Notable People - Skiing

During 25 years in teh ski industry, I crossed paths with a number of well-known people.

Andy Mill is a person I met via skiing.  He was America’s premier downhiller for much of the 1970’s.  I met him at a US Ski Coaches Association clinic at Mammoth shortly after his retirement from competition.  I was really impressed with his skiing – I’d skied with a lot of fantastic skiers over the years, but there was a power and smoothness in Andy’s skiing that was impressive. 

I was also impressed by the relationship Andy had with the coach running the clinic, Harald Schoenhaar.  Harald had been the US Ski Team’s Head Coach for a number years during Andy's time on the team and the warmth of their relationship was evident.  There was a great deal of mutual trust and the respect between them was obvious.

I ran into him again a few years later at Breckenridge, Colorado and rode up the chair with him.  After I reminded him where we met I was surprised that he remembered me.

Andy later got into the news when he was married to Chris Evert, the tennis champ.

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When I lived in Shaver Lake (‘74-‘84) there were a number of celebrities who had vacation homes in the area.  I occasionally saw Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and Richard Farnsworth (The Straight Story) around town, but never met either of them.  Pamela Sue Martin, best known for the Nancy Drew Mysteries TV show, also had a home there and I did meet her several times.  She was good friends with acquaintances of mine (in fact, she often stayed with them before buying her own place).

She skied at China Peak fairly often so I would see her around and often spoke briefly to her.  I can’t claim to know her well, but I did not find her very friendly.  She seemed to think very highly of herself, which maybe was justified considering how successful she was at the time.  I don’t think I ever saw her without a cigarette.   She is another actress who I think looks a lot better on the screen than in person.

Once in the summer I went to her home in Shaver Lake to do a fire inspection and issue a burning permit.  A guy met me and I mostly talked to him, although she did participate in the discussion.  She did not act like she remembered me, and we had met many times before.  I guess I should give her the benefit of the doubt as I was wearing my Forest Service uniform, so maybe the context was wrong for her as I’d mostly been in ski clothes during our previous encounters.


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In June 1973 I attended the Jackson Hole Summer Racing Camp.  Due to a snow shortage in northwestern Wyoming, it was actually held at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area near Dillon, Colorado.

The Head Coach of the camp was Pepi Steigler, a former Austrian Skier and Olympic medal winner in both the '60 and '64 Olympics.  He was the Ski School Director at Jackson Hole.  It was a 10-day camp and we rotated with different coaches.  I spent two days with him, and talked to him a lot, most as a student to teacher relationship, but we did have adult to adult conversations too (I was 23 and he was about 40).

He was quite affable and modest.  He told me that when he watched film of himself skiing he was never very impressed and always thought he ought to be doing better.

He was, as you'd expect, very knowledgeable about skiing and ski equipment and it was a very enjoyable camp.

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Robert Shapiro is the founder of LegalZoom.com, the online legal documents company.  He was also OJ Simpson's intial attorney during his spat with LA Law after getting in a spot of trouble for murduring his wife.

Shapiro was a friend of a client of mine when I was teaching skiing at Alpine Meadows.  Bill Shaw was an attorney from LA who had once worked for the LA DA, but had left that gone into real estate, in which he had done extraordinarily well (he lived in Beverly Hills between Steven Spielberg and Marvin Davis). 

He took quite a few ski lessons from me and we got on quite well.  One time when he was at Tahoe he brought a friend of his who he had worked with in the DA’s office.  It was Robert Shapiro.  Shapiro had also left the DA’s office and done well.  He was one of the premier defense lawyers in LA.  Shapiro’s son Brent was also with him and during the course of the day I mostly skied with Brent. Bob and Bill would take their own (usually easier) way down the mountain while Brent and I tackled more challenging runs and we’d meet at the chairlift.

About five or six years later I often saw Bob on TV due to his involvement with the OJ case.

Unfortunately, Brent later became heavily involved with drugs and died of an overdose.


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Ben Abruzzo was a prominent Albuquerque Real Estate developer when I lived there.  He owned Sandia Peak Ski Area which I worked at in the winter of 73-74.  I often saw him there.  He wasn’t overly-friendly with employees, but he would say hello and I did ride the chairlift with him a time or two.  I skied with his oldest son Richie a fair amount.

Another person who I met at there, but later, during the following summer, was Larry Newman.  Larry was the first person I saw fly a hang-glider.  In fact I talked to him about taking lessons but we could never get our schedules together.

Abruzzo and Newman later became famous as the pilots of the Double Eagle II, the first balloon to cross the Atlantic.


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Jill St. John was the first celebrity I ever saw (I had seen President Johnson in a limousine as he drove by).  It was in Aspen, Colorado in 1971.  This was just after she had finished filming Diamonds Are Forever, a James Bond movie.  She would have been about 31.

Jill St. John
She was on the sundeck at a mid-mountain restaurant, I think it was called Bonnie’s.  I was with Jim Brenneman and some friends of his from Ohio State.  Several people pointed St. John out to me, otherwise I don’t think that I’d have recognized her.  I was about 15 or 20 feet away from her and I remember thinking that she really wasn’t that pretty.  She was wearing quite a bit of zinc oxide (a white cream which stops ultraviolet rays) and it was somewhat blotchy. There were lots of other young women there who I would have said were more attractive.  Shows you how photographic lighting and makeup affects perceptions.

Anyhow, there were a lot of people there and no one was paying any attention to her.  Aspen has a kind of snobby atmosphere and I suspect that no one wanted anyone else to think they were impressed by a movie star’s presence.

I was hungry and got in line to buy some food.  As I was waiting, someone said, “Excuse me.” as they wanted to get by the spot where I was standing.  I moved aside to let the person pass -- it was St. John.  That was the extent of our acquaintanceship.

William Katt
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In 1988 I was teaching skiing at NorthStar near Lake Tahoe.
 
One student that I had for several days was the wife of William Katt, an actor most well known for The Greatest American Hero TV show.

I spoke briefly to him several times when his wife and I crossed his path.  He was very friendly and talkative, although I can’t remember anything that we discussed.

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In the spring of 1974 I was living in New Mexico and some of my Ohio friends came out to visit me.  We went on a ski trip up to Colorado.  One night after skiing in Vail we went to a restaurant, the Blue Gnu, which had been one of my friends favorite places when he lived in Vail a few years before.  It wasn't really my kind of place, kind of noisy and dimly lit, and I was only there to be with my friends.  I was quickly bored and would have been ready to leave at anytime.

I had noticed one young lady sitting in a booth near the dance floor.  I thought she looked very fit and was pretty with very long, dark hair.

We hadn't been in the place for long when, on my way to the restroom, the young woman I had noticed earlier was standing along the railing overlooking the dance floor. As I passed her she suddenly stepped back and knocked into me.  She spilled some of her drink and I caught her to prevent her from losing her balance.  She smiled at me after I let go of her.  We exchanged short pleasantries and I went on my way.  She thanked me in English, but she had a strong French accent.
Fabienne Serrat

As I returned from the restroom I saw her from across the room.  A guy was talking to her and she shook her head at him several times.  By the time I got near her he had left.  She looked towards me as I approached and I impulsively asked her to dance (very unusual for me).  She agreed and we danced to a couple of tunes, probably less than five minutes.  We hardly spoke, as it was quite loud.  I'm pretty sure that my friends never even noticed this - I didn't mention it and they never commented about it.

Then I returned to my friends and she went back and sat in a booth.  I noticed that an occupant of the booth was the guy she had been talking with just before I asked her to dance.

A little later, my friend Jim, who was a big fan of ski racing, pointed to her and asked me if I knew who she was.  I did not.  He told me that it was Fabienne Serrat, a French racer who had won two gold medals at the World Ski Championship in St. Moritz, Switzerland just a few weeks earlier.

Jim also added that the guy she was sitting with was Piero Gros, an Italian racer who would win the overall World Cup skiing championship that season.

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In May of 1983 I attended a US Ski Coaches seminar at Mount Bachelor, Oregon.  We stayed at the Inn of the Seventh Mountain lodge in Bend.  The US Ski Team was training there at the same time and during the course of the 10 days we were there I met a number of famous skiers, although some of them weren’t known at all yet.

Bill Johnson
Bill Johnson was the first American male skier to win an Olympic Gold medal – for the downhill in 1984 at Sarajevo, less than a year after I met him.  He was at the camp and I rode the lift with him a couple of times.  He told me that he didn’t expect to ever win the overall World Cup as he planned to specialize in downhill only and not really train for slalom or GS.  He said, “I just like to go fast, I don’t want to turn.”

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Kim Reichhelm really isn’t that famous.  She’s a very good skier, who raced for the University of Colorado and then had a couple of seasons on the US Ski Team. I don’t think that she ever had any top results in international competition.  She was one of the people I met at Mount Bachelor.

I ran into her again a few years later in Colorado and skied about a half day with her.  She now runs a private company which specializes in taking women to various exotic ski destinations.

Kim Reichhelm
She briefly attained some notoriety back in 1989 when she participated in a skiing film called, License to Thrill.  During one “extreme skiing run” that was filmed for the movie, she took a horrendous, spectacular fall, every moment of which was caught on film.

Although she wasn’t badly hurt, the film clip was so fascinating and eye-catching that it was aired on numerous TV programs and she got a guest spot on the David Letterman Show.

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Phil & Steve Mahre are twin brothers from Washington who were very successful American racers in the 1970’s and 80’s.  Phil won the overall World Cup several times and they both won Olympic and World Championship medals.  Until Bode Miller came along, I think Phil was the most successful American skier ever.

Phil and Steve were both at the camp, but they also had their wives with them and Steve had at least one child, so they weren’t hanging out with the coaches like some of the other athletes were.  I did talk to both of them quite a bit during the week, including playing a couple of games of basketball against them.  They were both about my height, 5-9, but they were maybe 30 pounds heavier and all muscle.  Trying to guard them was like guarding a moving rock.  They were both really muscularly built.
Phil & Steve Mahre
They were quick players with excellent reflexes and good shots.  Some of the other coaches (many of who were excellent athletes in their own rights) were probably better basketball players, but the Mahre’s were very, very good.

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Also staying at the Inn of the Seventh Mountain lodge were the cast and crew of a movie which was being filmed in the area at the same time.  The "Stars" were all staying in houses they had rented so we never saw any of them, but most of the other cast members were at our lodge and we saw them often.  The movie was called Up the Creek and was about a college rafting race.  It was a goofy youth comedy like Animal House or Nerds.

Jeana Tomasino
I, and several of my fellow coaches, met one of these "lower-billed" actors, Jeana Tomasino, one afternoon.  She was quite pretty.  I don't remember much of the conversation, which the other guys dominated, but I remember that she seemed very shy, and I think that she told us that she was scared of skiing.


She didn’t have much of a movie career, but became pretty well known as the “star” of a series of music videos by the band ZZ Top.

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Dona Speir

In the winter of 1986 I was teaching skiing in Mammoth.  One of my co-workers, his first name was Chris, introduced us to his neighbor, who, he told us, had acted in a few TV shows and movies.

Her name was Dona Speir and she was early in a career as a “B” movie actress.  I don’t think that she ever became well-known, but she was in movies and TV for about 10 years or so.
I should add that, like Jill St. John, she looked a lot better on the screen than in real life.  She was attractive, but I would not call her a "head-turner."

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I’ve known Eva Twardokens, a US Ski Team member who participated in the Olympics and won a medal at the 1985 World Championship, since she was a little girl.  Her Dad, George, was a ski instructor who was one of the Far West Ski Instructors Association specialists on ski teaching.  I knew him through this and later worked with him at Alpine Meadows.  I also occasionally ran into him on the U of Nevada campus where he was a Kinesiology  professor.


Eva Twardokens
When he traveled around California helping instructors he would sometimes bring Eva so I skied with her a few times when she was small.  All the instructors were like big brothers to her and would all take turns keeping an eye on her.  When I knew her then she was more into trick skiing or freestyle, but she later got serious about racing competition.

She was also at the Mount Bachelor session in 1983 for a day or two.

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Tamara McKinney
When I moved to Truckee in 1986 I seemed to see Tamara McKinney, another US Ski Team member every time I went out to eat.  She won the overall World Cup a couple of times and also won World Championship medals and participated in the Olympics.  I only knew her to say hello, but our paths did cross a lot.

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I've met a few celebrities, but the only one I would call a friend is Putzi Crotty.  Putzi (a nickname, her real name is Josefina) was a famous Austrian ski racer who won Olympic and World Championship medals in the 1950’s (her maiden name is Frandl).  Visiting her home was quite interesting as there were ski trophies and medals strewn around the house.

Putzi Frandl
Putzi and I became friends because we were co-workers on the Ski School at Copper Mountain ski resort in 1984-85.  It was the first season working there for both of us and we ended up talking and discovered that we had mutual friends.  Putzi had also taught at Mad River Mountain (Valley High) near Bellefontaine, Ohio, which is where I had learned to ski and first became a ski instructor. Later that ski season some of our Mad River friends visited us at Copper.

Putzi told me that after retiring from racing she worked as a ski instructor in Austria. In one of her classes she met US Air Force officer Patrick Crotty. They eventually married and had three children, Monica, Patrick Jr. and Joseph.  I got to know the boys pretty well as they often came up to Copper to ski.

Patrick's Air Force career took them to many places, and whenever there was a ski resort close enough Putzi would teach skiing.  I only worked that one season at Copper, but Putzi worked there from 1984 until the 2008-2009 season after which she decided to concentrate on her "second love", tennis during 2009-2010. She lives in Centennial, Colorado now.

Here’s a bit about her competition history and some stories she told me.  In the 1956 Winter Olympics she won the silver medal in the giant slalom event. In the slalom competition she finished fifth and had a 13th place finish in the downhill contest.

Putzi told me an interesting thing about the winner of the GS, Ossi Reichert.  Reichert had seriously injured an ankle in 1954, and was not expected to do well at these games. She also drew the #1 start position for the one-run event. Putzi told me that, "Ossi was disappointed to draw #1 as that was usually not a good position. The first racer down the course usually has to scrape off a bit of snow, which slows you down. But Ossi had a great run and overcame that difficulty."

Four years later, at Squaw Valley, California 1960 Winter Olympics, Putzi finished 16th in the slalom event, 21st in the giant slalom competition, and 39th in the downhill contest.

Putzi told me that she was pretty disappointed in her results in Squaw.  She felt that she had been skiing very well in the events leading up to the Olympics and expected to do well. There was very little snow in the Sierras until just before the Olympics. Finally the area received a good snowfall, just in time to keep the events from being cancelled or postponed.

Putzi and some of her friends and teammates went out to ski the fresh powder snow. Unfortunately, while coming down one run, the tip of one of her skis went under a log hidden just beneath the newly fallen snow. Her shin hit the log hard, scraping it and straining her leg. She told me that she believed that the injury possibly prevented her from winning another Olympic Medal.

Putzi also had excellent results at the 1958 World Championships, with a Silver in Slalom and Bronze in the Combined.

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