Father Knows Best

Words of wisdom from dads who ski.
Daron Rahlves

We might not have realized it when we were kids and couldn’t see past the end of our frost-nipped noses, but most of us have our dads to thank for turning us into skiers. What felt like nagging and pushing back then was actually encouragement and guidance. Now we know we wouldn’t have this passion if it weren’t for our fathers. They drove us to the mountain—uphill in the snow both ways—and taught us how to carve. They introduced us to the simple joy of hot cocoa with marshmallows and fresh tracks.

Herewith, SKI Magazine staffers and icons of the sport share memories and lessons from their fathers.

“The best advice my dad gave me was when I was three. He said, ‘If you want to ski with me you have to be able to get on and off the lift by yourself!’ Two runs later I was skiing with my dad. —Tim Jitloff, Olympian, three-time U.S. National GS and Combined Champion.

My Dad took us all—five kids—to the Salvation Army in 1964 and outfitted us with Rough Rider wool slacks and any other articles of wool clothing he could find. It didn't matter what color as long as it was three sizes too large so we could ski in them for the next year as well.

Then he listened to bickering in the car during the four-hour drive to Heavenly Valley, the whining on the hill about everything that was wrong with the skis and itchy clothing, his hands raw from lacing up five pair of boots plus his own. Then, somehow miraculously, he kept his eyes open for the entire drive home the same night as his five fledgling future ski addicts all slept.

As buckle boots, step-in bindings and metal skis began to appear on the scene all I remember amidst our complaints about our gear was his response: ‘It's not the skis.’ [M1] What else would you expect from a guy on 210 Hart Javelins, wearing a Ben Davis work shirt, Levis and a cowboy hat for his ski outfit?

When my boys would head toward the hill, I’d yell, ‘Don’t get frost-butt!’ as they yanked at their pants sliding half way down their asses.” —Kim Schneider, director and editor of numerous Warren Miller feature films.

“The best advice I got from my dad was ’look ahead and go as fast as possible.’  Pretty simple words but 20 years later that is still what I’m trying to do.” —Marco Sullivan, U.S. Ski Team, three-time Olympian

“When I was little my dad used to give me a nickel every time I would look up the hill when merging onto a new run: He didn't want me to get t-boned by another skier. I got a lot of nickels.” —Alice McKennis, U.S. Ski Team,

“I spent every winter weekend of my childhood getting up before dawn to drive icy New England back roads. My dad skied in the master's race series—in fact, he still does at age 71—and that meant we all went along with him. We got there early, in time for inspection, and stayed late for the awards in the bar. I have hazy recollections of some of those award ceremonies, like wet T-shirt contests, but hey, it was the 70s.

Every Saturday as he came into my bedroom to wake me in the pitch-black, dead-of-winter morning, I’d shout, ’I don't want to go skiing!’ He didn’t get mad. He'd just tell me that once I got there, I'd have fun. My brother and I would doze as we drove through blizzards or freezing rain but as we neared the ski area my spirit would lift and I would have a good time.

Not only did my dad gift us with a passion for skiing but he chose a sport we could do together for years. Just this past winter when it was time to wake up early and go skiing with my dad, I heard my daughter protest. Then I heard him say, ‘Once you get there, you'll have fun.’ And, of course, she did.”—Krista Crabtree, Director of She Skis women’s ski testing clinics, former SKI Magazine editor

“When I was first interested in going into the terrain park, my dad made me get on the stairs and prepare for 360s. I’d jump off the steps to get comfortable with the feeling of a full rotation before I sent my little body off of an icy jump. He taught me to let my eyes and head lead the twist to avoid over- or under-rotating. I landed one on my first try thanks to his words of wisdom.” —Keri Bascetta, SKI’s director of photography

“My dad always told me to keep it fun, but if I wanted to be successful I had to work hard. That helped me through my career. Talent only takes you so far.  I still love to ski any chance I get. It's the passion and being outside on the mountain that I love and hope to pass on to my kids. To ski with your own kids is a special feeling and I'm looking forward to the years ahead.

As a father of 4-year-old twins, I give them guidance through my actions.  Being positive and making it fun helps on the hill. They wore super heroes capes to give them more spunk when they started skiing. Looking for jumps, skiing in the trees, playing follow-the-leader was fun for them as well.  They were also on the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and skiing with other kids and coaches was great for them.”  —Daron Rahlves, the most decorated American alpine speed-event skier in history, X-Games Skier X champion, three-time Olympian

“My dad always told me, ‘You can do anything you put your mind to.’ It sounds so cliché but it is has guided me well. It became the strong component of my coaching philosophy: ‘Anything is possible if you truly believe in yourself.’

He was into poetry and often recited this line from Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem ’Solitude,’ Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone. This means that attitude is everything – being positive is a powerful mind set.” —Phil McNichol, former U.S. men’s alpine team coac

“Other than the usual ski school critiquing, my dad always told me to keep skiing as long as you love it.  And I don't see that changing anytime soon.”
—Steven Nyman, U.S. Ski Team, two-time Olympian, creator of fantaskyskiracer.com

“Lately, I try to make sure my son knows that he can always get better at skiing or anything. I tell him that no matter how good he gets, he should never be afraid to try new things and fail.” —Jonny Moseley, U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, three-time Olympian, X-Games gold medalist, Warren Miller film athlete.

“I’ll encourage my girls to follow their passion because if you enjoy doing something and stick with it then there is a good chance you will become successful. Besides the worst case scenario is that you will be happy.” —Reggie Crist, former U.S. Ski Team member, Olympian, two-time X-Games Skier X champ.


Image placeholder title

Throwback Thursday: Skiing Is For Women (Too)!

Skiing has changed a lot for women since 1961. Thank goodness.

Jon Olsson at X Games

The X Games Factor

How loud music, bright lights and thousands of adrenaline junkies are saving Aspen…from itself.

Warren's World December, 2001 issue

Warren's World: 'My Father Hates You'

A father's regret and a son's gratitude to Warren Miller ski films


Father's Day Gift Guide

Treat dad with something new to play outside with this summer.

Deer Valley Scenic Thumb

Deer Valley® Knows Details

As a resort consistently rated #1 in guest service, Deer Valley knows a thing or two about details. And, it’s the details that keep guests coming back every year. Deer Valley still upholds the vision of its founder, Edgar B. Stern, by providing an experience at a ski resort that would mirror a five-star hotel.

Father Hero Illustration

Skiing With Dad

In this line of work, I get to ski with a lot of incredible people. But none is as special as Dad.

Aspen Gay Ski Week

Gay for Aspen

Straight dad, lesbian daughter, and the nation’s biggest, best Gay Ski Week. Not entirely traditional. Just the perfect family ski trip.