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The Most Experienced EpicSkier - Bob McNeill

Jamesj
By: Jamesj
Posted 10/14/15  Last updated 9/12/16  1,341 views  11 comments

The Most Experienced EpicSkier – Bob McNeill

 

By Jim Kenney, aka JamesJ

EpicSki Travel Correspondent

 

I recently exchanged a few posts and private messages with EpicSki member oldfool86.  It came to light that 86 reflected his age at the time he became a member of the EpicSki community several years ago.  I joked that he deserved an annual updated username due to his exceptionally experienced status.:)  Shortly thereafter the powers-that-be at EpicSki made it happen and he’s now identified with the username oldfool91.  All this piqued my curiosity about the man who might possibly be the EpicSki online ski forum’s oldest member/poster/skier.  I did some digging and he granted me permission to share with the EpicSki readership his real name, Robert L. (Bob) McNeill, and some of his fascinating life story including an 84-year love affair with skiing. 

 

LL

Bob's first known ski photo, 1933.

 

Many of us here on EpicSki are long time skiers/boarders and have a keen interest in the history of the sport in the US, but can you imagine what it must be like to have lived through all of it, every bit of it!  Bob McNeill started skiing in the early 1930s as a seven year old boy earning his turns on barrel staves while hiking the hills around Boston, MA.  This was a couple years before any lift-served ski areas existed in the United States!  He was in heaven when he got his first pair of real, manufactured skis at age nine.  Later, Bob took a skiing honeymoon at Hannes Schneider’s Cranmore Mountain in North Conway, NH in January 1947.  His family avidly participated in the nascent sport and for decades visited numerous blossoming ski areas in New Hampshire, Vermont and the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.  Bob wasn’t just a casual skier.  He was hardcore. He ski raced in high school and college and hiked and skied the legendarily steep backcountry terrain of Tuckerman Ravine, NH more than 60 years ago. 

 

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

Tuckerman Ravine, 1952.

 

Aside from skiing, Bob is a certified member of the greatest generation.  He lost his mother at a young age and as a teenager enlisted in the Navy during WWII.  He overcame a poor early academic record and modest economic means to earn a PhD after the war from the elite Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  In 1957 Bob moved to the Washington D. C. area and began a series of impressive jobs in the private and public sectors.  He was on President Kennedy’s White House staff as a foreign trade advisor.  In 1961 he was appointed the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Policy at the US Department of Commerce.  He later served for many years as a preeminent free trade lobbyist representing numerous large US corporations (Executive Vice Chairman of the Emergency Committee for American Trade). His jobs involving US and foreign trade policy often took him to Switzerland.  He kept skis and boots at the US Mission in Geneva and skied extensively in the Swiss and French Alps. He was in Geneva when he learned of President Kennedy’s assassination.

 

Bob’s family life has always been entwined with skiing.  He has four sons and while living near Washington D. C. the family skied many weekends at nearby ski areas in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, usually traveling to Vermont for a ski week at Christmas time.  Bob also logged occasional ski trips to the US West.  In 1980 at age 56 he became a member of the national ski patrol at Liberty Mountain Resort in south-central Pennsylvania.  He proudly served in this capacity for 20 years.  

 

LL

Arapahoe Basin, CO, 1988.

 

When he retired in 1995 he began spending a lot of time in Colorado where one of his sons had a home in Silverthorne. He logged 50-60 ski days per winter at nearby ski areas including Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Copper, Loveland, Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge.  He and a friend volunteered to ski patrol at historic Ski Cooper during these years.  As a Navy veteran Bob didn’t serve in the US Army’s famed 10th Mountain Division of ski troops that trained near Ski Cooper during WWII.  However, he was a peer of those men, many of whom came from his native New England, and he would have been a good fit with his pre-war ski skills. 

 

LL

Ski Cooper, 1998.

 

In 2010 Bob returned to New Hampshire to be near his beloved New England mountains.  Now a widower, Bob's been around the ski world and back. He will be 91 on October 29, 2015.  As a member of the 90+ club he still skis about 20 days a winter.   His endurance isn’t what it used to be, but he still thrills at a well carved turn and loves getting out for a morning on the slopes.  Did I mention that along the way Bob’s had both knees and hips replaced!  Yet the Dude Abides.  After all this time Bob continues to get around and his haunts these days are some of the oldest ski areas in America; Gunstock, Cranmore, Stowe, Pats Peak, Sunapee, Bretton Woods and more.  Bob was there before all of them. 

 

LL

With the next generation on the slopes, 2004.

 

After learning his story it’s plain to see that Bob knows skiing like few of us ever will!  He is truly a pioneering member of the first generation of US recreational skiers.  For anybody who rides on snow, you've got to agree this man's had a wonderful life.  Bob shared with me a humorous quip his late wife used to say that speaks volumes about his enduring love of skiing.  “His life’s passion is a three letter word beginning with S, and the last letter is not an X, it’s an I.”  

 

Happy birthday Bob.  Long may you ski!  Thumbs Up

 

{I encourage readers to join the celebration and engage Bob with a dialogue or questions on his life and the history of skiing in the interactive comments section below this article.}

 

 

About the Author

  • Husband, father and retired Department of Navy civilian, Jim Kenney is a Washington D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim’s ski reporting garnered the 2009 West Virginia Division of Tourism’s Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article. To read other articles by Jim, click here
  • LL

 

 

 

Comments (11)

50x50px-ZC-73d1fec5_avatar-50-2.jpg
Bob,
I was in North Conway last summer and I ran across a local history book about the train service from New York to Cranmore. It sounded like such a cool thing to do for a young guy with a passion for skiing. I'll bet the social scene was off the charts too! Did you ever do that trip to Cranmore?
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I did , many times . Half of the fun was the train trip !
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Bob, I see you ski at Bretton Woods sometimes.  Want to meet up this winter?  I'm a Cannon skier but sometimes get over to BWoods.
50x50px-ZC-ab58465e_Dad_Keystone.jpg
I rarely ski up there , but will let you know if I go . I would like it .
50x50px-ZC-f6f3b574_Tom01.jpeg
Great Story @Jamesj and a very happy birthday to @oldfool91 !
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Bob, I saw elsewhere that you were named an honorary member of the 10th Mountain Division.  True?  Care to share with us where, when, and how that came about?
Thanks, Jim
50x50px-ZC-dfe10c62_avatar-50-4.jpg
Gives me encouragement that I can be skiing for years to come.  Awesome that Bob has seen so much advnacement in skiing.  HBD!!
50x50px-ZC-4e0df4db_WIN_20150722_125308.
God Bless You - May you ski as long as you wish.
50x50px-ZC-f3ec517d_IMG_4314.jpeg
Jim, I LOVE reading about Bob, what a delightful and inspiring piece! Bob, please share a photo of your 91st birthday celebration soon. Wishing you another joyous and healthy year!
50x50px-ZC-e122af7e_FlirtyBear.jpeg
Wow, what a great story! I second what Jenny says right above, best wishes for another wonderful year.
50x50px-ZC-8e62a99d_avatar-50-6.jpg
Great ski life old fool91 - Also on Internet ! ! Thanks for posting details @Jamesj
I once rode a Hannes Schneider Skimobile at The Homestead, VA(I'm 68) . Parts were
not interchangeable with the one at Mt Cranmore, NH. One was right handed & other was left handed.
Both are long gone. 
 
I left DC 2 years ago for greener California pastures- now brown !  But skied Ski Liberty a lot when you patrolled there.

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