“Tomba la Bomba’s” influence came through his total domination of the ski racing world in the late 80s and early 90s. He won three Olympic gold medals, two silver medals, a slalom World Championship, and 50 victories on the World Cup. It all started when at age 21, he beat his idol, Ingemar Stenmark in GS at the World Cup in Sestriere, Italy.
Tomba’s influence on the ski world also comes through his trademark Italian swagger. With his jet-black greased-back hair and Roman good looks, “la Bomba” never had trouble finding a party or a woman. The spotlight and his success on the podium gave Tomba a well-known ego, as he claimed being “the new messiah of skiing.”
Egos aside, Tomba’s unique slalom style and large frame are really what revolutionized the event. Instead of letting his skis come apart in the “skating step” between turns, Tomba kept them tight together, which created smoother turns. Other athletes have since followed his footsteps between the gates and off the slopes.
Suzy Chapstick did as much for the sport on television as she did in the race circuit. Her trademark blonde hair and spandex leotard urged young men around the country to get off the couch and onto the slopes. In the 1970s, Chaffee was seen mostly on Chapstick commercials, but she also made appearances in James Bond movies (performing ski ballet in the opening credits) and in the tabloids as rumors that she was seeing a married Ted Kennedy swirled.
Chaffee’s skiing accolades are as impressive as her social ones. Chaffee was the top-ranked U.S. skier at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. She was also a three-time world freestyle skiing champion (1971-73). All of her pursuits ended in 1988 as she was finally inducted into the United States National Ski Hall of Fame.
Suzy Chapstick might not have been the most serious female skier of her time, but her good looks helped resorts book thousands of lift tickets in the 60s and 70s.
Miller is said to be the most successful American skier in Alpine skiing, with 31 World Cup victories. He is also a four-time World Champion in four different disciplines and has a pair of silver medals from the 2002 Winter Olympics. In 2005, Miller won the World Cup Overall title for the second time in his career.
Although Miller is known in many circles as a hard-partying jerk, his influence in the ski community is far-reaching. As one of the first athletes to break away from the U.S. Ski team — and be successful — Miller and his “Team America” showed the world that it didn’t matter how much you partied — it just mattered how fast you could go.
Legends like Alberto Tomba and Phil Mahre may have given Miller his chance to succeed, but he took it a bit further by smashing their records.
Like many of the people on our list, Reichhelm is known equally for her medals under her belt as she is for helping advance the sport through teaching people new techniques and basic principals. For 18 years she has helped run numerous camps, the biggest being Ski With Kim, where women and big-mountain skiing comes first. Reichhelm says “A lot of people feel so empowered by their ski experience that it carries into the rest of their lives. That’s a very cool thing to do just by doing a sport I love.”
Reichhelm’s credentials take her far back into the world of skiing — showing the world that a women can ski just as hard as the boys and come out on top. She has won two World Extreme Skiing Championships and has other winnings in the U.S. Extremes and the South American Extremes. She has also helped to advance the sport through much needed PR – appearing on “Late Night” with David Letterman and Dateline NBC, and is a frequent commentator/host for ESPN, FOX, OLN and Resort Sports Network.
Today, Reichhelm is focused on turning people on to the sport through her infectious enthusiasm and passion. She works tirelessly to break gender stereotypes in the industry and advance skiing as a whole.
Okay, so Burton isn’t known for his days on skis, but we think his influence stems not from what he brought to the sport, but what he took away from it. That being, about half the winter sports population.
Burton started his skiing career competing for the University of Colorado at Boulder but was later forced to switch gears because of a car accident. After he transferred to a different university, he set up shop in Vermont and attempted to improve the “Snurfer, ” a toy snowboard with a rope. These attempts later turned into real snowboards with bentwood laminate and fixed bindings — opening up the skiing world to those rowdy snowboarders.
Perhaps Burton’s influence was most felt this year when the skiing-only resort, Taos, opened its chairlifts to the one-plank population.
Jonny Moseley changed the sport of skiing — and the way ski competitions were judged — with a few simple tricks. Moseley wowed the crowd at the 2002 Winter Olympics with his signature “Dinner Roll” which judges ruled illegal. Moseley later lobbied for the inverted trick to be allowed in competition and in future freestyle mogul events –changing FIS rules and the sport of skiing forever.
Moseley is perhaps known equally for his time on the slopes as off as he has become a prominent figure throughout different mediums, including radio, television, and most recently, Warren Miller movies. In 2003, he hosted Saturday Night Live, and then became one of People’s 50 Most Eligible Bachelors. He has hosted shows on MTV and hosts a popular radio show in San Francisco. Moseley’s influence is due in part to how he brought skiing into homes across the nation and made people rally behind this overlooked sport.
In 2007 Moseley was inducted into the Ski Hall of Fame, firmly securing his place in our beloved sport’s history.
Arguably the greatest skier of his time, Jean-Claude Killy collected back-to-back World Cup championships in 1967-1968 and won the Triple Crown of Alpine Skiing with a sweep of all three gold medals at the 1968 Winter Olympics. He brought his skiing influence to the U.S. in 1969, when he signed a deal with Head Skis to endorse their metal and fiberglass ski model, the Killy 800. He later became a spokesman for Chevrolet and starred in several movies and television shows. He earned the American nickname, “Chocolate Kitty,” because of the way he said his name with his thick accent.
Killy acted as a member of the Executive board of the Alpine skiing Committee of the FIS (from 1977-1994), was the co-president of the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, and was a member of the International Olympic Committee from 1995-2008.
He has several trails throughout the world named after him including the “Cupp Run,” at Snowshoe, W.V. (which he designed), at Val d’Isère, and his run at Tignes was given the name l’Espace Killy in his honor.
Doug Coombs arguably did more for the sport of ski mountaineering than Michael Jordan did for basketball. He won his first World Extreme Skiing Championships in Valdez, Alaska in 1991, and pioneered extreme skiing in North America and Europe in the years that followed. Coombs has skied steeper lines and made more first descents than anyone in the sport, all the while running his own heli-skiing company and running Steep Skiing Camps.
Coomb’s generous and adventurous spirit may have been his Achilles heel. In April 2006, as he was showing his friend Chad VanderHam lines in Couloir de Polichinelle in La Grave, France, when VanderHam fell and Coombs died trying to rescue him.
Coombs’ influence over the industry would have undoubtedly been felt further had he not died a premature death. His legacy of his Steeps Skiing Camp as well as Valdez Heli-Ski Guides (and heli-skiing as a whole) lives on in his memory.
Any skier worth their weight in “Sierra cement” snow should be thanking Alf and the whole Engen family for their tremendous contributions to skiing. Alf developed powder skiing at Alta, UT, in the 1940s and helped create ski schools at Alta and Snowbird. The ideology and techniques of these schools were later translated throughout resorts nationwide, leaving Engen with the legacy of teaching people to ski everywhere.
Engen started as a ski jumper in Norway, moving to Utah in the late 1930s. He claimed the National Jumping Champion title eight times between 1931-1946, securing his credibility in the ski world before powder skiing and ski schools came about. After learning how to downhill ski at the age of 30, Engen won the downhill and slalom National Championship in 1947. Engen was also the recipient of numerous awards including the All-American Ski Trophy, 1937, Americanism Award in 1940, Helm’s Hall of Fame Award in 1954; and Skier’s Hall of Fame Award in 1956.
Engen passed away in 1991 at the age of 88. He dearly loved skiing and the mountains in Utah and had hoped to see the sport “further developed,” besides, of course, the tremendous strides he had already made.
With help from the Utah History Encyclopedia.
Norwegian Stein Eriksen won a gold medal in Giant Slalom and a silver medal in Slalom at the 1952 Olympics in Olso, Norway, becoming the first male skier from outside the Alps region to win Olympic gold. This achievement earned him the Holmenkollen medal that same year. He followed that success by winning three gold medals (Slalom, Giant Slalom and Combined) at the 1954 World Championships in Åre, Sweden.
After his Olympic success, Eriksen moved to the U.S. where he became a ski instructor and director of various ski schools before settling down at Deer Valley Resort, UT. It is said that he helped revolutionize the alpine skiing world, especially in America, with his teaching techniques and is credited with the innovation of “aerials.”
He currently serves as the director of the Deer Valley ski school and as host of the Stein Eriksen Lodge —named in his honor, but not owned by him. Ski historians regard Eriksen as skiing’s “first superstar,” since he was handsome, stylish, charismatic, and made such gorgeous turns.
Scot Schmidt is one of the world’s most recognized skiers and the first-ever professional extreme skier. He started his professional skiing career in Squaw Valley in 1983 (where he tuned skis), when a Warren Miller cameraman asked him to appear in their film, Ski Time. He heard from local lore that Schmidt’s powerful yet relaxed style of skiing and hucking 60- to 100-foot cliffs set him apart from other skiers on the mountain. Schmidt starred in a total of 39 films including such cult classics as Blizzard of Aahhs, License to Thrill and Groove: Requiem in the Key of Ski.
Schmidt parlayed his extreme skiing prowess into several careers including Technical Consultant, Stuntman and Stunt Coordinator for the film industry. He has also used his skiing expertise in various research, design and development projects to create ski-industry related products including the development of the “Steep Tech” line of skiwear for The North Face and most recently has worked with Stöckli Ski USA to develop a pro model signature ski.
Warren Miller is arguably the most iconic figure in the world of skiing. His annual ski films are regarded as celebrations of the beginning of each ski season.
It all started in 1946 when Miller and a friend moved to Sun Valley, ID, lived in the parking lot in a teardrop trailer and earned money as ski instructors. In their free time, the two would film each other in order to critique their ski techniques. In the summer, they did the same thing while surfing off the California coast.
Miller showed his ski and surf films to friends and told stories and jokes while they watched. After receiving countless invitations from friends to show his films and narrate them at parties, he realized he could make his hobby his business.
In 1949, he founded Warren Miller Entertainment and began his long-standing tradition of producing an annual, feature-length ski film. He toured his film around to theaters near ski towns each year, often showing it at night, so he could shoot the next year’s footage during the day. Before long, Miller was showing his films in 130 cities a year. In the late 1990s, Miller stepped aside from his hands-on production of the film, but one is still produced annually in his name. Since 1950, Warren Miller Entertainment has produced 59 feature-length ski films—and still counting.
Dick Durrance started his dominance in the ski world when he won the German Junior Alpine Championship in 1932 at age 17. Two years later, he became the first American to dominate a major European ski race when he won at Sestriere, Italy. In the 1936 Olympics he placed eleventh in downhill, eighth in slalom and tenth in the combined. Durrance was a 17-time national champion and a three-time winner of the Harriman Cup in Sun Valley. In 1939, he helped cut the original trails on Bald Mountain in Sun Valley.
In 1941, Durrance bought and operated the lodge and lifts at Alta, UT, where he hosted U.S. Army paratroopers to train to ski. In 1945 after a brief stint at Boeing in Seattle, Durrance and his family relocated to Denver where he worked for Thor Groswold, designing and testing Groswold skis—the nation’s premier skis at the time. At the same time, he sold J-bar and T-bar ski lifts for Ernest Constam, the inventor. Durrance sold his first T-bar to Aspen resort and in 1947 was hired to manage Aspen Ski Corp. He turned around the then struggling resort when he brought the 1950 World Championships to town, which helped put Aspen on the map as one of North America’s most popular ski resorts. Durrance also produced a number of ski films and dedicated his life to the promotion of skiing.