Dick Durrance, a former Olympian and U.S. ski champion, died on June 13 of natural causes. He was 89.
Durrance spent his early childhood in Florida, but moved to Germany in his teens. He took up skiing and within five years won the German Junior Alpine Championship. Although his family returned to Florida, Durrance enrolled at Dartmouth College and continued skiing.
He became the first American to dominate a major European ski race when he won at Sestrier, Italy, in 1936. That same year, he placed eighth in the slalom and 11th in the downhill races at the Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Durrance won three Harriman Cups, North America’s largest ski race in the late 1930s, and triumphed at 17 national championships.
Once he stopped competing, Durrance took a job manufacturing skis in Denver, then became the general manager of the Aspen Skiing Co. To turn Aspen into a major skiing destination, Durrance contracted new lifts, ordered the building of new trails and designed the racecourse used for the 1950 FIS World Championships.
In later years, Durrance helped turn Sun Valley, Idaho and Alta, Utah into premier skiing locations. He also produced and directed more than 40 ski films, and trained the ski-borne troops of the military’s 10th Mountain Division. Durrance’s life was chronicled in the biography, “The Man on the Medal.” He was married to skier and photographer Margaret “Miggs” Durrance, who died in 2002.
“Looking back, I realize that the great lesson I learned from my father is what a great champion can be. He did not define champion by what he said, for he never spoke of his accomplishments, but rather how he lived his life. He showed us as a ski racer, as a ski mountain developer, as a filmmaker, and most of all as a man, that a true champion is not measured by what he says, not even by what he does, but how he does it. My father will forever be a beacon that guides my life,” his son Dick Durrance Jr. told the Aspen Times.