IT’S THE OLD “BEND ZE KNEES” weekend here in Mount Washington Valley, an area once known as the Eastern Slope Region of New Hampshire and which in 1939 became home to Austrian skimeister Hannes Schneider when he arrived with his family to teach skiing at Cranmore.
“Bend ze knees” was the tip that Hannes used to give his pupils to give them better balance when they made their way down the slopes. It was Schneider who realized that by bending your nees and skiing in a crouch — in his Arlberg method — you not only got better control, you skied faster, too.
So, as the cover story in this edition details, wintersports lovers this weekend are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Schneider family’s arrival in North Conway on Feb. 11, 1939, with events at the 23rd annual Schneider Meister Cup.
In addition to the oompah music, the vintage ski clothing parade and silent auction, it’s going to be nice to see the plaque unveiled in memory of late Cranmore skimeister/past owner Herbert Schneider (1920-2012), who did so much to promote skiing in the valley, especially through the Eastern Slope Ski Club’s Junior Program.
On a personal note, I thank Herbert for patiently answering so many of my ski history questions over the years — not only here, but in spring 2005, when friend Jeff Leich of the New England Ski Museum and I were invited to stay with Herbert and son Christoph at their guesthouse in St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria, during a conference in 2005 that was being presented on the 50th anniversary of Hannes Schneider’s death.
Jeff and I were among the speakers, along with the NESM ski historian Dr. E John B. Allen and veteran ski writer Mort Lund.
As those of us who have been lucky enough to visit St. Anton, it’s wonderful to see the ties between our two communities. As a ski historian, getting to go there was reward enough — to get to go with Herbert was like spending time with royalty.
We also were given tours of Stuben, Hannes’ birthplace, and of young historian Christof Thony's museum in a neighboring village. A highlight was when Christoph led Jeff and I on a ski tour from St. Anton through St. Christoph over to Stuben for a lunch on the deck.
We lost Herbert in 2012, but his family continues his and his father Hannes’ legacy, here in the valley and in St. Anton, where both Hannes and Christoph and wife Hannah Sullivan operate guest houses during ski season.
So, here’s to Herbert “Zip” Schneider, the kind-hearted man who with Steve Sherlock started the Local Yokel series in 1972 (now Mountain Meisters) and after whom Cranmore's Zip’s Pub is named.
The plaque is to be dedicated at the summit in spring, a companion piece to the statue of Hannes Schneider at the base of Cranmore created in 1989 by sculptor Ed Materson.
In the meantime, as you race in the Schneider Cup or throughout the season, whether in Mountain Meisters or free-skiing, remember to “bend ze knees.”
SKI WRITERS: Iseult Devlin and Roger Lohr of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association put together a press visit for ski journalists to Mount Washington Valley this week, with Karen Cummings and I joining the writers at the New England Ski Museum’s Eastern Slope Branch Thursday nigh.
The folllowing day, they were due to go to Great Glen Trails for a SnowCoach tour Friday morning up Mount Washington, followed by lunch at the Glen House Hotel with former Olympian Sue Wemyss, Great Glen’s ski school director.
We join NESM's Leich in saying welcome to all our fellow NASJA writers, who help to keep the spirit of skiing alive.
AS PART OF THE SCHNEIDER Cup events, don’t forget there will be a ski talk at the Eastern Slope Inn Sunday at 9 a.m. by New England Lost Ski Areas Project founder Jeremy Davis on the lost ski areas of the Berkshires, which is the topic of his latest book.
Also on Sunday, Bretton Woods Cross Country Center is presenting the NESM’s Nordic Cross Country Marathon. Brian Fowler is chief of race. For more, go to newenglandskimuseum.org/events/bretton-woods-nordic-marathon.
THE 30TH ANNUAL Chocolate Fest at the member establishments of the MWV Ski Touring and Snowshoeing Association, despite the snow and mixed precipitation last Sunday, was a success, although the day’s weather did lead perhaps more people to opt for the shuttle to go from stop to stop.
“It was not a record, but it was pretty good, certainly up there with some of our better years,” said Cort Hansen, director of the non-profit ski touring center.
“We really appreciate all the support, because it is a major fundraiser for us and we couldn’t operate without it,” he added.
I stopped by the Kennett Key Club’s silent auction at the 1785 during the festival Sunday, and the place was packed.
I also checked out Adventure Suites, where they were giving tours of their themed rooms, as well as the scary Haunted Castle.
Young Liam Van Rossum — son of Reid and Kathleen Van Rossum and grandson of the Shannon Door’s Tom and Tess Mulkern — and bandmates were having fun in the lobby, entertaining the chocolate-loving skiers, snowshoers and shuttle bus riders with their tunes.
CONWAY SEAT COVER, ADIEU: Joe Webb stopped by our offices recently to announce the sad news that one of the longest participating teams — Conway Seat Cover — is not racing in Meisters this year, and he felt the team’s passing was worthy of recognition.
Started by John Carey of the old Phase 2 Diner (now home to North Conway Village’s Bangkok Cafe) in the late 1980s, Roger Bernhardt of Bernhardt Construction then took over management and remained in charge until Joe (owner of Conway Seat Cover) took over during the 1993-94 season.
The team was, for the next 25 years, well-represented and had more than its share of success and collected many team and individual awards.
Joe said recruitment was an ongoing effort, which resulted in a wide range of talent. We can’t list everyone who was a part of the team, but a few were Jack Baltz, Video Bob Bernhardt, Dave Clancy, Mary Collins and Bill Fabrizio.
“Thank you to all that shared their time!” Joe wrote us in an email.
IN HAPPY BIRTHDAYS this week we salute one and all, including: the Tamworth Outing Club’s Sheldon Perry, who will celebrate his big 70th on snow-covered Lake Chocorua for the rescheduled New England Sled Dog Club races; and former Conway Fire Chief Larry Wade (his 60th), also today; Paula Sullivan Jones and Tom Rebmann (3-3); Melissa LaRoche and North Country Fair’s community-minded Brian Smith (3-4); Minuteman Press’ Lori Dunn (3-5); musician Robin Lee and Jeff Perry (3-6); and a bevy of friends on March 8, including WMWV weekend guy and longtime buddy Rob Burbank (the big 59-again); and also Roy “the Skiing DJ” Prescott; his mom, who is turning 85; Lydia Lansing, Victoria Murphy, Laurie Savoy, former Conway Town Clerk John Stevens and all other Pisceans out there.
SEE YOU AT the Schneider Cup, the White Mountain Waldorf School Winter Carnival today and the Lake Chocorua sled dog races!