Jimmy Johnston, PSIA co-founder

Minneapolis judge was an influential founder of PSIA.

Jimmy Johnston, one of the founders of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, died August 10, 2006 at his home in Naples, Fla. He was 78, and had recently suffered a heart attack.

Johnston was a renaissance man, and a giant, to boot. At 6’2” and 250 pounds, he was a presence on the ski hill, on the golf course, and on the judicial bench. He served as a district judge in his native Minneapolis for 27 years.

Jimmy Johnston was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 13, 1928. His skiing roots go back to 1936, when at age 8 he skied on a golf course managed by his father. By the time he was in high school, he was the city slalom champion. Johnston entered law school in 1950 and became a trial judge.

While in school, he was asked by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to head its ski school program. The program grew from a modest beginning of 12 children and 86 adults to 1000 children and 4,000 adults taking one lesson a week for 10 weeks. Jimmy ran his program for 30 years, a job that included managing a municipally-owned rope-tow ski area. He helped to organize the Central Ski Lift and Tow Operators Association.

Johnston also wrote articles about skiing for the Minneapolis Star in 1959 and 1960. In the 1950s, he founded and edited the Minnesota-Wisconsin Ski News, a weekly publication. He was also responsible for originating the first 24 hour telephone snow report line in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

In 1961, he was one of six co-founders of the Professional Ski Instructors of America. He participated in writing the certification standards for the PSIA, and published the book Official American Ski Techniques.

Johnston served on PSIA’s board of directors for eleven years, as the organization’s secretary and eventually as its president. He helped to organize its participation in the tri-annual International Ski School Congress (INTERSKI), and was a member of the organizing committee when PSIA hosted the 1968 INTERSKI at Aspen, the first time this event was held in the United States.

Jimmy Johnston also served as a director of the Central Division of the United States Ski Association from 1957-1971. During that time, he held various offices and was a delegate to the USSA annual meetings.

An innovator in the legal community, Johnston pioneered the concept of community service as an alternate sentence for non-violent offenders. And he was a top amateur golfer, winning a club senior championship as recently as 1992. He was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1996.

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