The 1950-60’s marketing director for Pan-American Airways also invented the ski-training, balancing board called the Bongo Board. In New York City one afternoon, Stan Washburn suggested that I ride Pan-American Airlines around the world and take my skis along and call my next movie “Around the World On Skis.”
Stan backed up his offer with two free coach tickets, so all I had to lose was about a month of my life. With all of my ski equipment, my camera gear, tripod and wife, I set off from Los Angeles to Tokyo.
Not speaking a single word of Japanese and without a translator, we somehow managed to get to Shiga Heights. This was before double chairlifts had appeared in Japan and before snow grooming. Almost every skier I filmed had a small rucksack that contained their lunch and a round-trip, train ticket back to Tokyo.
On the scale of 1 to 10, I would give my cinematic efforts in Japan a 3 or 4 at best. I spent a lot of those early years shooting from the hip without doing sufficient background checks on the ski resorts or distances I would have to travel to reach the resort.
After Shiga Heights, we spent two days in Hong Kong and then headed to Munich, Germany. Landing in Munich, my next job was to drive to Grindelwald, Switzerland.
Luck was on my side again, because that was the first time I saw Art Furrer. If I could credit anyone for inventing ballet and trick skiing, it would be Art. He truly paved the way for all the great skiers who later became the freestyle movement.
I filmed Art a lot, set against the background of the fantastic north face of the Eiger, a sheer granite wall that is more than 9,000 vertical feet high. Dozens of climbers have died trying to climb that face.
Across the valley from Grindelwald is Murren. That part of ski country in is probably the most beautiful ski country in the world and access to the fantastic Swiss national railroad makes it easy to get to and well worth marking on your to-do list of places to visit during your skiing career.
By the time I spent three or four days filming Art Furrer, I had made up some ground that I lost by not getting good ski action in Japan at Shiga Heights. In those days the primary marketing tool for my feature-length ski films were posters. Naturally, that year the title of the film was “Around the World on Skis.”
As I look at that poster today, I’m reminded that it was taken by Tom Kelly, who made Marilyn Monroe famous by taking her first nude photograph. The poster is of me standing in a sheepskin leather coat, with a globe of the world on a tripod, and I’m holding a pair of red Hart skis.
Those were the good old days when I selected the resorts to film, drove, flew or rode a bus or a train to get there and film, then come home and spend the summer editing the film, writing the script and setting it to music.
In October, I would say goodbye to the family and then narrate every film presentation, live on the stage, in about 100 different cities.
I was really lucky because I got to ski at and film many mountains before they became ski resorts, full of condominiums.
As the number of people attending my movies increased, more resorts wanted our company to document their slopes and drive skiers no matter where they were around the world.