Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Don Rhinehart: Renaissance man

Co-founder of PSIA dies

Express Staff Writer

Don Rhinehart

Don Rhinehart, 80, died of cancer Saturday, March 15. He was a veteran ski instructor, a Sun Valley Ski School supervisor and co-founder of the influential Professional Ski Instructors of America.

A native of White Bluffs, Wash., Rhinehart grew up working on his grandparents' ranch. In 1961, he moved to Sun Valley. Also that year, he and six others founded the Professional Ski Instructors of America.

"He was the reigning ski god here for about 100 years," former ski instructor David Stelling said. "He was an amazing guy."

As well as being a consummate skier and instructor, Rhinehart was also a father, husband, licensed outfitter, sailor, horseman and mule handler, hunter and fly-fisherman, among many other avocations and accomplishments.

Ketchum resident Chris Bender, a friend since 1967, was camping at Loon Lake near the Oregon coast with Don and his wife, Virginia, last summer.

"Even this last year while he was dying he would make us all laugh," she said. "He had great stories. He was absolutely such a diverse person, such a complete person. He could weld, he could ride a horse, fix cars, and then he would surprise you by quoting poetry and knowing jazz. And watching him fish and ski—Don made it look so easy. He was a very, very unique, multifaceted person. Literally, he could do anything. Men loved him and so did women. He was an honest, true friend. Quite the individual. I was very fortunate to have him as a friend all these years."

Another old friend, Spencer Browning, said, "He was an Old World gentleman, very few around any more. This was the place that raised him. I worked for him when I first got here in 1966 as a roofer. Never got the money to go home. His classic line was "the less you bet the more you win when you lose."

A memorial fund has been set up in Rhinehart's name by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation to annually award a scholarship to a deserving local skier, instructor or coach to attend the PSIA certification program. A celebration of Rhinehart's life is planned for this summer.

For a complete obituary, click here.

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