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Letters: Billy Fiske, Action Hero; Inside the Snow Domes



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Letters: Billy Fiske, Action Hero; Inside the Snow Domes

RAF Flying Officer Billy Fiske

John Allen did a great job with “What Might Have Been” (March-April 2021), describing the possible mega-resort up at Ashcroft instead of down where we ski today in Aspen. In characterizing Billy Fiske, the spark plug behind the proposed development, I would offer a few details. Fiske produced Hopalong Cassidy movies and was an adventurous flyer known for his island-hopping flights across the Pacific. When he saw the above-treeline terrain in Joe Flynn’s photographs, he flew into Glenwood Springs to take a look. There was no airfield, so he picked a field and landed but had to pay the local power company to drop the power lines so he could take off. Fiske was a figure in British Society, reportedly arriving at the RAF airdrome, white scarf flying in his Bentley convertible, to fight in the Battle of Britain. In those early days of World War II, there were more pilots than Hurricane planes. Knowing their scarcity, Fiske coaxed his shot-up plane back to the field, landing despite a cockpit fire that was roasting him alive. He was the first American to be officially killed in action fighting the Germans. Just the year before in Colorado, he and Ted Ryan, his partner in the Highland Bavarian Company, purchased the Ashcroft ghost town and thousands of adjoining acres. John refers to my 1981 interview with Ryan that I featured in the film Legends of American Skiing. Without Fiske, the plans for the mega-resort fizzled. HBC’s surviving partner, Ted Ryan, passed Ashcroft and all the surrounding land to the U.S. Forest Service.

Rick Moulton
Chairman, ISHA Board of Directors
Huntington, Vermont

Painting of Fiske's final landing by John Howard Worsley/Tangmere Military Aviation Museum.

Inside the Domes

Patrick Thorne’s piece on indoor skiing (May-June 2021) was informative but didn’t address a key question: What’s the skiing like? Fifteen years ago, I did an October tour of what I called the Rhenish Alps: Four ski domes in four days in Germany, France and the Netherlands. The goal was to test a new ski design on winter snow, something unavailable in either hemisphere at that time of year. We skied Amnéville, Neuss, Bottrop and Landgraaf and found edgeable firm surfaces—not ice but not packed powder. What impressed me most were the buses parked outside each venue, transporting ski-club kids and coaches for off-season slalom training. The terrain isn’t steep enough for FIS-level slalom racing, but the snow surface was appropriate. Under the mercury-vapor lamps, it felt like night skiing. Sounds echoed off the walls and roof. 

Seth Masia
President, ISHA
Paonia, Colorado

Skiing inside the Alpincenter Bottrop: Youtube video


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