Bobbie Burns - Ski Maker, Hotdogging Pioneer

Passing Date

Bobbie Burns, an early innovator of hot-dog skiing who later launched The Ski Co., died April 26 of complications from Alzheimer's. He was 86.

Born in Athol, Idaho, Burns spent much of his childhood in Ogden, Utah. He didn’t ski as a child and focused on ballet, gymnastics and diving. These skills became handy as he developed his dynamic free-skiing techniques in his early 20s when he started skiing at Snowbasin, Utah, and later in Sun Valley, Idaho.

A born contrarian, Burns battled against the rigid technique protocols of the era. He positioned himself far back on his skis, arms high overhead, nearly airborne as he bounded through a mogul field. He got noticed.

Filmmaker Dick Barrymore featured him in The K2 Performers, among other movies. To continue working in the ski industry he took a job tuning skis for the Chuck Ferries-led women’s U.S. Ski Team in the mid- and late-1960s. When Ferries moved on to become vice president/marketing at K2 on Vashon Island, Washington, Burns followed in 1968, while also earning his master’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Washington.

The K2 design team dissected the successful race skis of the era time, particularly the Dynamic VR17. Burns figured out how to do fiberglass layups in existing K2 molds to improve the race skis. Marilyn Cochran won the U.S.’s first World Cup discipline title and Spider Sabich collected a pair of World Pro Skiing tour titles in 1971 and 1972 on skis Burns built.

In 1974, Burns departed K2 and set out on his own in Sun Valley. In partnership with John Lovett, and with financing from investors in Sun Valley and Salt Lake City, he created The Ski. Its color-block graphic (with no brand name) remains as one of the most identifiable topsheets in the history of the sport. He sold The Ski in the mid-1980s and launched several successful ski-apparel lines.

Burns was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2020.