that time several competing boot companies started developing their own “knee-high” boots. The build-up for the 1980-81 ski season saw four entries in the “knee-high” category: the Kastinger Porsche, the Nordica Polaris, the Tecnica Squadra, and the Dolomite Secret Weapon. The Nordica, Tecnica, and Dolomite were really just traditional front buckling boots with an extended high cuff. The ski magazines hyped the new boot designs and even Sports Illustrated featured an article on Daniel Post and the knee-high boot revolution he inspired.

The only problem was the Kastinger Porsche never made it to the ski shops! The Kastinger financial problems were too large, the factory closed, and the Porsches never shipped.

Nordica PolarisThe Dolomites and Nordicas sold very well that season and inspired other brands to produce models with higher cuffs in 1981 and 1982.

So the Kastinger Porsche boot based on Daniel Post’s concept inspired a trend toward knee-high ski boots in the early 1980s. No one had the correct answer to last week’s trivia question. It was kind of an unfair question since the Kastinger Porsche never made it onto the slopes, but I know there are many RetroSkiers who remember the knee-high boots that resulted from the Porsche’s design.

The knee-high trend was short-lived. They disappeared by the 1983-84 season although all ski boots incorporated a higher profile than they had previously. There were still skiers including Daniel Post who swore by the comfort and control offered by the knee-highs.

So why did ski boot manufacturers abandon knee-highs? There are a lot of theories. One contributing factor definitely was that in 1980, the same year the knee-highs were introduced, Salomon introduced the rear entry SX90. Its popularity meant that other boot makers would have to consider rear entry models. Both the knee-highs and the rear entry boots targeted the same market – skiers who put a priority on comfort. Rear entry or knee-highs never caught on with racers or would-be racers. So rear entry boots won that battle.

As we know, rear entry boots eventually lost the war to more conventional front entry boots, but there is still an army of rear entry boot fans out there who won’t give up the fight! Since writing my column on rear entry boots back in December 2015, I have received more comments on that article than any other I have written. For example, on March 18th I received a comment from William who has been skiing for 54 years, the last 25 on a pair of used Salomon rear entrys. He says:

“This past year the rear plastic sole on my boot disintegrated. Rather than replace with new boots, to my wife’s horror, I made a new sole out of Maple in my wood shop. Works great. Making one for the other side now!”

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Trivia 2017 Week 18

What was unique about the Kastinger Porsche ski boot?

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Snowsports History Week in Stowe

Snowsports History Week comes to Stowe next week with events starting Wednesday, April 5th! So what is Snowsports History Week? I heard you ask.

ISHA LogoMason Beekley founded the International Skiing History Association (ISHA) in 1991 with a goal of furthering research into the history of skiing. He and Doug Pfeiffer organized the first “ISHA Gathering” in April 1992. Attendees included Andrea Mead Lawrence and Penny Pitou.

US Ski and Snowboard Hall of FameThe Gatherings became an annual affair and were held at different ski resorts each year including Stowe. Attendance at the Gatherings grew to about 100 people. Eventually the name became Skiing Heritage Week and then Skiing History Week. In 2010-11, ISHA joined forces with the United States Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame to include the Hall of Fame induction as part of Skiing History Week. Since then attendance has increased significantly reaching over 500 attendees.

This year marks the 26th annual gathering and the first with a new name, Snowsports History Week! “The goal of Snowsport History Week is to be an organized gathering of industry supporters to celebrate the historic work and accomplishments of athletes, authors, coaches, filmmakers, historians, resort leaders, equipment and technique innovators, and other pioneers who have made our sports what they are today.”

The week is a series of events, some free and open to the public and others ticketed or by invitation only. This year you can ski Stowe with Billy Kidd. That’s right Billy Kidd will be here along with several other skiing legends to welcome the new Hall of Fame inductees. For a complete schedule of events visit https://snowsporthistory.com/event/schedule/.

On the opening day Wednesday April 5th, the “Jerry” awards will be presented. The Jerry awards go to ski films that have stood the test of time and become part of the “Snow 100”, the top 100 ski films of all time. The name “Jerry” is in honor of the late Jerry Simon who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. Simon founded the International Ski Film Festival in the early 1970s.

Vic CotyThis year’s Jerry award winners include the 1978 “Ski Stars” movie by Stowe’s own ski filmmaker! That would be Victor Coty! Susan Miller correctly answered last week’s trivia question identifying Vic Coty. Charlie Lusk also had the correct answer, sort of. He originally said Lew Coty, Victor’s son, but Charley says he must have had a senior moment since he knew it was Victor.

Allan SeymourThere’s another film with Stowe connections receiving a Jerry. The 1977 film “Color It White and Call It Stowe” by Allan Seymour was the brain child of Stowe marketing director Bill Riley. It was distributed to hundreds of theaters from coast to coast.

These movies and the other award winners will be shown during the week. The award presentations will be made Wednesday night at the Trapp Family Lodge and the event is free and open to the public.

Of course the premier event is the induction ceremony for the 2016 class in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. Several of the inductees have local ties. There are the Egan Brothers, Dan and John, who were extreme skiing pioneers and featured in many ski films. Gretchen Besser is also being inducted. In addition to being a member of the “Dawn Patrol”, Gretchen was the National Ski Patrol historian and authored “Samaritans of the Snow”, the definitive history of the National Ski Patrol.

Other inductees include Michael Berry who was head of the National Ski Area Association (NSAA) which guarantees there will be a lot of ski resort executives in attendance. Who knows, maybe Vail CEO Robert Katz will want to check out his newest acquisition.

Then there are the Post sisters, Ellen and Marion. They are actually twins and both made their mark in freestyle skiing. It was interesting to me that in the induction bios they are listed separately under their married names, Ellen Post Foster and Marion Post Caldwell, while the Egan brothers are listed together.

Ski jumper Jeff Hastings, ski area entrepreneur Chuck Lewis, and SKIUSA promoter Bernie Weichsel round out the class of 2016.

Stowe has played a significant role in the history of skiing in the United States so it’s very appropriate that Snowsports History Week is coming to Stowe. Keep your eyes open on the slopes during the week, you just might see some legendary skiers.

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Trivia 2017 Week 17

Who is known as “Stowe’s own ski filmmaker”?

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Tamara McKinney

Tamara McKinney and Mikaela ShiffrinThis past weekend Mikaela Shiffrin became the third American woman to win the overall FIS World Cup. Much has been made of Mikaela’s youth since she just turned 22 last week. However the first American woman to win the overall was even younger! Tamara McKinney was 20 years old in 1983 when she won the overall World Cup.

Tom Hubbs was the first to identify Tamara McKinney as the first American woman World Cup winner. Well, actually Tom says the real credit should go to his friend Scott Cragle who had recently sent Tom an article from Powder magazine on Tamara!

Lyndall Heyer also identified Tamara and pointed out that Tamara’s 20-year-old daughter, Francesca English, is now an aspiring ski racer.

Tamara McKinney was born in Lexington, Kentucky – not too many world-class alpine skiers come out of Kentucky! Her father owned and operated a horse farm there and was one of the best steeplechase jockeys in the United States. Her mother was an accomplished horse-woman, however she was also a ski instructor!

Tamara was the youngest of eight siblings, most of whom were accomplished skiers. By the time Tamara came along her mother was spending winters instructing at Squaw Valley. Tamara says she was almost on skis before she could walk. She would learn to ski at a young age primarily by following her older brothers and sisters around Squaw.

Before Tamara made her mark in alpine ski racing, her older siblings seemed destined for skiing fame. Steve McKinney made the U.S. Ski Team as a downhill racer before becoming better known as a speed skier. Steve would set seven world speed records and in 1978 was the first speed skier to break the 200km per hour barrier!

Tamara’s older sister Sheila also made the U.S. Ski Team, but suffered a career-ending injury in a World Cup downhill – a downhill that Tamara had forerun!

Tamara was nine years old when she watched Barbara Ann Cochran win the gold medal at the 1972 Olympics. Since Barbara Ann was relatively small for a ski racer, Tamara really identified with her and it inspired her to become an alpine ski racer.

Tamara McKinney RacingTamara would make the U.S. Ski Team at the age of 15 and earn her first World Cup podium in Italy at 16. She competed in all events although her strengths were in slalom and giant slalom. In 1981 at the age of 18 she won the World Cup in the GS discipline and finished 6th in the overall. Then in 1983 she would score a trifecta winning the overall World Cup, the slalom World Cup, and the GS World Cup! 1983 was a good year for the United States since Phil Mahre won the overall World cup for the men.

Tamara was a three time Olympian, but did not win any medals. She had better luck at World Championships winning several medals. In the final season of her racing career she would win a gold in the combined event at the 1989 World Championships in Vail.

During Tamara’s racing career, she suffered some losses that had little to do with skiing. Her father died in 1985 and her mother passed away in 1988. In 1990 right after Tamara had announced she was retiring from ski racing, her brother Steve was killed in an automobile accident.

Tamara McKinney in 2012Tamara was a multi-talented athlete. She followed in her father and mother’s footsteps to be an accomplished horse-woman. Somewhere along the way she became a pretty good figure skater as well. Today Tamara McKinney is a realtor in Squaw Valley. She still skis and does some coaching. And as pointed out earlier, she now roots for her daughter, Francesca, who is an aspiring ski racer.

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Trivia 2017 Week 16

Mikaela Shiffrin has an excellent chance to become the third American woman to win the overall World Cup. Of course Lindsey Vonn is one of the other two. What other American woman won the overall World Cup?

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Alf Engen

Alf Engen – The Old Man Of The Mountain – Powder segment from Howie Arnstad on Vimeo.

“I have always loved skiing and never had a bad day. Some may not have been as good as others, but nonetheless, I have never had a bad day.”

Many of us have probably said something along those lines, but this specific quote came from a particularly authoritative source: Alf Engen.

Alf Engen was born in Norway, the oldest of three brothers. Growing up in Norway, Alf excelled at soccer, hockey, speed skating, cross country skiing, and ski jumping. When Alf’s father passed away, Alf became the de facto head of the family.

In 1929 at the age of 20, Alf came to the United States to actually play professional soccer. Apparently there was some professional soccer in the U.S. back then.  However, Alf drew more attention with his ski jumping than he did with his soccer. He joined a group of mostly Norwegians who toured around the country putting on jumping exhibitions.

Alf Engen Jumping at AltaBy 1931 Alf Engen had settled in Salt Lake City where over the next two years he would be joined by his two brothers Sverre and Kaare(Corey) and his mother Martha. Also in 1931 Alf began competing in ski jumping and cross country competitions. Alf would win the United States National Jumping title eight times between then and 1946. In the process of winning those titles, Alf set world record distances multiple times. He also won the combined jumping and cross country U.S. title twice.

Alf was selected to go to the 1936 Winter Olympics for the United States, but none other than Avery Brundage stepped in to block his participation. No, it wasn’t because he was an immigrant (had to get that dig in.) Alf had appeared on a box of Wheaties so Brundage said that made Alf a professional. The fact was that Alf received no money for his appearance, but did receive lots of Wheaties. He said, “I think I gave everyone in Salt Lake City free Wheaties!”  Alf got some measure of revenge since in competitions following the Olympics he would beat both the Gold and Silver medalists.

Now most skiers associate Alf Engen with two things: Alta and powder skiing. Well, I’m getting to that.

In the early 1930s Alf was the foreman of a CCC crew whose mission was the reforestation of the Wasatch range in Utah. This led him to explore Little Cottonwood Canyon and recognize its advantageous location for snow and downhill skiing. Alf was instrumental in working with the National Forest Service to design and build the Alta ski area.

While undoubtedly Alf had done some downhill skiing at least on his cross country skis, he was not an accomplished downhill skier. But by 1938 Alf had become a good enough downhill skier to be hired as a ski instructor at Sun Valley. He also began competing in downhill and slalom races. In 1947 Alf was the United States National Champion in both downhill and slalom which were the only events contested in those days. While I didn’t confirm this, I believe Alf Engen is the only person who won national titles in all four disciplines: cross country, jumping, downhill, and slalom.

Alf was named coach of the United States women’s ski team for the 1948 Olympics. That was the Olympics where Gretchen Fraser won the first ever Gold medal for the United States in alpine skiing.

1948 was also the year Alf returned to Alta to head up the ski school, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1989. Teaching skiing was his passion. “Medals, who needs medals!….But to give a good lesson, that’s what is important to me.”

Alf Engen Skiing PowderAlf Engen championed a new technique for skiing powder. Conventional wisdom had always been to keep the skis working independently and make wide sweeping turns. Alf believed that keeping the skis close together to act more like one surface provided more stability and allowed for shorter turns. Most RetroSkiers learned to ski powder in this manner.

Alf Engen was a bear of a man, but on skis in powder he was a light, graceful dancer. Seeing him disappear completely enveloped in snow only to reappear for the next turn inspired a generation of skiers to join in that dance. It also is why he is called “the Father of Powder Skiing.”

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Trivia 2017 Week 15

Who is known as “The Father of Powder Skiing”?

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Grant Reynolds

Grant Reynolds How many seasons have you been skiing? Grant Reynolds is celebrating his seventy eighth consecutive ski season making him a true RetroSkier!

Grant Reynolds in 1938 (3 years old!)Grant’s skiing started as a child on Christmas day 1938 in Saint Albans. By the time he was in high school, he was one of two students that ran Sabin’s Pasture rope tow in Montpelier. The other student operated the rope tow and Grant says “I did everything else: organized packing crews, kept the stove in the warming hut going, sold tickets, policed the lift line, and threw snow in the inevitable ruts.”

At Bates College, Grant supported his skiing by working on others’ skis and selling second hand skis, many of which he obtained in Stowe. More importantly, it was at Bates where Grant met fellow skier Jo Trogler who would later become his wife.

After completing law school at Columbia, Grant and Jo would become Pennsylvania skiers. They raised their family skiing at Ski Roundtop where Jo was an instructor and Grant a race coach.

Grant Reynolds with his 1955 Kastle's (215 cm!)In 1970 Grant became a ski collector almost by accident. He was trying to sell his last pair of wooden racing skis, Erbacher “Pepi Schweigers,” which he had purchased in Pforzheim, Germany in 1964. There were no takers so he kept them! After that he began obtaining older skis dating back to the early 1900s. He concentrated primarily on collecting racing skis and kept adding to his collection as ski racing evolved.

Grant stopped collecting in 2015 at the age of eighty. His wife told him it was time to start offloading rather than collecting. Grant who now lives in Tinmouth, Vermont, donated the majority of his collection (over 150 pairs of skis) to the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum.

The Museum is featuring fifty pairs of skis from the Grant Reynolds collection in its current exhibit. In addition to those Erbachers some of the other notable skis include 1955 Stein Eriksen “Streamlines” purchased at Maurius Eriksen’s shop in Oslo, and a rare pair of 1975 Sohler “Phantoms” made in Richford, Vermont. That’s correct, Sohler had a factory in Vermont at one time.

Craft Skis and Craft Brews March 15thYou have an opportunity to meet Grant Reynolds, see some of his ski collection, and hear from several current Vermont craft ski makers. The Museum is sponsoring “Craft Skis & Craft Brews Launch Party” on Wednesday March 15th . The party begins at 6PM and admission is free.

The highlight of the evening will be a panel discussion moderated by Dave Schmidt, a longtime ski and snowboard industry consultant. The panel will include Jason Levinthal (J Skis in Burlington); Vin Faraci (White Room skis in Hyde Park); Cyrus Schenk (Renoun skis); Lars Whitman (Silo skis in Richmond); and Oliver Blackman who makes skis for his own use.

Oh, and there will be Alchemist Focal Banger on tap!

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