My first skiing experience was in the backyard of our Moosup house while growing up with my Twin sister, Mercy and younger brother, Peter. We mostly sledded down the hill on High Street. This often became a competition with Mercy, our friend, Malcolm, and our cousins, Betsey, Ellen and Sally Mandell, racing down on our sleds; often trying to reach the end of High Street first or, if not, to force each other off the road into the ditch. We had great fun, all bundled up in our winter-outfits in the bitter cold we often experienced.
Since the only hill close to us was High street itself, there really weren’t many places to ski. I do remember walking all the way to ‘Catholic Hill’ where there were some pretty good hills, but Moosup was definitely not a hilly ski area.
Mercy and I attended grammar school in Moosup. Each morning, we would walk to school (about 1/2 of a mile) at 8:30; back home for lunch at noon, back to school before one PM and out at three. So each day we walked two miles (there were no busses back then). We were very happy when we could ride our bikes to school, and occasionally, dad would drive us.
My serious ski days began when I attended Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, New Hampshire. Mercy was maturing faster than her twin brother and we had Jack Janetatos and Malcolm Brown also in our class—all brighter than I was. The competition both scholastically and socially was getting to me and I looked for a way out of Moosup schools—without much hope. One Sunday morning on Cape Cod, my mother was reading the Boston Herald, which featured an article on a new boys’ school, Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, New Hampshire. The article said the school was located on a farm and concentrated on reading, writing, and arithmetic with the boys milking cows, riding horses, and playing sports, including skiing. I wanted to go see this school right away, although the ‘farming’ part didn’t really appeal to me.
Together with my best Moosup friend, Malcolm Brown, and twin sister, mother, dad and I drove to New Hampshire to check this new school out. Cardigan was first located in an old New England inn on Canaan Street and had started out with 31 students for grades 6 through 9. For me it was love at first sight and we applied right then and there as, fortunately, my parents agreed that it might be a good change for me. I was accepted and started my eighth grade at Cardigan the fall of 1947 at fourteen years old. The Cardigan experience transformed my life!
This pre-prep school was founded by a group of Dartmouth College men, including the President, Ernest Hopkins with Harold (Hap) Hinman and William Brewster, the headmaster of Kimball Union Academy the original founders. The Haffenreffer family of Rhode Island were brewers of Boston Beer who owned an estate in Canaan on Canaan Lake. They had given this estate to Dartmouth College. Hap Hinman, a Dartmouth graduate himself, who’d done well in the Vermont granite business had lost their only son at age 16. Hap and his wife, Marion provided the inspiration for this school, both of whom I got to know very well at Cardigan,. He convinced Dartmouth to sell the Heffenreffer estate to a new corporation that started developing plans for a brand new school for young boys. Hap loved young people and used to take a small group of us to the Canaan drug store on Sunday mornings to buy the New York Times. He had lost one of his legs and drove a nice Buick with special controls. When asked how he chose trustees for the Cardigan Board Hap once said, “Trustees must have Affluence, Influence, and Interest and, lacking any of these three they must have much of the other two.”
I was in a class of only six boys and lived in a single room. Our teachers were young and inspiring Dartmouth or Middlebury graduates like Jack Heagy and Ted Peach. Ted’s wife, Dolly, taught me French—the only student taking this course in the school.
My fellow students were all New England boys and my best friend at Cardigan was Fred Lippert. Fred grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut and became my mentor. Fred was a musician, taught me how to build model planes, was smart, and an athlete—particularly a super skier. Fred and I competed in class and every day we skied after lunch. During week-days we skied on the hills close to the school and cross-country through the Canaan woods. I remember a particularly fine ski slope in Canaan Center, just north of our school. Fred and I would ski down the road into this village and set up slalom courses and ski jumps. Every afternoon we would slam down the slopes and walk back up these hills as there were no ski lifts nearby back then. We loved it and Fred and I became pretty good skiers. At least once a winter the school would announce “Cardigan Day” at breakfast—a traditional Cardigan holiday from classes. This meant the entire school, yes, 31 students and faculty, had to climb Cardigan Mountain. Most of us had skis on our shoulders or used skins to hold us back on the snow as we climbed on skies. Some of us would ski back down this mountain. Great fun! I remember following Fred down that narrow slope in between the trees. Most of the time it was pretty tricky as these Cardigan Mountain slopes weren’t packed, and most of the snow was either icy or wet and slushy—the most dangerous.
On weekends, we were taken to nearby ski areas such as Woodstock, Vermont. Woodstock had a hill called “Suicide Six” with a rope-tow reputed to be the first ski tow in North America (1936). A bearded old guy, named Bunny Bertram, sold us lift tickets in the parking lot. That rope tow was so fast, and the hill so steep, that Fred and I were only able to make ten runs in a day before our arms, legs, and hands were too cold and tired to hold on to the rope. Woodstock was a small, simple, ski slope (only 650 feet vertical lift) back in 1948-’49, but for Fred and me it was a paradise.
Twenty years later, in 1969, Laurance and Mary Rockefeller built the now famous Woodstock Inn, near Suicide Six. Laurance was one of nine navy officers who served under my father during World War II. ‘Larry’ and eight other officers presented my father with a painting by Herbert Forester of ‘The Maine Coast.’—a painting I now own. Dad told me many WWII stories about his officers, including much praise for Larry Rockefeller.
After skiing at Suicide Six and, occasionally at the Dartmouth golf course, we’d return to Canaan and on Monday afternoons we were back on the Canaan slopes to improve our skills. I recall that Fred and I skied on 55 consecutive afternoons during our senior year at Cardigan. We did this all on our own as Cardigan had no ski coaches at that time.
Years later, our son, Steve Morgan Haskell, became the first son of a Cardigan graduate to also graduate from Cardigan—then located in their brand new campus on the former Heffenreffer Estate. Cardigan also changed our son’s life and he, too, has fond memories of his Cardigan days.
Fed Lippert returned to New Canaan, Connecticut for high school. We kept in touch and Fred not only graduated from Annapolis and Medical School—he went on to become a well-known orthopedic surgeon, specializing in treating ankles and becoming Chief Orthopedic Surgeon at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Fifty years after graduating from Cardigan, Fred and I flew up (with Fred piloting his own plane) to visit Cardigan. Although I’d won the prestigious Hap Hinman Prize—awarded to the best over all student-athlete of my class—Fred had become a distinguished Doctor and I remained in his shadow on that return visit.
I went on to Tabor Academy, located on the Massachusetts coast as I was also vitally interested in the sailing. Unfortunately, Tabor was nowhere close to a ski area. Cardigan had given me wonderful academic skills and I was first in my Tabor class in 1950. I kept up skiing when I was able to and have a little regret I didn’t go to a school like Kimball Union (KUA) or Vermont Academy—where I would have been able to continue my lifelong interest in skiing.
I took up skiing even more seriously when I enrolled in Bowdoin College in Maine. My friends and I skied a lot at nearby slopes such as Pleasant Mountain (now called Shawnee Peak Mountain) and in other Maine ski areas with Sugarloaf being my favorite. Today there are almost 20 ski areas in Maine but when I was skiing at Bowdoin in 1952 thru 1956 there were far fewer ski areas.
One evening my roommate, Cal Kendall, and I were sitting around talking about sports. Cal said to me, “Since I’m tall [6 foot 6 inches] people think I must be a basketball player, but I’ve really never participated in sports. I’d really like to learn how to ski.” I told Cal I’d be glad to teach him how to ski. He went to the nearest army-navy store and bought a second hand pair of old wooden skis and boots. We got in my car and started looking for a hill near the Bowdoin campus where we could ski. We found a farm in nearby Bowdoinham with a fairly steep hill headed down to Merry Meeting Bay. Without asking permission from anyone, we packed the slope and started making runs together. Cal picked this sport up fast and soon we were skiing together at Pleasant Mountain. Cal, his lovely wife, Ellie, and I would later ski in Lenzerheide, Switzerland (more on this later), and in Lutzen, Minnesota. During evenings, we would talk about my latest book ideas as Cal became my editor of most of the books I’ve written. Dr. Cal earned his Phd. at the University of California in Berkeley and taught at the University of Minnesota for 38 years—becoming the Distinguished Prefessor-Emeratus at U. of MN.
The Lutsen Ski Area is located far north of Minneapolis and started by the family of Cindy Nelson—the first American Woman to win a World Cup downhill race in 1974. She went on to win a bronze medal in the 1978 Olympics and a silver one in 1982. She’d started skiing at Lutsen at age three.
I decided to try out for the Bowdoin Ski Team in my sophomore year. Although I hadn’t skied much in high school, I did have my early intensive Cardigan training and heard that the Bowdoin team trained for two weeks in the Lac Beauport area of Quebec. That was great fun. We’d set up slalom poles on the slopes and run simulated races all day long.
I have kept in touch with John Christie and the Bowdoin ski team newsletter. John went on to become general manager of Sugarloaf Mountain ski area, and became a guest-writer for the Portland Press Herald. He has written a couple of books on skiing, including a beautiful book on Sugarloaf Mountain. A couple of years ago, John reminded me of an accident that had happened while we all were skiing in college. At John’s suggestion, I wrote my memories of that accident which appeared in the Bowdoin Nordic—the ski team newsletter editor on April 18, 2012:
Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to correspond with many Bowdoin Skiing alumni. Recently, I got an email from Hank Haskell ’56, who shared a thoughtful piece he’d written in honor of Damon O’Neal, brother of Hank’s former teammate Roly O’Neal’59:
I was once an avid skier. I learned how to ski at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, New Hampshire, and later found myself on the ski team at Bowdoin College. Bowdoin’s ski team was pretty informal when I was there (1952-1956) and in my senior year, there were two seniors on the team—Paul Debrule from Laconia, New Hampshire, and me — Paul was primarily a jumper and cross-country guy and I did slalom and downhill, albeit no expert.
Bowdoin accepted a group of excellent skiers three years after I arrived. These young tigers included Charlie Long, Charlie Jackson and Bucky Owen and featured John Christie from Camden, Maine, Bruce Chalmers from Brighton, Maine, and Roly O’Neal from North Conway, New Hampshire —all terrific skiers. With their expertise, and management by Charlie Leighton, Bowdoin’s ski team became one of the best in New England. John Christie recently told me, “We did end up competing with the B boys and even in the Winter Carnivals at Dartmouth and Middlebury. In 1958 we won the State Intercollegiates, beating the vaunted UMaine team that included Olympian-to-be Charlie Akers—our crowning achievement …”
One weekend I joined Roly O’Neal at his family’s house in North Conway. I met Roly’s Mom and Dad and his younger brother, Damon. Roly told me his brother was a better skier than he was, but I really wondered how he could be at so young an age (age 13). Roly and his family were modest people, and no one told me much about Damon. Roly mentioned we would be skiing the next day with Toni Matt. The name meant nothing to me at the time.
I ate dinner with the O’Neals and we talked about skiing the next morning at Cranmore Mountain. We hit the sack early and ate a wonderful breakfast the next morning—cooked for us by Roly and Damon’s mother. We walked up to Cranmore Mountain with our skis on our backs, and met Hannes Schneider, the head of the world-famous Eastern Slope Ski School, and met Toni—who would be skiing along with Roly, Damon, and me that day.
Toni Matt lead the way as we rode the Tramway up Cranmore Mountain. He told us we’d start out on the back-side of the mountain, to limber our legs up, before setting up a slalom course on the main slope. Off we went—Toni, Damon, Roly, and I. Wow! I watched the gifted Austrian, Toni, head down the slope with his skis practically glued together and Damon and Roly right behind. It was obvious to me that this would be quite a day. I had never seen such a great young skier, as this teen-ager, Damon, was that day. He was right with Toni Matt at every turn as they all three glided down the mountain, with me trying to keep up. I think I skied the best I have ever skied in my life that remarkable day and just couldn’t believe how talented Roly’s younger brother was.
I remember breaking to eat the sandwiches that Mrs.O’Neal had made for us. We talked together and I had no idea we were eating lunch with, “the fastest skier to schuss the Headwall at Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mount Washington. .His time for the 8 mile race was 6 minutes 29.4 seconds, with a top speed of 85 MPH.”
The truly remarkable thing I remembered that winter day in 1956, however, was skiing and having so much fun with a fantastic young skier—Damon O’Neal. He was a delightful boy who adored his brother Roly and his parents and skied with me as if I were a pro myself. I knew I had skied that day with a potential future Olympic leader. As Roly and I drove back to Brunswick, Maine, we talked about Damon’s achievements and hopes.
On March 15, 1959, Damon O’Neal was killed, “…in a skiing accident at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine, as he was preparing for the Junior National Alpine Championships. As a 16 year-old, Damon had won the New Hampshire Skimeister Award a month earlier by the widest margin in the history of the competition. Local leaders of the skiing community had raised funds for Damon to go to Europe to help prepare for the Olympics.”
I was honored to have known Damon and not only to have known him but to have skied with this gifted skier and outstanding young gentleman. The world skiing community lost a great young man that tragic day in March 1959—a young man who had been an inspiration to me in the many years I have participated in the great sport of skiing.
While I was skiing for Bowdoin I also skied with my Twin Sister and her friends from Wheaton College. I remember a long weekend at Jackson, New Hampshire where Mercy and her Wheaton roommate, Sandy Gaston, joined a group of Bowdoin skiers and me for some good skiing and fun. Mercy and her future husband, Bats Wheeler, became enthusiastic and excellent skiers. We had some fun skiing together (Haskells and Wheelers) at Sugarloaf, Maine in the 1980s; a week our adult-children still talk about today at our yearly family get-togethers.
I married a wonderful woman named Patricia Peacock from Atlanta, Georgia in 1956. Pat had swum on her high school swim team, played a mean game of tennis but had never seen a ski slope when we met. We were married in Atlanta on November 30, 1957 and five days later, we were skiing on the Zugspitze Mountain in Germany, where we had gone for our honeymoon. This was the highest mountain in Germany. I had heard about it from Dr. Creed and Marge Haymond who I knew in Verdun, France where I was stationed in the U. S. Army. This couple was from Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a dentist and they had both learned how to ski in the deep Utah powder. Pat had great gumption and her first skiing experience was in the huge deep powder ski-bowl of the Zugspitze, where even I had trouble. We thoroughly enjoyed the hot toddies back at the lodge with the Haymonds and talked about meeting them to ski in Utah.
While we were in Europe, Pat and I skied a couple of times in the Vosges Mountains of France, one weekend with a fellow army officer, Harry Carpenter, who I had also taught to ski at Bowdoin. Harry went on to become a doctor in the Boston area and became an excellent skier. When I returned to the U.S. from France, I skied one weekend at Sugarloaf, Maine with Harry and a group of medical students from Tufts University.
Pat and I also skied in New England with Janine and Charlie Christie and our young children, Jan, Steve, Charlie, Jr. and Isabelle after we returned from France and lived in New England. On one of those Haskell-Christie weekend, at Mad River Glen, the Christies told us later they started their third son, Allen, who Pat used to call, “Crash-Christie.”
We (Pat and I) returned to Europe (circa 1965) and joined my brother, Peter and his first wife, June, at a tiny Austrian Ski Area named Rauis. We stayed in a small inn I remember but they didn’t serve evening dinner. Pat remembers this as the, “best ski area we ever skied at.” There was only one T-Bar and we had great fun with Pete and June.
I ran a textile company that moved from New England to the South. In my book Brunswick Yarns, An American Family Business I wrote in detail about our business and particularly about a well-known Swiss fashion photographer we worked with for 28 years. Jack Malaise had grown up in Basle, Switzerland and was on his high school ski team. I travelled to Zurich, Switzerland once or twice a year and one winter Pat and I decided to join Jack and his wife, Heidi for some skiing at their favorite Swiss resort, Lenzerheide. We skied together and drank wine in the evenings as we worked on the Brunswick Yarns fashion books that Jack and Heidi did for us. I later skied a couple of times with Jack. He was an excellent skier, although ten years older than I was. We produced a couple of ski sweater books with sweaters designed by Pat and her design staff at Brunswick and photographed at St. Moritz—probably the most famous Swiss Ski resort. Unfortunately, I never saw St. Moritz as Jack handled that and I preferred smaller, less crowded ski areas for actual skiing. Jack enticed the owners of the St. Moritz resort to finance part of our fashion book for the publicity it would bring.
Although we lived and worked in South Carolina— far from any ski areas, I continued my interest in this sport and developed a good business making 100% wool yarn for ski hats. We had one main customer located in Aspen, Colorado; two former lawyers from New York city—Marty Garfinkle and Art Zuckerman. These guys were avid skiers who gave up their law business in the city and moved to Aspen. They met some clever, attractive young women who had designed ski hats and Marty and Art were looking for a yarn supplier. Our salesman, Ed Fischer, called me one winter day and said, “Can you fly out here to Aspen as we have a good potential customer who’s interested in buying a lot of wool yarn to make ski hats.”
I was on a flight to Aspen immediately and Ed and I concluded a contract with Mountain Lid, Inc. that continued for many years. We supplied their yarn and I continued my interest in skiing. Art was a particularly good skier and he taught me the ski areas all over Colorado.
I was friendly with a wool salesman from Salt Lake City, Utah named Jim Eliot. This was back when we owned a wool scouring and combing plant in Connecticut and I’d become the wool-buyer. Jim was also an avid skier who was used to the deep powder of Utah. Our family had started skiing in a new North Carolina ski area called Sugar Mountain. I had taught my wife, Pat, and every one of our four children—Jan - Steve – Margo – Tina the joys of this sport and invited Jim to join us at Sugar Mountain, “To do some ‘southern skiing’ and, perhaps, buy some wool.”
Jim joined us on a week when the North Carolina mountains had one of their biggest snowstorms ever. Jim was actually snowed in for a few days. We skied together and I bought grease wool from Jim as the prices were right and we needed wool. Pat and later skied with the Eliots in Utah but I never did master deep powder skiing
In 1985 Cal and Ellie Kendall were in France on sabbatical leave from his professorship at the University of Minnesota. I arranged for us to meet in Lenzerheide, Switzerland for some serious skiing. We spent a week in nearby Valbella at a lovely Swiss Inn and skied every day. In the evenings we’d eat at the inn. Ellie was affected by the altitude of this area and a little uncomfortable but she stuck it out and we had a great week. We planned a rough outline of my next book, W. Stewart Woodfill, Master of Mackinac’s Grand Hotel at that beautiful Swiss resort. Cal had come a long way from his first lesson on that Bowdoinham pasture back in college. Our weather was perfect and we had some of the best skiing we’d ever experienced together.
Dr. Cal and I skied a number of years at Lutsen and I loved skiing in that small area. The hills weren’t too high but it was plenty cold up there so their snow-machines could run anytime. Cal and I skied for the last time about six years ago in Lutsen. Ellie had retired from skiing but she supplied her usual wonderful meals that we shared in the Lutsen condos. It was about 25 degrees below zero up that week with Cal and I the only skiers on those slopes. We were both in our mid-seventies and decided to hang up our skis for good after that trip. We had skied together for more than 55 years and have shared a life-time love and appreciation for this wonderful sport. The Kendall’s son, Ned, became a gifted skier who gave our daughter, Tina, some lessons as they skied one trip together to Lutsen. Our daughter, Jan, also skied with Dr. Cal and me there and I am pleased that every one of our adult children enjoy this sport.
Tina and her husband, Ben, together with their son, Noah(age 12), and daughter, Lisi(age 8) live in Redmond, Washington—where Ben works for Microsoft. They are all excellent skiers and are fortunate to live in an area where a ski slope is less than an hour’s drive away.
Skiing and sailing are still my favorite sports. I have been most fortunate to participate in both of these for most of my life. Now I swim three times a week. As I swim my laps, I think about the wonderful days I’ve had skiing on slopes all over the world. How lucky I have been to learn and become proficient in skiing and sailing at an early age. I have enjoyed these sports for so many years. I miss both sports but have no regrets that I’m no longer doing them. I have great memories!
I have written these words on a Saturday afternoon on January 22, 2016 with a HUGE SNOWSTROM headed up the Eastern coast. We have a little rain on Hilton Head and its abit chilly but no worries of shoveling here in the South.