Doug Pfeiffer - PSIA founder, Skiing editor, freestyle pioneer

Passing Date

J. Douglas Pfeiffer, influential magazine editor and ski instructor, died in hospice in Manhattan on July 23, after a long illness. He was 96 years old.

(Photo by Bob Soden)

Pfeiffer began skiing at age four on the hills around Quebec City, and at 18 taught at Chalet Cochand in the Laurentians. He went on to teach at Mont Tremblant and Gray Rocks, and in 1947 twice passed the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance exam with top-of-class marks. In 1950 he was hired by Emile Allais to teach at Squaw Valley, where he was certified by the Far West Ski Instructors Association.

Beginning in 1951, Pfeiffer served several terms as president of FWSIA, while working as ski school director at Kratka Ridge, Moonridge and Snow Summit, all in California. He spent summers in college, studying psychology and methods of teaching. He earned a BA in Vocational Education and a California public school teacher’s credential, and taught fifth and sixth grades in San Bernardino for several years. He published his first book, Skiing With Pfeiffer, in 1958.

In 1961, as president of FWSIA, he played a key role, with Bill Lash, Willy Schaeffler, Paul Valar and others, in founding the Professional Ski Instructors of America, and served on its board of directors as treasurer for four years.

In 1963, Pfeiffer moved to Denver to become national editor of Skiing magazine, while working as ski school director at Loveland Ski Basin. In 1965 the magazine was purchased by Ziff-Davis Publishing and Pfeiffer moved to New York, where he served for thirteen years as editor-in-chief of the Ziff-Davis ski titles, supervising Skiing, Skiing Trade News, Skiing Area News, Skiing International Yearbook and Skiing Trade Show Daily. While Skiing promoted itself as the magazine “for the serious skier,” Pfeiffer’s emphasis was always on joy and fun.

That philosophy led Pfeiffer to take a leading role in sponsoring freestyle competitions, and a pioneering program of ski testing. Between 1965 and 1975, his syndicated radio program was heard nationwide, and in 1972 he worked as commentator for the nationally-televised “Killy Challenge” as well as co-hosting with Suzy Chafee a TV series called “The World of Skiing.” He published more books, including Skiing Simplified (1966) and Skiing Skills (1980).

Doug Pfeiffer was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1987 and to the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame in 2017. Beginning in 1993, he served on the Board of Directors of the International Skiing History Association, and received its Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism in 1999.

See a video interview with Doug Pfeiffer.



Doug was a role model, competitor, colleague and friend. Under his stewardship Skiing Magazine grew from a paid circulation of something like 100,000 to about 480,000 -- a spectacular success story. Along the way he pioneered ski teaching, ski testing and freestyle skiing as professional-level enterprises worthy of respect.

After helping PSIA get going, as a writer-editor Doug became a gadfly, continually pushing the organization to get out of its Arlberg/Wedeln rut and pay attention to real-world issues of helping people to have fun and ski efficiently in challenging terrain and snow conditions. He helped a lot of careers take off -- people like Sven Coomer, Wayne Wong, Tom LeRoi, Bob Salerno and Genia Fuller owe him a lot. 

For all his brilliance as an innovator and critic, Doug was a true free spirit and had trouble meeting deadlines. This led the suits at Skiing to dump him sometime around 1978. John Fry at SKI scooped him up and for a number of years SKI had the benefit of his editorial savvy and writing skills. It was a lot of fun having Doug around -- he was a genuine wit and scholar, and could be the life of a meeting or party. 

Godspeed, Doug. 


Thu, 07/27/2023 - 11:23 AM Permalink

Doug was very special to me. He and Ginny were so welcoming and solicitous to me and my wife, Corinne, on our many trips to Park City/Deer Valley for Veteran Ski Instructors Reunions in the early 2000s. He introduced us all around, took us to parties of skiing's movers and shakers and other friends, made sure we were teamed up with a group for skiing for the next day and skiing with us on many, many runs. He loved to do his "Pfeiffer Tuck," "Royale Christies" and the "Mambo."

When I mentioned to Doug that I couldn't believe how well Stein Eriksen skied (at Deer V.) even though he (Stein), at that time, was 80, Doug replied to me, "I'm older than Stein!" And Doug was skiing like a teenager at DV.

Back when I was writing my 2002 piece about Walter Foeger for Skiing Heritage, Morten Lund suggested I also nominate WF to the USNSHOF (as The Ski Hall was then called). I needed three letters of commendation. Mort suggested I contact Doug; Doug stepped right up with a fine letter supporting WF (this was how I first met Doug). Following that, in 2003 Mort asked me to write a piece on Emile Allais; Doug, of course, had left ski teaching at Grey Rocks in the Laurentians, and taken a bus to California to teach skiing for Allais at Squaw Valley in 1950. Again, Doug was extremely generous with his time and recollections of his time teaching with Emile.

The year I nominated John Fry and Doug to the Laurentian Ski Museum Hall of Fame, John gave a great acceptance speech, entitled "I Remember/Je me Souviens"; but Doug's brought the house down. He was witty, funny and historical. I used to call John the Dean of NA ski history; I often said that Doug was skiing history's Mark Twain (Twain having been a great raconteur, and entertainer.) 

Doug was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1987; the Canadian Ski Museum Hall of Fame in 2000; and the Laurentian Ski Museum's Hall of Fame in 2016.

J. Douglas Pfeiffer was born in Quebec City in 1927, taught skiing at Chalet Cochand in 1945 and Grey Rocks 1947-49, wrote alternative ski technique books and co-founded the PSIA in 1961 and Freestyle skiing in 1971. Doug was also editor-in-chief of Skiing magazine and wrote for SKI magazine.

Doug wrote a number of books including, "Skiing with Pfeiffer," in 1958; "Skiing Simplified" in 1970; co-wrote/ghost-wrote, "Skiing...The Killy Way," with/for J.C. Killy in 1971; and "Skiing Skills," in 1980 (copies of all of which I have, and treasure).

- Bob Soden, July 2023

Thu, 07/27/2023 - 6:19 PM Permalink