Legacy: 1966

Fall Line

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For three brief winters, the whole world watched as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy went skiing. Soon after her husband’s assassination, Jackie looked to skiing, in part, to return normalcy to the lives of her two children. But with the press pushing in at every turn, it was skiing as only the Kennedys would have to endure.

In March 1964, Jackie flew to Sun Valley, Idaho, for a retreat with brother-in-law Bobby. The following Christmas, she brought Caroline, 7, and John, 4, to Aspen, Colo., to ski with their rambunctious cousins. The Kennedys were joined by local homeowner and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, among others. SKI even ran a cover photo of 12-year-old Kathleen, Bobby’s eldest daughter and future lieutenant governor of Maryland. But the nation’s focus was on Jackie and her family. As a skier, Jackie made cautious stem turns. RFK preferred fast runs.

In 1965, Jackie and Bobby both took their children to Lake Placid, N.Y., and Vermont. The following Christmas, the RFK brood visited Sun Valley, where they stayed in the cottage of family friend and fellow Democrat, Averell Harriman, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large and the resort’s founder. Jackie and kids later joined them, then flew to Gstaad, Switzerland, where they were guests of old friends, the skiing economist and ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith and his wife, Kitty. Perhaps Jackie skied there, but after 1966 she was more often seen in the Mediterranean, on Aristotle Onassis’s yacht.

Over three winters, though, Jackie-mania fanned a blizzard of publicity for skiing, adding to its reputation as the in-sport of the 1960s. Bobby attended a black-tie New York City Ski Ball. He and brother Ted appeared in SKI’s 1964 list of American skiing’s 100 most influential people.

What politician wouldn’t want to be linked to such a healthy pursuit? Yet, in 2004, opponents of John Kerry’s presidential bid used photos of him snowboarding to portray the senator as an out-of-touch candidate. Jackie would not have been amused.

December 2005