WPI Wire, Vol. 10, No. 2 - Summer 1996

Notes from the slopes

Russ Smith '45 took up skiing at the age of 55. Now 72, he typically skis at least 100 days each season and competes in 25 to 30 races a year. He's often spotted on the slopes at the Cockaigne Ski Area in Cherry Creek, N.Y. (His photo is on the cover of the brochure.) Smith retired from General Electric 10 years ago. He keeps busy with consulting and with "relaxing" pursuits such as flying lessons and hot-air ballooning. As for his future plans:

"I have absolutely no intention of moving to Florida until they can guarantee good snow."

Smith made news last winter when he won top rankings in the Budweiser Challenge NASTAR ski racing program, placing first among skiers aged 70 to 79 in Pennsylvania, and seventh in his age group nationally. (NASTAR stands for National Standard Race, a program that ranks amateur racers against times posted by members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team.) The ensuing publicity has made him quite the media mogul, with coverage in the local papers, radio slots, product endorsements, movie offers...well, not quite, but he's hopeful.

We received the following communique from the silver-haired sensation of the slalom course.

North East, Pa.
March 1996

Dear Friends,

In 1812 Oliver Hazard Perry came to Erie, Pa., and built his fleet here for the famous battle of Lake Erie. You know what? Not much has happened here since.

A week or so ago, the reporters for the Erie Times-News were sitting around wondering what to report in a news oasis, when one of them suggested following up on a routine news release from Budweiser about an amateur ski-racing program. This appealed to the business manager, who welcomed Budweiser's business, and one of the reporters apparently knew how to spell "Smith," so a big article in the Sunday paper was the result.

Wow! The phone has been in continuous use. TV slots, radio (you remember, that's TV with the picture tube blown), movie shorts, newspaper signings, Girl Scouts clamoring for autographs when they should be out selling cookies, Tops wanting pix to start a ski series with their bubblegum cards. Last night I got a call from the Hemorrhoid Foundation. (I never knew there was a Hemorrhoid Foundation!)

I didn't realize being rich and famous could be such a drag.

Excessive modesty is not one of my failings.

I have purchased several dozen copies of the Times. I don't want my friends to go without.

In the photo, I am wearing a speed suit. Yes, it is aerodynamic, but it also requires at least 15 minutes to go to the bathroom. It is also cold, even with thermal underwear underneath. It may buy you half a second, and when you're really into racing, people kill for half a second. Don't buy one unless you are really serious.

My other racing suggestions:

As ever,

Russ Smith

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Last modified: Thu Jun 10 10:23:56 EDT 1999