[L to R]: Alf Enger, John Fripp, Dicky Movitz (1946). CSHFM Collection.

John Fripp

The fast-skiing, Kandahar-winning, first non-European to lead the ski school at a major North American ski resort

Affiliated Discipline(s): Alpine
Date of Birth / Death: 1921–2022
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario
Active Career Period: 1927–1960
Induction CSHF: 1988
Induction Category: Alpine, Downhill, Slalom, Instructor

Young Johnny was on a roll

He was a wunderkind—a daring, strapping 17-year-old Canadian kid who, in 1938, handily won the Journal Trophy at the Gatineau Ski Zone Championships, only to be forced to give it back due to ineligibility: he was too young. 

John “Johnny” Fripp, born and raised in Ottawa, ON, was barred from competing in the Dominion Championships that same year for the same reason: age. And so he took himself off to Lake Placid, NY, to test his skills against the Americans at the Eastern Olympic try-outs. It went well. He finished third in both Downhill and Slalom, beaten by the fabled Dick Durrance. 

Fripp went on to score a slew of firsts in an impressive number of influential races, including the Quebec Kandahar.

 

The following vignettes are part of an article entitled, “Canada’s John Fripp,” authored by ski writer Lori Knowles, as part of the Canadian Ski History Writers Project, funded by the Chawkers Foundation of Canada through a grant to the Canadian Ski Museum. To read the original story please see HERE.

Johnny’s best stories start after WWII

In fact, his best stories start with Joe Ryan, the irascible, bold, perpetually controversial owner of Quebec’s Mont Tremblant. In 1945, Ryan got Canada’s ski world — of which he was pretty much king — all atwitter with his appointment of Johnny Fripp as Tremblant’s ski school director.

Fripp, by now a rough, fit, extremely fast-skiing World War II vet was less flashy than any other ski school director the irascible Ryan had ever hired. More weirdly, Fripp was Canadian. No Canuck had ever been handed the privilege of helming North America’s leading-edge ski school. It was a job strictly reserved for showy, God-like, touqueless Europeans—also known as Austrian disciples of the revered Hannes Schneider.

Yet there was Ryan causing chins to wag by appointing Fripp fresh from the RCAF to lead his eight-man ski school—a school known as much for its celebrities and parties as it was for its teaching and technique. When interviewed 65 years later, in 2011, Fripp credited his much-talked-about hiring squarely on the shoulders of Blanche Rebichka.

Tremblant founder Joe Ryan, second from the left, alongside John Fripp (far left) and other companions in 1947
John Fripp (far left), Joe Ryan (2nd from left) c. 1947. Louis Jacques, Standard Photo. CSHFM Collection.
Photograph of Canadian Men's National Ski Team (1958)
Photograph of Canadian Men’s National Ski Team (1958) receiving Kneissl skis while visiting Kneissl factory in Kufstein, Austria – (L to R): Bob Stevenson, John Platt, John Fripp, Franz Kneissl, Shaun Fripp, Trevor Klotz, Fred Tommy, and Lorne O’Connor. Sepp Kary Foto Kufstein.

Blanche Rebichka?

“She was a real dish,” Fripp said. “She was on the front page of Life magazine.”

A little digging and we found that Ms. Rebichka was indeed the very dishy wife of Beno Rebichka, the Austrian in charge of the Mont Tremblant Ski School who was summarily fired immediately before Fripp was hired. It seems Joe Ryan’s equally dishy, notoriously headstrong wife, Mary Ryan, had taken a disliking to Blanche’s… um, abilities to attract.

“Yep,” said Fripp. “Guess I have to thank Blanche*…”

Maddeningly, Fripp did not laud the fact he was the fastest guy on Tremblant snow or the king of the Quebec Kandahar as reasons why Joe Ryan named him top ski school dog in 1945. Instead, the ever-humble Johnny Fripp put the whole thing down to a squabble between bombshells.

The bush-whacking, pole-riding Quebec Kandahar  

Fripp was born in Ottawa February 11, 1921. As a teen he’d hop a city street car, pay his five cents to ride to the end of the line, then tramp his way across farmers’ fields for five miles to the foot of Dome Hill. There he’d climb up through the mapled Canadian bush for about 300 vertical feet, point his skis downward.. and schuss. By age 17 Fripp had won—and given back—the 1938 Journal Trophy in the Gatineau Ski Zone Championships, and he’d headed south of the border for the US Eastern Olympic tryouts to place third place on the blazing heels of bullet Dick Durrance. “I still have those trophies,” said Fripp in 2011. “Sterling silver goblets—they’re the only trophies I’ve ever kept.”

But it was on a train bound for Mont Tremblant and the fabled Quebec Kandahar that his ski racing cylinders really got firing. In the 1939 Canadian Ski Year Book, H.P. Douglas described the Quebec Kandahar race as “unquestionably the wildest, toughest, bush-whacking, pole-riding adventure ever held.” The race was so treacherous in its early years, author W. Ball remarked it “was considered a good way of collecting insurance!” (Canadian Ski Year Book, 1938).

John Fripp at Tremblant in 1945. CSHFM Collection.

John Fripp takes flight. CSHFM Collection.

Johnny wins the Quebec Kandahar and Canadian Championships

What better course for a strapping young ski racer like Johnny Fripp. He recalled digging for the precious 25 cents to ride Joe Ryan’s brand new ‘single chair ski tow’ up the Flying Mile for the bottom 1,200 feet of the course, then climbing an additional 1,200 feet up—over and over again while training—to the Tremblant fire tower to the race’s start.

Fripp won the Quebec Kandahar downhill that year and placed second in the slalom. Fripp would go on to win the Quebec Kandahar as a professional in 1940, ’46 and ‘51, as well as the Eastern Canadian Championships in ’40 and the Canadian Downhill Championship in ‘53.  Fripp recorded the fastest time ever with the Royal Canadian Air Force ski team at Mount Baldy in 1942.

The years after Tremblant

Looking back, it was likely Fripp’s speed on snow that impressed Joe Ryan in ‘45 when he was searching for a new director to replace Beno (and Blanche) Rebichka. Fripp helmed the Tremblant school for a couple of years, then married and moved out of the professional ski world to raise his family.

Last interviewed in 2011 by Lori Knowles for Skiing History, Fripp was living with his second wife Elizabeth, with whom he raised daughter Renée. When he wasn’t skiing, racing, coaching or teaching skiing, John was running his insurance and realty company, H.D. Fripp & Son. He raised four sons with his first wife Virginia, two of which competed in the 1970s on the Canadian men’s ski jumping team.

While working in real estate and insurance, John Fripp kept up his on-snow accomplishments. He was a director of the Canadian Amateur Ski Association, a member of the International Competition Committee, a coach of the Canadian FIS men’s ski team, a constant source for the Canadian Ski Museum, a volunteer and supporter of the Ottawa Ski Club, and a Canadian Ski Hall of Fame inductee in 1988. All that, and a great story-teller, too.  

John Fripp in 2007 with pioneering Canadian downhill ski champions Rhona and Rhoda Wurtele. CSHFM Collection.

*Editors’ Notes: Blanche and Beno Rebichka eventually divorced and Blanche became the wife of Dick Hauserman as well as a founder of Vail, CO. Camel cigarettes featured her as a model in their advertising. Blanche lived at the base of Vail Mountain.

John Fripp, Canadian Ski Hall of Fame

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