Adventure November 29, 2012

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

And the People You’ll Meet

{ the snowboarders }

Chase Josey
& Ryan Roemer

Torn apart by high schools but brought together by a mutual love of fresh powder and the skills of professional snowboarder Travis Rice, the Sun Valley bromance of the decade remains as solid as ever. Rippers Ryan “Rome-dome” Roemer (right) and Chase “Bakey” Josey (left), both 17, of the Sun Valley Snowboard Team, can still finish each other’s sentences.

“I can’t even remember when we met—wayyyy back,” said Roemer, flicking his head to knock back some shaggy brown hair. “Maybe … kindergarten?” finished Josey, glancing at Roemer with a raised eyebrow. “We’re bros, fer sure,” they both nodded.

Often confused for one another, or even as being the same person, “It’s never just Chase or just Ryan, it’s always Chase and Ryan,” said Roemer. And it has been Chase and Ryan since they both began carving turns around age four. Roemer’s dad and uncle—both SoCal surfers—first took him shredding on the slopes of Fairfield’s Soldier Mountain, but Josey, who had an older brother on the ski team, started out on two sticks. “Ryan introduced me to the snowboard team,” Josey said, stating it was somewhere around age seven. “That’s how I got on.”

The two little “prodigies,” as Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation snowboard coach and program director Andy Gilbert called them, started competing in Revolution Tours (to qualify for pro-level events) at age 13. Last winter, Josey took 4th in Junior World Championships in Spain, while Roemer was named the overall national champion at the USASA Nationals and then went on to win his age group at the legendary Mount Baker Banked Slalom. For their next step, both have the U.S. Grand Prix in the crosshairs and “the big goal would be the Olympics,” said Roemer.

And while both are applying to colleges that will facilitate their boarding careers, Josey explained, “I just hope to still be snowboarding in 10 years. I’d be happy with that.”

For their last year of high school, before college spirals them into separate corners of the country, they’re excited to be at home on Bald Mountain. “I love this mountain. It’s so sick,” said Roemer. Josey added, “It’s great to learn on,” citing the steepness, natural terrain, consistent vertical and endless tree-skiing. “It’s all made me a much better snowboarder,” agreed Roemer.

Josey’s ideal day on the mountain involves “a three-foot pow storm, bluebird day … and no lift lines,” he said, leaning back casually with fingers laced across his sweatshirt. “I’d agree with that one,” said Roemer, with a big grin. “And then you get to haul ass on the perfect groomer day, going mock-chicken down the mountain,” he added—and that, they both agreed, is what keeps them coming back every day.

While their relationship is obviously friendly—both are sponsored by Smith—they admitted simultaneously that it’s “competitive.” Roemer said watching Josey do a trick pushes him to do a better one, and vice versa. “We drive each other, for sure,” said Roemer.

“They’re an interesting pair,” noted Gilbert. “Their commonality comes in on the mountain where they click as friends and teammates. They motivate each other to want to be better, but they’re also very good at celebrating each other’s victories. The younger kids really look up to them.”

When they’re not snowboarding, they’re …“skateboarding,” they said together. In winter or summer, on or off the mountain, this duo can be found with some type of board under their feet—hucking themselves off things way too high, jibbing, bonking or sliding on whatever’s available and always locked at “holy sh*t” speed. And, as usual, always together. -Kate Elgee


{ the mountaineer }

Melissa Arnot

Melissa Arnot loves playing horseshoes. Sure, she has summited Mount Everest four times, works with mountaineering legends Peter Whittaker and Ed Viesturs, is planning a climbing trip to Pakistan this winter and embarks on solo road bike rides from Idaho to Montana but admittedly, this athlete, guide, climber, trailblazer and teacher is moderately obsessed with playing horseshoes.

And the competitive horseshoe community better watch out because it seems that Melissa never really does anything halfway. “Only four years after I started guiding professionally, I found myself working as an assistant guide on an Everest Expedition,” she said about starting her career as a professional mountain guide. Friends had introduced her to climbing a few years before and she was immediately hooked. “I found an activity that seemed endless in cultivating the ability to push myself and learn. Everyone I met in the community seemed so focused and happy. I wanted that,” she explained. Now, over 90 summits of Mount Rainier later, she is an integral and inspiring part of the international climbing and mountaineering community.

Professionally, Melissa is one of the best in the business. A lead guide for Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) Expeditions since 2006 and a mountain guide for Eddie Bauer First Ascent, she works as a guide and a teacher when not off climbing the biggest mountains in the world. She has not only summited Mount Rainier 91 times, but has also bagged four summits of Everest, four expeditions to Aconcagua, one expedition on Mount McKinley and countless other mountaineering feats. But ask Melissa what she thinks her biggest accomplishment is and it isn’t any of those things.

“My greatest accomplishment has really been my ability to persevere and stick with it through all of the highs and lows,” she said. “There are so many uncomfortable moments in mountaineering, to be able to see that they are temporary and it is the things you learn that are permanent, is the biggest accomplishment.”

Born and raised in Montana, Melissa always thought she wanted to escape small, mountain town living and even envisioned herself living in New York City when she grew up. Now all grown up, recently married and making Sun Valley her permanent home, it’s obvious that the call of mountain life never left her. And, admittedly, it is the small-town, tight-knit feeling of Sun Valley that inspires her to call our tiny slice of heaven home.

“Sun Valley offers me the community feeling that is so important when you live a traveling life. One of the greatest things about coming home from a long trip is seeing people I know,” she said about life in the Valley.

But it isn’t just that sense of community that has kept Melissa coming back. Sun Valley also provides the setting for the intense physical training that an athlete of her caliber needs. “This town offers me access to amazing training. I can hike 3,000 feet uphill in the snow and then be at Zenergy getting a great workout, all before noon. There aren’t many places that have the outdoor access and the health and wellness amenities that Sun Valley does,” she said.

In fact, on any given day in Sun Valley you might find Melissa hatching her next plan with neighbor/boss/Eddie Bauer First Ascent teammate Peter Whittaker, riding her mountain bike, climbing, enjoying her new hobby of road biking, ice climbing, training with clients, or yes, even playing horseshoes. When you literally climb mountains for a living, Sun Valley and all that it offers might just be the best place on earth to call home. -Katie Matteson


{ the coach }

Ruben Macaya

Ruben Macaya had no choice when it came to skiing.

He grew up atop a mountain in Patagonia, where his mother managed a ski lodge at Argentina’s Cerro Catedral. So he would have to ski down the hill on heavy lapacho wooden skis if he wanted to play with his friends or he could stay inside, which wasn’t an option for a boy who didn’t even see television until he was 13.

Macaya, who grew up near the picturesque village of Bariloche with its Swiss-style chalets, skied the two miles it took to get to the bottom of the mountain often. And he skied fast.

“I didn’t have big dreams of racing. I only skied because it was so much fun,” recounted Macaya, who oversees up to 35 coaches and 200 athletes as alpine director for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF).

That changed when Macaya and his mother moved to the oil fields of Argentina for a year.

“It was like moving from Sun Valley to Texas—I was heartbroken,” he recalled in his still-present Argentinian accent. And when he returned, he found that his friends were out-skiing him, thanks to a young Austrian ski coach who was teaching them to race gates.

Macaya wanted to catch up. He took up racing and competed in five World Championships from 1966 to 1970, as well as the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.

In 1971 Macaya married Paula, a Whitefish, Montana, ski racer whom he’d met in 1968 when she came to Bariloche to train. The young couple followed Ruben’s coaching career and moved to Vail, Colorado, and then Squaw Valley, California. Ruben eventually wound up working with the U.S. Ski Team at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, where Billy Johnson became the first American to win the downhill.

Tamara McKinney—one of the young skiers he’d worked with—took fourth in the giant slalom behind teammates Debbie Armstrong and Sun Valley’s Christin Cooper, who took home gold and silver, respectively.

“I remember Tamara training for the slalom in Squaw Valley when she was 14. It had rained several days and froze and nobody could finish the course but Tamara,” Macaya said, explaining how she “drove the boys crazy, asking, ‘How did she do that?’ She said, ‘I fake it. I set my edge and I know it’s not going to hold so I let go and start my next turn.’ ”

In 1989 Macaya finally followed his wife’s dream of moving to Sun Valley, where she had trained for four winters. At first, he worked for a small oil company a friend was running above the SVSEF office at Warm Springs. But he soon began heading downstairs each afternoon to change into his ski boots and Volkls to coach alpine racers.

Macaya became a full-time coach for SVSEF in 1996, guiding young racers to ski around gates as if they were trying to sit sideways on a milking stool.

“He’s one of the best coaches on the planet,” says Scott McGrew, assistant alpine program director for the SVSEF. “He has a child-like enthusiasm that never wanes. And he crams in all kinds of things for the kids.”

At 65, Macaya entertains no thoughts of retiring. He says coaching keeps him young as he watches the joy on the faces of racers as they “get it.”

He also enjoys barbecuing his famous Argentinean lamb asado dinners, which raise up to $9,000 a year when auctioned off at SVSEF’s annual fundraising Fall Game Dinner (where he was named this year’s winner of the Jack Simpson Dedicated Coaches Award).

“I’m a great-grandfather coach—I’ve coached four generations of skiers,” he said. “Plus, I love communing with nature and the speed that skiing involves. Where else can a 6-year-old go 30 miles-per-hour and be totally in control of his own actions!? The sense of freedom you get from that—the feeling I had at 5—is still there.” -Karen Bossick


{ the legend }

Peggy Proctor Dean

Peggy Proctor Dean was destined to call Sun Valley home and considers it her favorite place on earth. She grew up in California’s Yosemite National Park, however, and the two beautifully different areas of the West would have an exceptional influence on her life and that of her family.

Born in Yosemite in 1941, she and her siblings were immersed in the outdoor culture there. Peggy’s parents, Mary and Charley Proctor, had moved to Yosemite in the winter of ’38-’39 when Charley was hired as winter sports director for alpine skiing, ice skating and tobogganing. It was a perfect job in a stunning environment and the Proctors became an affable part of the permanent Yosemite community, sharing their enthusiasm for all outdoor adventures.

Peggy and her brother and sister were introduced to skiing by their parents at a very young age and, upon entering grade school, began racing for the Yosemite Junior Ski Team, based out of the park’s ski area, Badger Pass. Theirs was an idyllic, ski-based life. Peggy and her sister went to school there until 8th grade, then transferred to a boarding school. They returned home to ski and race at Badger Pass, and summers were spent hiking, camping, and working for the park. Peggy remembers, “at age 14, I washed dishes in the hospital, but by 16, I was old enough to be a maid in charge of two tent-cabins … a very big deal!” Peggy attended the University of Colorado and skied every weekend, competing in all the local fun races, but explained, “I was not a serious college racer … I just got too nervous!”

Peggy’s Sun Valley story has two chapters; the first began with her dad Charley’s very personal connection to Idaho’s premier ski resort. Skiing and mountaineering were in Charley Proctor’s blood. The unassuming Easterner was raised in New Hampshire and skied at age four on down-sized, pine wall-boards. In college, he raced for Dartmouth and in 1928 competed in jumping and cross-country in St. Moritz as a member of the U.S. Olympic Team. Joined by a fellow racer, in 1931 Charley became one of the first to successfully ski the famous 45° headwall at Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mt. Washington. It was considered to be the first “extreme ski feat” on American snow.

Charley married Mary, a fine skier and mountaineer, in 1932, and they were perfectly matched for the adventurous ski-life ahead. Proctor became well-known as he cut trails for the Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC) and designed alpine runs for many Eastern ski areas. In 1936, he was contracted by Averell Harriman, chairman of Union Pacific, to accompany him to Sun Valley to look at mountain options for a new destination ski resort. Mary joined Charley there on spring break and they skinned up the Cold Springs drainage to the top of Bald Mountain, enjoying fine spring skiing above tree-line where no trails had yet been cut. Charley always maintained that his Mary, Peggy’s mother, was probably the first woman to ski on Baldy.

Although Harriman’s team believed that Bald Mountain would become the main attraction, concentration centered on two areas near the construction of the new Sun Valley Lodge. It is well documented that Harriman wanted a new, easy way to move skiers up slopes, so the world’s first chairlift was constructed from retrofitted technology used to load bananas onto freighters. Charley Proctor was instrumental in choosing terrain for the first ski runs and the placement of the new innovative chairlift, two of which were installed in the summer of ’36.

The first completed lift was up a canyon north of Ruud Mountain, ending on a ridge above the still-visible Ruud lift. Harriman named that first skiing area Proctor Mountain to acknowledge Charley’s work. The second lift completed that summer was on Dollar Mountain and by 1938 a third lift was installed on Ruud. Charley’s Proctor Mountain was operational until 1950. The terrain was varied and the snow excellent, and the Hot Potato Hut became a popular restaurant at the top of the lift. Sun Valley always remained special for Mary and Charley. It was a source of pride and they skied there as much as possible throughout their active lives.

“My dad, for all of his accomplishments in U.S. skiing,” reflected Peggy, “was a reserved, modest man and he really didn’t like a lot of fuss being made over all the things he’d done.” Nonetheless, in 1958 Charley Proctor was inducted into the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. Eight years later, his father and Peggy’s grandfather, Charles A. Proctor, who had influenced the early development of U.S. skiing, particularly jumping and slalom racing, was also an inductee. Both Proctors had been recognized for lifetimes dedicated to the sport of skiing and the betterment of racing.

Peggy still delights in telling her second “Sun Valley story.” While racing in grade school, she knew a group of “older” college racers from Fresno State who trained at Badger Pass. Peggy giggles, “I was a little kid with a huge crush on one of them, a handsome racer named Howard Dean … but he was nine years older!” Years later, after graduating from college, she became reacquainted with handsome Howard and his ski pals in Tahoe City, California, where Peggy and Howard were married in 1965. Although the Deans lived initially in Madera, California, where they started a family, they both dreamed of moving to Sun Valley one day. Howard had raced in Sun Valley and skied there often with his parents. Peggy was naturally drawn to the area from her family’s rich history and memories of the Idaho resort.

The Deans first skied Sun Valley together in 1967, staying for a week in the Red Top Cabins. For the next 11 years they would return to ski Sun Valley, all the while looking for property and opportunity for a young skiing family. Their dream came true when they moved up permanently in 1978 with their children, Jana and Ryan. Howard opened Dean Tire, south of Ketchum, and they moved into a small Edelweiss condo at the base of Warm Springs.

“The first week we were here,” Peggy recalled,” we were so ecstatic we kept the kids out of school just so we could just ski every day as a family!” Both kids went to Hemingway School and raced for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF). Peggy and Howard happily supported many local events, volunteering their time and enthusiasm as they raised their family in the environment and community they had long dreamed about. Howard coached little kids on the D Team for SVSEF, eventually becoming a member of the board of directors. Peggy served many years as a board member at The Community Library, but her real love and commitment has been her long affiliation with the Ketchum-Sun Valley Ski & Heritage Museum. Peggy has been a committed board member for many years, assisting in fundraising and special events, and is still passionate about the museum’s purpose in sharing and illuminating the rich history of the Sun Valley area.

The Deans’ son, Ryan, now owns Ketchum Automotive and coaches skiing. Ryan and his wife and their two little ski racers live in Smiley Creek, commuting daily to Ketchum for work, school at Hemingway, and racing with SVSEF. Ryan’s sister Jana is a teacher, living in Olympia, Washington, and along with her husband and two children visit whenever they can to ski, snowboard and to be in the mountains.

Skiing and community have remained close to Peggy’s heart; subsequent to Howard’s untimely death in 1994, she established an annual full-tuition scholarship through SVSEF in his name. Don Wiseman, SVSEF’s executive director, explained with gratitude, “The Howard Dean Award and Scholarship are a celebration and recognition of outstanding scholarship and sportsmanship. Howard represented these values in every aspect of his life and we are honored to recognize his legacy each year through the generosity of his family.”

Peggy has always felt like her life in Sun Valley was destiny.  She smiled as she explained, “It’s where I’m supposed to be.” Still a classic, beautiful skier, she laughed, “I’ve loved skiing in every condition imaginable, it’s just how I grew up … but I like the groomers in the sun best of all now!” Peggy Proctor Dean is still living her Sun Valley dream, happily content in the mountains she calls home. -Julie Gallagher


{ the skier }

Tai Barrymore

In some ways, Wing Tai Barrymore is a bit of a contradiction. You see his first name, which pays homage to his mother’s Hawaiian heritage (Tai) and his great grandmother’s maiden name (Winger), means “Forever Peaceful” in Chinese.

But “peaceful” is the last thing most people think when they watch Wing Tai doing double alley-oops high above a halfpipe or rocketing off a set of rails.

The 20-year-old Wood River High graduate is well spoken and has a deep, mellow voice that sounds more along the lines of his name. But it’s Wing Tai’s need for speed—especially when he’s on skis—that speaks to his true spirit and his impressive ancestry.

Wing Tai’s grandfather is the late, great ski filmmaker Dick Barrymore. The Ski and Snowboard Hall of Famer’s iconic films included “The Performers” and the “Last of the Ski Bums.” Some of those films starred Wing Tai’s dad, Blake Barrymore, who was known as “Ted Shred.”

While growing up in such boot steps might have been intimidating to some, Tai—as his local buddies call him—never felt any pressure. “It was pretty normal. They were still just dad and grandpa to me,” he said, explaining that even after becoming a competitive freeskier at 16, he’s never been called a “Junior ”version of his dad.

“There’s only one ‘Ted Shred,’” Wing Tai stated with a chuckle, “and that’s him.”

There’s also only one Wing Tai, and just like his dad and granddad, he’s making a name for himself in the ski world, too.

At the end of 2011, Wing Tai shocked an impressive field by winning the U.S. Halfpipe Grand Prix at Colorado’s Copper Mountain. But just as his star was starting to shine, Barrymore unfortunately tore both ACLs while competing at last Winter’s X-Games. Undeterred, Tai worked his way back from surgery well enough to be named to the U.S. Halfpipe Ski Team and once again his skiing career is taking off. A career he says he owes Sun Valley a lot of credit for.

“Sun Valley, the company and the community, have been really supportive to me and I really appreciate it. I’m stoked that Sun Valley is behind me,” Wing Tai said, crediting the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s introduction of a freestyle ski team and the work of their “incredible coaches” like Ben Verge.

“It was awesome growing up here. I had a pretty rad time as a kid. There was so much to do in the winters or the summers,” said Tai, who’s an avid motocross rider. He’s also become a big advocate for America’s original ski resort.

“People ask me about Sun Valley all the time,” Tai said about his ski-related travels. “They’re starting to realize that Sun Valley is going to be a big spot on the map for a lot of reasons.”

After praising the recent parks and pipes improvements Sun Valley has been making, Barrymore made a bold prediction. “There are going to be a lot of champions coming out of Sun Valley over the next decade,” he stated. “It’s going to be amazing.”

Since doing amazing things on skis are what the Barrymore’s are known for, the future is certainly looking pretty promising for Wing Tai—and for all the future “Ted Shreds” of the Wood River Valley. Mike McKenna


{ the filmmaker }

Ben Parker

Soaring through the air, dusted treetops, ski tips crossed. Twisting, turning. Timing, angle. Steady hand. Breathe … just feel it out.

Although it’s easily overlooked because of video’s ubiquitous nature in today’s society, the eye of a good filmmaker is nothing short of remarkable. Film is an art and an exploration. Some can learn it, but the best have something that you can’t teach. Hailey-based filmmaker Ben Parker, 16, has that something.

“I think that it’s up to you to do what you want,” Parker says about filmmaking. “If you have that creative sense, go with it and make something out of it. It’s a pretty good feeling to complete something and make people feel it.”

Parker first began delving into media at Wood River Middle School, where he took a class with local photographer/videographer Mark Oliver. The class captivated him and, as Oliver became a mentor, Ben dove into the profession without any apprehensions about age. He borrowed money from his parents to buy a camera and was able to pay them back with the money he made from photography and video jobs.

Helped by referrals from Oliver, Parker already boasts an impressive portfolio of contributing film for projects like the Paragliding Nationals, the U.S. Mountain Bike Nationals and Level 1 Productions, as well as making his own ski and skateboard shorts. He also won the Amateur Filmmaker’s competition section of the annual Gathering Film and Music Festival when he was just 15.

Being an avid freestyle skier and member of the Sun Valley Ski Team Parker says gives him the unique opportunity to “tell the story” from a first-person perspective.

In a way, film became a spinoff of Ben’s love of sports, but he says that, across the board, he’s, “always loved capturing the moment because then you can go back and remember it.”

Jeanene Parker, Ben’s mother, still remembers Ben getting called to go up in a tandem paraglider when he was 14 to film a race on Baldy. When Ben asked her for permission, Jeanene said she had to “put her mom stuff aside,” and before she knew it Ben was circling above Baldy at 14,000-feet before heading over Galena Summit. “Ben has never thrown himself into anything unless he’s interested in it,” Jeanene notes, “And then, he can’t just surface it, he goes all the way.”

The ski team has been an enormous part of Parker’s growth in terms of responsibility and independence, which he says happens when you are traveling without your parents. Last year, Ben was able to trade video work in order to help pay for travel.

Parker sees “the growth of Sun Valley becoming a younger Valley for skiers. The freestyle terrain on Dollar is fostering this new generation of creativity, which also spins off into film. Baldy is awesome, too. I feel like a lot of people take this place for granted; no one really gives it enough credit. This is my favorite place to be and I’ve been to a lot of places. I think the kids in Sun Valley are making more of a difference now than they used to.”

Parker is already looking into college film programs, but clarifies that he’s not aiming for Hollywood but, rather, for work in adventure sports. It’s what he loves to do, so he’s going to pursue it.

Parker has a filmmaker’s eye. He sees the world in bits that he can put together for others to see, understand and be inspired by. And he’s proof that, as he says, “When you put the best effort you can into something, you’re bound to get something good out of it.” -Kira Tenney


{ the goggle guru }

Bob Smith

“It’s a Smith kind of day!”

That was the mantra of powder skiers in the ’60’s and ’70’s and it meant that you were going to be skiing powder and you needed your Smith goggles.

Using Smiths became a coveted “badge.” It meant you were on the cutting edge, a serious powderhound. That’s because Smith expanded skiable powder terrain that otherwise was inaccessible because, with a pair of their state-of-art goggles, you could see clearly and ski in any condition.

Finding a way to make a goggle that didn’t fog became a primary focus for Bob Smith from the moment he first dropped into the deep snow of Sun Valley’s Lookout Bowl in 1951. Bob had never been in powder snow before, could barely ski and knew little about the ski culture. All he knew was that he couldn’t see much of anything through his Army goggles.

Smith first came to Sun Valley with another California boy, Sam Grossman—two handsome college-mates from Stanford.

They didn’t bring much in the old Plymouth they drove over Donner Summit and up to the Gem State: Army skis, heavy boots and goggles, a sweater and windbreaker each, 24 sandwiches (12 deviled egg, 12 peanut butter) and $8 in their pockets. Sam had skied here before and, resourceful upon arrival, knocked on the door of Ed Scott who agreed to let them sleep on the cement floor of his frigid garage before the thrifty boys eventually ‘found’ some free empty rooms in the Sun Valley Inn.

They boot-packed for lift tickets or followed injured skiers to the Sun Valley Lodge’s second-floor hospital to beg for no-longer-needed passes. They befriended the cutest waitresses at the Roundhouse for unfinished chocolate rolls and hamburgers. “We had standards,” Sam laughed. “There had to be at least half left uneaten.”

And when they could get on the slopes, they were regularly rewarded with deep, fresh powder. But their flimsy Army goggles fogged and filled instantly with snow. “We were both completely hooked on powder,” Grossman recalled. “The problem was that we really couldn’t see where we were skiing.”

And so Smith began focusing on goggles, on finding a way to make them better. According to Grossman, “If Bob had a need, he would focus on filling it by spending whatever time or energy was needed for accomplishment.” Smith was passionate about powder skiing throughout his life, but his very practical approach to protective eyewear would eventually revolutionize the entire snow sports industry.

Born in 1933 in San Carlos, California, Robert Earl Smith attended Stanford and the San Francisco College of Dentistry. He then spent two years stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, as an Army dentist and would spend every chance he got skiing the powder of the Austrian Alps on the ultimate dream-ski, a $20 pair of Head standards. He also kept obsessing about how a goggle could work better and began using his dental tools (attaching glue, rubber and then foam to the rim of goggles) in a tenacious effort to keep his goggles free from fog and condensation.

After his military service, Smith opened a private dental practice back in California and began piloting his own small plane, which allowed him swifter access to good powder skiing. In 1964, Smith married his longtime sweetheart, Jean, and they shared a passion for skiing powder and flying.

They created goggles on their kitchen table one pair at a time, which were then given or sold to ski patrollers and fellow skiers for use in every condition. Adjustments were made based on feedback. The Smiths would trade goggles for lift tickets whenever possible, testing goggles themselves while accumulating thousands of vertical feet chasing powder.

By the mid-’60’s, Smith goggles was founded to make one product: the first great ski goggle, featuring a sealed thermal double lens and breathable vent foam with a comfortable wide strap to hold it perfectly in place. Production of ‘The Original’ began on a fairly limited basis after filing for a patent for ‘Insulated Goggles,” which was granted in 1968.

Bob and Jean moved full-time to Sun Valley in 1971 and a top national sales force was added. “To be honest,” explains close friend Chuck Ferries, “Bob never intended to start a goggle business. He just wanted to design a great goggle.” But the design was revolutionary and by 1979 Smith became the national leader in goggle sales.

Leroy Kingland was Smith’s first sales rep and considered one of the industry’s finest. He observed Smith and his company firsthand for many years. “Bob was very hands-off in management style. He didn’t interfere or second-guess us, but he loved research, and he constantly worked on design quality so that we had the perfect product to sell,” he explained. “We had the very best and everyone wanted to copy us.”

The remote Canadian Rockies called to Bob and Jean as they set vertical records with Hans Gmoser at Canadian Mounted Holidays (the pioneers of heli-skiing). They continued taking epic ski trips for years, expanding into Canadian ranges with Mike Wiegele. “The Monashees became our favorite place,” recalled Kingland. “We had wonderful fun, probably skied at least 15 times there. Bob was a phenomenal powder skier, passionate for it, but he was always focused on fine-tuning the goggle.”

Eventually, fellow Ketchum-based ski industry company Scott USA added goggles to their product line and became one of Smith’s biggest competitors. Interestingly, when Scott filed for reorganization in 1981, it was Bob Smith who partnered with Chuck Ferries and Richard Sugden to take them out of bankruptcy and the two competitive, but very separate companies, both manufactured their goggles in Clearfield, Utah. According to Ferries, “Bob was so solid, the best partner you could have.” Shortly thereafter, Scott USA rallied under Ferries’ direction.

Smith Optics continued to excel and in 1989 Bob successfully sold the company. The commitment to innovation and performance continues today; Smith Optics owns significant market share worldwide for a diverse line of snow and motorcycle goggles, snow helmets and apparel.

Bob and Jean continued to travel and ski extensively, piloting multi-engine, jet or seaplane aircraft, seeing the world Bob’s way, which was always fast. His enthusiasm for life and absorbing information never ebbed as he and Jean raised their two sons, Drew and Colby, and their four grandchildren. Bob passed way at home April 18, 2012, of complications from heart surgery. A third son, Carter, preceded him in death in 1987.

A “powder skier’s powder skier” who thought outside the box, Bob Smith set a new standard with his goggle. Along with three other iconic innovators, Howard Head (metal ski), Ed Scott of Sun Valley (aluminum tapered pole) and Bob Lange (plastic boot), Smith is considered part of the “Big Four” who changed the direction and face of the U.S. ski industry. “He loved skiing so much that he created the goggle out of his own necessity,” Drew explained.” The rest of us just got to benefit from it.”  -Julie Gallagher



This article appears in the Winter 2012 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.