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Ishpeming, MI, July 26, 2001–(SAM Magazine) This year’s class of inductees to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame includes two engineers, two athletes, a former coach-administrator and a ski journalist.
The newest members, James Curran, Dodie Post Gann, Charlie Gibson, Bill Kirschner, Pepi Stiegler and Michael Strauss, were announced last week and will be honored during a ceremony on September 29.
James M. Curran, an ironworker who passed Nebraska’s professional engineer exam without the benefit of a college education, designed the first chairlift in the U.S. for Sun Valley’s opening in 1936. Curran–who is being honored posthumously–adapted a design he worked on for an overhead conveyance for loading bananas onto ships. After higher-ups in the Union Pacific Railroad killed the idea, Curran persisted and his design was eventually picked for development by Charley Proctor, who was hired to lay out trails for Averell Harriman’s resort.
Another engineer, H. William Kirschner, will also be inducted to the Hall of Fame. Bill Kirschner had a degree in mining, joined the family manufacturing business and started fiddling with making a pair of fiberglass skis. The first test run took place at Sun Valley in 1961 and the K2 ski company was born. Production began in 1964 and took off after Marilyn Cochran’s gold-medal run in the 1969 World Cup GS on K2s. Kirschner ran the operation until his retirement in 1982.
Dodie Post Gann was a successful ski racer and was captain of the women’s 1948 Olympic team and the 1950 World Championships team. She had success at teaching skiing, was one of the first to travel to South America to ski year round, and filled roles choosing and managing subsequent Olympic teams.
Another athlete, Josef “Pepi” Stiegler, was one of the world’s premier racers during the 1960s. He was on the Austrian national team, won a silver in GS during the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley and took a bronze in GS and a gold in slalom at Innsbruck in 1964. He has written articles for ski publications and directed the Jackson Hole ski school for many years.
A former collegiate racer and coach, Charlie Gibson has been credited with establishing the basis for the professionally run organization the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) is considered today. He was chairman of the eastern division of the USSA, became the association’s president and worked to organize U.S. competitive skiing to concentrate on the athletes and their performance. He was also the founding director of the U.S. Ski Coaches Association and was the ski representative to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Michael Strauss was a member of the New York Times sports staff for 54 years and was its ski editor for 25. He was a co-founder of the Eastern Ski Writers’ Association and served as president for two years. He also wrote “Ski Areas USA” and hosted a nightly talk show on New York’s WQXR and is credited with keeping millions of skiers up to date on events and resorts across the country.