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Advice From the Fathers of U.S. Olympian Skiers & Icons of the Sport

Words of wisdom from dads who ski—and the dads who raised some of the best skiers in the United States—that any father can appreciate.

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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.

Tim Jitloff, Olympian, three-time U.S. National GS and Combined Champion: “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.”

Kim Schneider, director and editor of numerous Warren Miller feature films: “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.’ 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?”

Marco Sullivan, Former U.S. Ski Team member and three-time Olympian: “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.”

Alice McKennis, U.S. Ski Team: “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.”

Krista Crabtree, Director of She Skis women’s ski testing clinics and former SKI Magazine editor: “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.”

Keri Bascetta, SKI’s director of photography: “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.”

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 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.

Phil McNichol, former U.S. men’s alpine team coach: “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 superhero 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.” 

“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 mindset.”

Steven Nyman, U.S. Ski Team, two-time Olympian: “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.”

Jonny Moseley, U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, three-time Olympian, X-Games gold medalist, Warren Miller film athlete: “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.”

Reggie Crist, former U.S. Ski Team member, Olympian, two-time X-Games Skier X champ: “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.”