When a skier wins an Olympic medal in the downhill by thirteen one thousands of a second, or half a ski length, he or she becomes an instant millionaire today.
Think how much a person could earn these days if he or she had been born in Florida and left to become the junior alpine ski champion of Germany; United States collegiate champion in downhill, slalom, cross country, and jumping all four years of their college career; U.S. National champion 17 times in various events; U.S. Olympic ski team member twice; won the Harriman cup downhill three times; was a consultant to Sun Valley Idaho and laid out all of the trails on Baldy; co-developed Alta Utah; and owned the ski school and ski shop; general manager of the Aspen Ski Corp. for five years; chief of the race courses at the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics; and produced dozens of award-winning films as well as several hundred other commercial movies?
The man who did all of this has probably earned the same amount on an hourly basis, as if he had been working in some not-very-important job somewhere.
The "superman" I refer to is Dick Durrance, small in size and big in heart and accomplishments. He's a man who has devoted his life to the semi-absurd sport of traveling all over the world to turn a pair of skis right and left, day-in and day-out, until the snow melts and then travels to the other side of the equator and does exactly the same thing there.
One cold rainy weekend his mother, together with Dick and his two brothers and two sisters, walked the streets of Garmisch-Parkenkirchen looking for a place to live. None of them could speak a single word of German and they wound up staying for five years. Or until they could ignore Hitler no longer.
Dick did everything the hard way, because there was no book written at the time on how to do any of what he was doing the easy way. No interactive videos, no CD Roms, no person to copy. There weren't even metal edges on his skis or ski lifts to ride. Dick was the one that everyone else copied.
Dick was, and always will be, the influential trend setter wherever he travels.
I can remember when I was a skinny 14-year-old kid living in Hollywood, Calif. I was just growing out of my career as a Boy Scout in favor of young girls when I saw pictures of Dick in a book in a sporting goods store. I think it was in 1937. This was three years after someone invented the rope tow and one year after someone else invented the chairlift and a place called Sun Valley, Idaho.
By that time Dick had carved his skiing style into the minds of skiers from the slopes of Germany during the 1936 Olympics to the glaciers of New Zealand. He is the only skier I have ever known who has had a mountain named after him. As far removed from skiing as I was in 1937 living in Hollywood, I must have instinctively realized early in my life, that here was a man who had the unique capability of making molehills out of mountains.
Together with his wife Miggs, Dick has skied there, raced there, filmed there, and has the "t" shirts and trophies to prove it. He's done it all. Several generations of skiers have come and gone since his third and final Harriman cup downhill victory. But there is no other person then, now, or will there be in the future, who so completely dominated ski racing as Dick did.
You should read Dick's book. It still doesn't tell all that he has done and done successfully. Not only has he done it all, he invented most of it, and he is way too modest to tell you about most of it.
(Editor's note: Dick Durrance died in 2004. His book, "Dick Durrance, the Man on the Medal: The Life & Times of America's First Great Ski Racer," was published in 1995 and is still available at Amazon.com)
(Copyright, 2009: WarrenMiller.net).
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