Ski Resort Life

Skier of the Decade: Dick Durrance, 1930s

Why American Dick Durrance was an exception to the superiority of European skiers.

An exception to the superiority of European skiers in the 1930s was American Dick Durrance. As a boy, he lived and learned to ski in Garmisch- Partenkirchen, Germany. In the shadow of the Zugspitze, he won the 1932 German National Junior Championship. Before returning to America in 1933, the precocious Durrance copied a feet-together racing turn from twotime world slalom champion Toni Seelos of Austria. Durrance brought the new turn back to America as a harbinger of future technique.

Back in New England, Durrance outskied his fellow Americans, fi rst in high school, then at Dartmouth. He led the fi rst U.S. Olympic alpine ski team to the Winter Games at—where else?—Garmisch. With his iconic Dipsy Doodle turn, he won the Sun Valley Harriman Cup, a combination of downhill and slalom, three times—defeating seasoned European pros, including 1933 world downhill champion Walter Prager.

Durrance became a successful ski cinematographer, and after training World War II troops at Alta, he moved to Aspen, where he played a major role in staging the 1950 World Alpine Ski Championships, which persuaded a skeptical European ski community that America could host world-class races.