Paul Valar, ski technique authority

Passing Date: 
Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Paul S. Valar, 87, pioneer instructor

Swiss racer, mountain guide was a force
in New Hampshire skiing from 1950 onward.

Franconia, N.H. -- Paul S. Valar, 87, skied across the finish line on December 25, 2007, dying as a result of complications from advanced prostate cancer.

For the ski industry, Paul was a pioneer and leader in ski instruction on the local, national, and international level. From the 1940s to the 1980s, he was a founding force and guiding light in directing several NH ski schools, creating the Professional Ski Instructors of America, developing the Official American Ski Technique, and establishing the New England Ski Museum.

For his family and friends, Paul was a devoted and loyal husband, father, and companion. He was a masterful storyteller, and a man of firmly held convictions. A lover of good food, good wine, and good cheer, all could always be found in good measure in his company.

Paul was born on August 15, 1920 in Davos, Switzerland, to Christian and Ursula (Meier) Valar, who were members of a farming family that had resided in Davos since 1625. Davos was one of the incubators of modern skiing, so Paul decided to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a certified Swiss ski instructor and mountain guide, goals he achieved in the 1940s. In order to communicate with foreign clients, Paul studied languages, becoming fluent in German, Italian, French and English.

Paul had a very successful ski racing career and from 1943 through 1948 was a member of the Swiss National Alpine Ski Team. In 1945, he placed second in both the Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen and the International downhill in Zermatt, Switzerland. He competed on behalf of the Swiss Army and taught skiing and rock climbing to Swiss Army Mountain brigade troops. Paul was also talented in track and field. In 1946, he became the decathlon champion for the State of Graubunden.

Paul first visited the United States in 1947 when the Swiss National Ski Team was invited to compete in the U.S. National Ski Championships in Ogden, Utah. There he placed second in both the downhill and the combined, but of greater importance, he met a beautiful Austrian-born member of the U.S. National Ski Team, Paula Kann of North Conway, NH. Paul and Paula courted by correspondence, and were reunited when Paula competed in the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Paul was a member of the 1948 Swiss Olympic Ski Team but was precluded from competing by a training injury. In 1949, Paul coached the men’s Swiss National Ski Team, and then decided to follow his heart to the United States.

Paul and Paula were married on June 10, 1950. During their incredible partnership, Paul and Paula made a life together doing what they loved most: skiing and farming. They were both certified ski instructors and examiners for the United States Eastern Amateur Ski Association, which became Professional Ski Instructors of America (P.S.I.A.) - East. Paul founded the Franconia Ski School at Cannon Mountain, and he and Paula also ran the ski schools at the Mittersill and Mt. Sunapee ski areas in New Hampshire through the 1970’s. Between 1959 and 1969, Paul helped start the Franconia Ski Club’s junior racing program by bringing five former members of the Swiss National Ski Team to Cannon Mountain to coach.

The strength of their partnership afforded Paul the time to become a leading proponent for and one of the seven incorporators of P.S.I.A. in Whitefish, Montana in 1961. He was elected founding Vice President and Chair of the Technical Committee, serving for 10 years. In 1963 he was one of the three co-authors of “The Official American Ski Technique,” which laid out the first unified ski teaching technique utilized throughout the United States, thus making it much easier for the American public to learn skiing. Previously, each ski school taught the technique preferred by its director, many of whom were from European countries. He represented P.S.I.A. at five international Interski meetings and served on Interski’s Board.

In 1977, Paul became the founding President of the New England Ski Museum. For his manifold contributions to the sport of skiing, Paul was honored with lifetime membership in P.S.I.A. in 1974, and elected to the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1985.

Between ski seasons, Paul and Paula tended their 265-acre dairy farm in East Wallingford, VT. For 25 years, they and their four daughters cherished the farm as a welcome respite from their hectic ski industry life.

Paul was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 51 years, Paula Kann Valar, and two brothers, Hans Valar and Christian Valar. He is survived by: four daughters -- Stefanie B. Valar and her husband, Edward Hauck of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Victoria Valar of Elizabeth, Colorado; Pia Valar of Jackson, Wyoming; and Christina Valar Breen and her husband, Yellow Light Breen of Holden, Maine; and three grandchildren, Annina, Cannon and Quinn Paul Valar Breen. Paul is also survived by family in Davos, Switzerland: a sister, Maria (Valar) Oberrauch; a sister-in-law, Klara Valar; a niece, Ursula Valar; and nephews, Paul Valar, his wife, Barbara and their children, Oliver and Laura; and Hans-Jorg Valar, his wife, Jeannette, and their children, Zoe and Gregory.

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