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President Gerald R. Ford, ski enthusiast

Passing Date: 
Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Athlete, Congressman, President, Skier and First Citizen of Vail

President Gerald R. Ford, was born in Nebraska but grew up in Grand Rapids and worked his way through the University of Michigan. A high school football star, he was an All-American center on the Michigan team, which won the national championship in 1932, and he was named MVP after the Minnesota game in 1933. After receiving his undergraduate degree in economics and political science, Ford took a job as assistant football and boxing coach at Yale. He began skiing in New England in 1939, and attended Yale University Law School, graduating in 1941.

Ford served in the United States Navy for four years during World War II, and was anti-aircraft officer on the USS Monterey, an aircraft carrier, during the disastrous typhoon of December 1944. He was decorated for gallantry after leading the firefighting crew that saved the ship when a fire broke out on the hangar deck during the storm. After a brief stint practicing law in Grand Rapids, Ford was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1948.

Ford began bringing his family to Vail in 1968, and soon bought a home there. With a footballer's tender knees, he stayed on groomed terrain, but skied aggressively enough to fall hard occassionally. He was also an eager golfer, with a swing that earned him a reputation as a powerful driver on Vail's golf courses.

Gerald R. Ford served as 38th President of the United States, from August 9, 1974 to January, 1975. Thereafter he began to spend more time in Vail, and built a house alongside the Strawberry Lift at Beaver Creek in 1979. He helped to promote a variety of charities around the valley, creating the Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament that lured top golf professionals from around the country to come to Colorado, promoting Vail not only as a great winter destination but summer as well. This created an opportunity to raise funds that would be invested into the Vail community. In 1982 he established the Ford Cup, the ski race that eventually became the American Ski Classic. Ford continued to race in celebrity events until his knees forced retirement from the sport in 1984.

Associated with the American Enterprise Institute, in 1982 President Ford established the AEI World Forum which he hosted annually in Vail/Beaver Creek, Colorado. This is an international gathering of former and current world leaders and business executives to discuss political and business policies impacting current issues. Ford was also responsible for raising successfully funds to build the Ford Amphitheater and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, both of which offer visitors to and residents of the State of Colorado a wonderful experience.

Among the many contributions Ford made to the sport of skiing was his role in bringing two World Alpine Ski Championships to the State of Colorado. It was a major coup for the area to be awarded the event, giving Colorado a chance to promote ski racing in this country by taking one of the sport's preeminent events, putting it in the forefront of national attention and showing the world the U.S. can hold a great ski race, twice in a ten year period. Ford served on the board of the Vail Valley Foundation for over twenty years.

Ford had many friends in the Vail community and in the ski industry. During his presidency he was often photographed with his Vermont-built Rossignol skis, accompanied by Vail execs, patrollers and skiing Secret Service agents.

Gerald R. Ford died Dec. 27, 2006 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.        

 

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