Curt Chase, 10th Mountain Division veteran, founding member of PSIA, ski instructor innovator and iconic Aspen/Snowmass ski school director for 22 years, died June 6, 2014, at his Silverthorne, Colorado home at age 91.
Born and raised in New Hampshire, he took up skiing two years before the advent of the rope tow. Inspired by new-boy-in-town Dick Durrance, Chase ended up racing for the UNH ski team. He served in the 10th Mountain Division as a survival-training instructor for the Army and saw active duty on Italy’s Mount Belvedere.
Postwar years were busy and ski oriented: He organized and headed up the first Aspen Ski Patrol; directed the ski school at Otsego Club, Michigan; taught mountaineering and survival for both the Air Force’s SAC and the Army; and was a ski instructor in Aspen, becoming certified and then chief examiner. Chase left for four years to direct his own ski school in Red Lodge, Montana. He was one of the seven founders of PSIA in 1962.
In 1963, he returned to Aspen as ski school director, starting an era of innovation with the novel concept that “we should ski with our feet.” He coached the American demo team at the 1968 InterSki Congress and set courses for international races. He wrote the Aspen Ski School manual and later co-published/edited the English edition of Georges Joubert’s book.
During his 22 total years at Aspen, he not only guided his pros but also asked them to weigh in on his concepts. He was ahead of his time in gender equality: Women were paid the same rate as the men, and made their own choices as to teaching children or adults.
“The accolades that really count are from the people who worked for me,” he recently said. “That was the greatest period of my life.” Chase took great pride in being the first “pure ski instructor” to be inducted to the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1989.
He received PSIA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, saying, “One thing I’m sure of, when I grow up, I want to be a ski instructor.” Chase is survived by his wife Betsy, children Sally, Heidi and Jimmy, five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, a brother and a sister. —Robin Smith