Midwest Sportsters blessed enough to ski and ‘board some of yours truly’s former “stomping grounds” should, I think, know a bit more about some historic trivia akin thereto, as follows:
ASPEN SNOWMASS – My truly dear friend, the late Stein Eriksen, was Snowmass’s first ski school director. His presence there allowed me the privilege to meet him for the first time, in 1967. Aspen Snowmass is celebrating its 50th season this year. It was originally named Snowmass-At-Aspen when Stein was tapped to head its ski school.
I was flown there on Aspen Airways on that airline’s inaugural flight from Las Vegas to Aspen. My assignment was to produce a television story about the area’s opening and to interview Stein, the day after the area opened in late November that year. Sadly, Stein had developed a bad head cold, but we were at least able to chat briefly in his condo. That brief chat led to a friendship that lasted until his untimely passing a couple years ago.
In my opinion, thanks to the great marketing minds of those who developed Snowmass-At-Aspen, Stein was the ONLY choice they could have made to give credibility to that best ski area for beginner and intermediate skiers adjacent to Aspen, in my opinion.
In subsequent years, when Stein became Director of Skiing at Deer Valley, Utah, he and I had many special private skiing times together there. I think I chronicled the most special time a couple issues ago.
BIG SKY – Another who became a friend, the late Chet Huntley, was proud to have a stake in Big Sky (then owned by Chrysler Corporation), since Chet was born in Cardwell, Montana, not far from Big Sky, as distances are measured in Montana.
Chet’s last appearance on my SKI SCENE program on KSTP-TV was only three months before Big Sky opened and also three months before Chet passed away, only three days before it opened. Ironically, I had the good fortune to have the friendship of Big Sky’s eventual owner, Everett Kircher, who founded Boyne Mountain, Michigan and whose family still owns and operates Big Sky under the umbrella of Boyne Resorts. Everett had me fly with him and his son to Big Sky from Kalamazoo, Michigan, in Everett’s private jet just after Everett bought Big Sky. It was a wonderful trip, to say the least.
I had written about Boyne Resorts often in The Detroit Free Press, wherein I wrote a weekly ski column during the winters of 1978, 1979 and 1980. One memorable time at Big Sky was sitting in Chet’s condo after he passed, invited by Tippi, Chet’s widow. She had me sit at Chet’s iconic roll-top desk while seeing Lone Mountain from the large picture window during a heartwarming conversation about her late husband. She sent me a book Chet had written, entitled The Generous Years, and inscribed it “To Barry, Chet’s friend. Love, Tippi.” It sits on the credenza above my home office desk and is a treasure to read. Bravo to the Kirchers for maintaining Big Sky’s excellence. Chet would be proud.
WHITEFISH – I had no inkling when I was on television and radio in Kalispell, Montana, in the late 1950s, I’d be taking Amtrak’s Empire Builder from St. Paul to Whitefish in the early-to-mid 1970s, not only to ski at The Big Mountain, but also to visit one of my grandchildren who lived and skied there.
My best friend there was the late Norm Kurtz, co-founder and co-owner of The Big Mountain. In my opinion, it’s truly one of the more unique perpendicular playgrounds in North America. What most impresses me about The Big Mountain is the view from the highest run.
To the East are the mountains of Glacier National Park and to the south, a spectacular view of Flathead Lake, largest freshwater lake in the U.S., aside from the Great Lakes. Ice-covered trees also adorn the landscape at the top, creating an ethereal winter “fairyland” from December through April.
Have a great ski and ‘boarding season and see you next time, here.