Racer, manufacturer, adventurer

Passing Date: 
Thursday, January 19, 2017

Jean-Christophe Froelicher-Schwarzenbach, one of the most colorful figures in California’s skiing scene, died on January 19, 2017, at age 98.

Chris was born in Quogue on Long Island. His father was a native New Yorker, and his mother was born in Winterthur, Switzerland. He attended the Browning School in Manhattan but at age 12, in 1930, moved with his family to Switzerland and earned his baccalaureate in Zurich in 1940.

As a skier, Chris was named to the U.S. Olympic Team for the 1940 Games but instead entered Cal Tech, where he earned masters degrees in science and aeronautical engineering. He won the 1940 Quebec Kandahar race, and in the spring of 1941 flew his own plane to Truckee and won the second running of Sugar Bowl’s Silver Belt (Friedl Pfeifer won it in 1940).

In the spring of 1942 Chris enlisted in the Navy, but wound up founding U.S. Propellers in Pasadena, doing war-critical work manufacturing laminated hardwood props mainly for the Army’s liaison aircraft. He also made skis for the 10th Mountain Division – and created the U.S. Star release binding designed by a Swiss schoolmate.

In 1944, he married Katharine Margaret "Kay" Loughran of Washington, D.C. They raised four children: Marguerite Liselotte, Joseph Christopher, Frederick Nicholas, and John Gerald. 

After the war Chris served a term as president of the Far West Ski Association. He continued to manufacture the Star binding until 1957. His aluminum laminate Permacam ski made no progress in competition with Head.

Kay died in 1957. A year later Chris married Katharine "Katie" Nevins Washburn, who had four children from her previous marriage: Edward Story Washburn, Susan Bass Washburn, Timothy Nevins Washburn, and John Lawrence Washburn. Together, Chris and Katie had twins: Alexander Richard and Robert Otto. That’s ten kids, if you’re counting.

With his son Fred, Chris operated Paschall International, selling parts and equipment for aircraft maintenance operations. He retired in 2003.

Later in life he trekked extensively in the Himalaya, and continued flying until age 84. He served as a trustee of Harvey Mudd College, on the board of Catalina Island School, as a commissioner of the Burbank- Glendale Pasadena Airport Authority, and as a member of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences.

He is survived by his loving wife of 37 years Katherine Bache Schwarzenbach, her daughters: Alexandra Trower Lindsey and Andrea Trower Scharff, his six children, and six grandchildren: Alexander Blake Schwarzenbach, Maximillian Schwarzenbach Smith, Alexander Robert Schwarzenbach, Sophia Ann Schwarzenbach, Christopher Schwarzenbach Plourde and Emery Maxime Schwarzenbach.  --Seth Masia

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