Aspen Interski Anniversary Celebrates 50 Years of U.S. Innovation

PSIA-AASI members from across the country gathered in Aspen Friday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Interski, the only time the international snowsports instructors congress has been held on U.S. snow.

1968 PSIA Team alumni joined current and former Team members and educational leaders for a day of touring the original 1968 demonstration slope (where there is a plaque honoring the 1968 Team), impromptu synchronized skiing demonstrations and interviews, followed by a reception with movies and presentations at Aspen’s Limelight Hotel.

The 1968 Interski represents a benchmark for the development of U.S. snowsports instruction. The event proved to the world that PSIA was serious about developing its own distinct style of teaching, and set the stage for National Team members to act as innovators for the association, promoting and assisting with the development of PSIA-AASI education materials, programs, and activities at all levels.

While honoring the 1968 Team members who attended the event, including George Ingham, Scooter LaCouter, Max Lundberg, Steve Morrow, Ken Oakes, Dennis Raedeke, Lavelle Saier, Al Voltz, and Jean Weiss – as well as Betsy and Jimmy Chase, the wife and son of 1968 Team Coach and PSIA Co-Founder Curt Chase – PSIA-AASI Chairman of the Board Ed Younglove noted that after the Aspen Interski, the Teams became, “The heart and soul of the organization and have historically driven both technical and teaching advancements.”

“It has been my personal observation that Interski has often served to provide the impetus for the Team’s creativity,” Younglove said. “Watching the film from ’68 and the team’s use of what were or what became the Center Line milestones reminded me of that. The last Interski in Ushuaia, for which the Team developed The Learning Connection, is a good example of how the Team has continued to drive our education content.”

For their part, 1968 Team members remembered what is was like to come together from PSIA’s (at the time) six divisions, and begin building a unified, national message to share with the world.

“I was introduced to Steve (Morrow), and told to go out and learn to ski in sync together,” said Ken Oakes. “We spent weeks learning how to turn at the same time and same speed, how to start and stop together, and tricking each other just to make sure we were both paying attention on the hill.”

LaCouter remembers that Curt Chase and fellow PSIA Co-Founder Paul Valar decided that the U.S. Team presentation would focus on Final Forms, a series of compulsory snowplows, sideslips, and stem christies that, by the 1975 Interski in Czechoslovakia would be replaced by the Skills Concept, a breakthrough way of teaching that focused on actual skiing rather than repetitive drills.

“Initially, we were using bits and pieces of everyone else’s technique, and it wasn’t until later, with the Skills Concept, that we developed a way of teaching that was really all our own,” said LaCouter. “We all felt somewhat restricted by the way we skied in 1968, which helped set the groundwork for the breakthrough that was to come.”

Team members spent as much as a month in Aspen preparing for the event. Dennis Raedeke, who was representing the Central Division, said that he, PSIA Co-founder Jimmy Johnston, and their wives, Cam and Andrea, were in town so long that the women got jobs at the Aspen theater as ushers and saw some movies 15 times in a row.

“The whole event was like a coming-out party for U.S. instruction,” Raedeke said. “We had always heard about the kings of ski technique like Stefan Kruckenhauser (of Austria) and Georges Jouberts. It was almost like a graduation party to have them over here.”

Raedeke, who also worked as the technician and representative for Rosemount boots, the official boot of the U.S. Team at Aspen, became owner of Wild Mountain ski area and says he pretty much hung up his skis to focus on the skiing business after 1968. LaCouter is still teaching at Aspen, while Ingham, who also skis Aspen, spent eight years in Chamonix gaining certification in the French Ski School.

All of them are still passionate about snowsports. And even though many of the 1968 members had not seen each other in 20 years, according to Oakes, being reunited at Aspen this week, “Felt like a high school reunion. There were some big hugs, and then we just picked up where we left off a few years ago.”

Listen to a PSIA-AASI First Chair Podcast from the event with Max Lundberg and his son, former PSIA Alpine Team member Dave Lundberg, right here.

You can also watch video from the event on The Matrix, here.

Look for more coverage of the event, and of the history of PSIA-AASI at Interski, in the Fall 2018 issue of 32 Degrees.

- Peter Kray

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