Remembering Hans Gmoser

I first wrote this letter on 1 November 2006, upon hearing that Hans Gmoser, the inventor of helicopter skiing, had died. I sent this letter to Ski magazine, but it was not selected for publication. See also For the Love of Skiing.     +     +


Dear Ski Magazine Editor,

Your memorial for Hans Gmoser in the November 2006 issue hit me in the gut, even though I didn’t know him. However, in December of 1979, give or take a year, I took a late-night flight from Calgary to Vancouver over his famed backcountry slopes. Sometime into the flight, I noticed that the man next to me (in coach class) was signing a stack of Christmas cards showing a skier in untracked powder. Then I noticed how he was signing his name—Hans Gmoser. I was just 17, give or take a year, and for a long time I couldn’t muster the courage to speak to him, nor to get out my copy of the latest issue of Ski Canada magazine, which had an article about him—and that I’d been reading in the airport while waiting to board the plane. But when he finished signing the cards, I finally said that I had noticed his name as he was signing. “Oh, my scribble?” I think he said, in his Austrian accent, a little self-consciously. We talked for maybe ten minutes about skiing, and how I was smitten after skiing just two or three winters, there in Alberta. After ten minutes, he politely said he needed to get some sleep. When the plane landed, I said it was a pleasure to meet him, and he said “See you in the mountains.” And no, he never gave me a free week of heliskiing, but he did give me a dream—that someday I might spend a week in the Bugaboos, a week in the paradise that he brought from heaven to earth. Thank you for remembering him.

Sincerely,

Michael Dylan Welch
Sammamish, Washington