Hall of Famer
Doug Pfeiffer, ski instructor, ski technician, journalist and tireless advocate for the sport is one of the legends of modern alpine skiing. Born in 1927 in Quebec City, he began his early skiing career as an instructor under the direction of other ski legends, first at the renowned Chalet Cochand, Quebec, in 1945. He then moved on to John Fripp’s ski school at Mont Tremblant in 1946, and in 1947 he earned his coveted ski instructor certification with Real Charette at the Snow Eagles Ski School, at Grey Rocks Inn, Sainte Jovite, Quebec.
In 1950, he moved to Squaw Valley, California, to apprentice with the famed French skiing innovator, Emile Allais, the originator of the “pure parallel” skiing method. Thee years later he was appointed co-director of the ski school at the developing Snow Summit ski resort, near Los Angeles. Always an avid student of skiing technique and an innovative stylist, his interest in Dr. Fritz Reuel’s book “Possibilities in Skiing”, published in 1929, contributed to his continued experimentation with technique and the emergence of certain freestyle moves still in use today. His accumulated knowledge was eventually published in 1958 as “Skiing with Pfeiffer”, described as “…a ground breaking how-to-ski book…” with an illustrated chapter on freestyle skiing stunts.
Doug remained at the Snow Summit resort for 10 years, coaching many young aspiring ski racers, several of whom went on to become members of the U.S. national and olympic ski teams. He changed career direction completely in 1963, when he became national editor of the influential Skiing magazine and three years later, editor-in-chief, along with three associated ski publications. He was a prolific writer – many of his articles controversial – but his influence led to changes that he advocated for, all for the greater good of the sport. Under his leadership, the circulation of Skiing increased from 100,000 to 480,000.
A passionate and tireless advocate of the sport, Doug was an innovator, from open-ended radio interviews distributed to nearly 500 radio stations, to publicizing the sport in a television series of “how to ski” programs, and as a featured speaker at annual ski show events throughout the United States. By 1972, he was so well recognized that he was chosen to commentate on the popular and nationally televised “Killy Challenge” series.
The sport received another boost in public awareness when he conceptualized and developed freestyle skiing competition which, over a three-year period, was to transform the sport. It was a concept born for television viewing with lucrative spin-off effects for the skiing industry as a whole. Such was his influence, he was once described as “the voice of skiing”.
Nobody perhaps could have expressed Doug Pfeiffer’s contribution to the sport better than his friend, Ben Rinaldo, who said, “Few people in the world of skiing, perhaps other than Sir Arnold Lunn, can claim to have invented a whole new way of expressing and satisfying a …creative human drive.”
His exploits may have overshadowed his contribution to other aspects of the sport notably, to its organization. He was a founding director of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) in 1961, serving as a director of that influential body until 1966. Earlier, from 1952 until the formation of the PSIA, he was president and examiner for the Far West Ski Instructors Association, for which he restructured the certification standards and contributed towards national recognition of the certification.
In 1987, he was inducted into the US National Ski Hall of Fame and, in 1998, in its 50th Anniversary issue, Skiing credited him with being one of the 25 most influential people in the sport in the previous half-century.
Note: The information gathered here is compiled from a number of sources; it may not be inclusive of all accomplishments. Copyright © 2023, Canadian Ski Museum. For Personal/Educational use only. All Rights Reserved.
Interview: DougPfeiffer: PSIA founder, Skiing editor, freestyle pioneer
Doug Pfeiffer, one of the founders of PSIA, taught in Canada and California before becoming editor of Skiing Magazine. In that position he was instrumental in launching and publicizing the freestyle skiing movement.