Ski shrine elects
James Curran to be
engineer who revolutionized the sport of skiing with his invention of the
chairlift will be inducted posthumously into the National Ski Hall of Fame
Saturday, Sept. 29.
native James Michael Curran, who died in 1968 at age 65, heads up the list
of six prominent ski industry figures who will be honored during gala
events at the Ishpeming, Mich. ski shrine Saturday.
working as a bridge engineer for Union Pacific Railroad in 1936 when he
adapted his own design for a banana conveyor system and sketched out what
became the first chairlift system.
installed at Union Pacificís Sun Valley ski resort when it first opened
Hall of Fameís press release about the new inductees said, "Curran
revolutionized the sport of skiing by designing an easy, moderately
inexpensive method for skiers to ascend the mountain.
chairlift went on to become the workhorse of the ski industry, enjoyed by
millions of skiers for the next 60 years. His contribution to the sport
and industry of skiing has been enormous, although mostly
seven children of Irish immigrants, Curran didnít go to college, but he
attended night school while working in Omaha as an ironworker/draftsman,
and eventually passed the exam to become a professional engineer.
Curranís first jobs was designing an aerial conveyor system for hauling
and loading a continuous flow of bananas from loading docks of United
Fruit to the fruit-boat holds in Honduras.
working as a bridge engineer for Union Pacific, Curran and colleagues
received an order from UPRR president Averell Harriman. In the mid-1930s
Harriman was creating Americaís first destination ski resort near
wanted UPRR engineers "to develop a method of lifting skiers 2,000
feet above the valley floor to the mountains east of Trail Creek."
remembered the banana conveyor system he had designed in Honduras and
suggested to senior engineers a way to refit the banana hooks with chairs.
Although initially rejected, his idea of a continuously-moving, mono-cable
fixed-grip chairlift took hold.
inductees are Dodie Post Gann, also with Sun Valley connections, plus
Charles Gibson, K2 Ski Company founder Bill Kirschner, Austrian ski racer
and current Jackson Hole director of skiing Josef "Pepi"
Stiegler and ski writer Michael Strauss.
Gann was raised in Reno and became the first woman elected to the Univ. of
Nevada-Reno Hall of Fame. The top junior alpine ski racer in the Far West
by 1940, Dodie Post trained in Sun Valley in 1941-42 and won many races.
team captain of the 1948 Olympic team, although she broke her ankle during
training at St. Moritz, Switz. In 1956, she became team manager of the
Womenís Olympic Team that competed at Cortina, Italy.