Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Famed ski instructor Emile Allais dies at 100

Frenchman taught Cary Grant and Brigitte Bardot in Sun Valley

Express Staff Writer

Emile Allais, known as the “father of modern skiing,” developed the practice of racing with skis parallel to one another. Photo courtesy of Sun Valley Co.

Famed ski instructor and industry pioneer Emile Allais died Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Sallanches, in the French Alps. He was 100. 

The New York Times reported Sunday that Jean-Claude Killy, the French skier who dominated ski racing in the late 1960s, hailed Allais as “the father of modern skiing.”

Allais is credited with pioneering a new style of ski racing—parallel skiing—in the 1930s. In 1934, he became the first French skier to win a major event, placing first in the combined event—a downhill run and two slalom runs—at the Hahnenkamm race at Kitzbühel, Austria.

In the 1937 world championships, Allais won gold medals in the downhill, slalom and combined, becoming the first man to win both the downhill and slalom races in a major championship. That year and the next, he was the world’s all-around champion skier, the first man to hold the title in successive years, the Times reported.

In 1948-49 at Sun Valley, Allais taught movie stars Cary Grant and Brigitte Bardot, as well as film producer Darryl Zanuck. He went on to teach at many other American resorts and established the Ecole de Ski Français, the largest ski school in the world.

According to the British newspaper The Telegraph, Allais won the world championship on four occasions, as well as a bronze medal at the 1936 Winter Olympics at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where he met Adolph Hitler. 

“He [Hitler] came to congratulate me after the Garmisch race and we shook hands,” Allais recalled. “He looked harmless enough. When I realized later who he really was, it was a strange feeling.”

The Telegraph published a photograph on Sunday of Allais standing at attention on the 1936 Olympic winner’s podium. The competitors to his left and right are giving Nazi salutes.

Both of Emile Allais’s daughters, Karen and Kathleen, skied regularly for the French national team. Kathleen competed in the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.

At 90, Allais broke his shoulder in a collision with a snowboarder. But he returned to the slopes after recovering, and kept skiing into his late 90s at Megève in France, sometimes with his grandchildren.

Tony Evans:

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