Dr. Harold C. Bradley
Hall of Fame Class of 1969
Dr. Harold C. Bradley first became enamored with skiing when he witnessed his first jumping tournament. Although too old to compete himself, he was nevertheless inspired by the experience to develop a life of skiing involvement and contribution and he earned a reputation as a skiing adventurer.
Something of the danger which clings to hilltops must have fascinated Dr. Harold C. Bradley, “grand old man” of American skiing. His ski sport service and mountain daring are legendary. There’s no doubt that the spirit of the Vikings lived within the breast of Doc. His only regret was that he had to give up skiing when he turned 85.
Never a true alpine expert, Bradley first became enamored of skiing as a new resident of Wisconsin from California. His love began while watching a thrilling jumping exhibition, an art he felt impelled to try. But Doc Bradley, then a young chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin medical school in Madison, discovered that jumpers are not made at 28 years of age. Bradley vividly recalls: “A special train took quite a crowd to this show, and I was astounded and inspired by the thrilling beauty of what appeared to be suicide. I fell so deeply in love with skiing at the late age of 28 that I was determined, when I got married two years later, that if we did have children, they should be introduced to skiing very early – say 3 years old. And that was our program, and we really stuck to it.”
Their seven boys became lifelong skiers. Charles earned fame as a jumper and 10th Mountain Trooper. Harold Jr. was a ski jumping dropout but became a mountaineer. David was a national four-way champion who managed the 1960 Olympic Team at Squaw Valley. Steve became a four-event skier too and was manager of Colorado’s Winter Park. Joseph was a devoted ski fan. Richard was also a four-way skier and skiing mountaineer and William, all-around skier and 10th Mountain Trooper. A daughter, Mary Cornelia, died at seven years and subsequently was memorialized with a trophy to compliment Averell Harriman’s establishment of the Bradley Plate as a four-event individual championship at Sun Valley. The respective winners were Kathleen Harriman and Steve Bradley.
Mr. and Mrs. Bradley also established the Paul Bietila Memorial Trophy for the National Ski Association in 1940. Paul, a member of the “Flying Bietilas” of Ishpeming, Michigan, died following a ski jumping accident. At the time he was an athlete protégé of the Bradleys who sponsored him as a student at the University of Wisconsin. The trophy goes annually to the American-born jumper placing highest in the national championships.
Even though he once served the Central Ski Association as a secretary, Doc Bradley never considered himself a true devotee of so-called “organized skiing”. He actually was an activist at the skiing level. He provided the leadership which led to the development of the University of Wisconsin Hoofers’ Club.
The Bradley’s, along with other faculty and student friends, started a winter vacation trend which eventually led to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Sierras of California, Sun Valley in Idaho and Colorado. The idea of using skis to explore the Sierra became a fascinating dream for Doc Bradley and, finally a reality – several times.
In 1920 while on a visit to his parents in Berkley, Bradley skied alone over the Snowshoe Thompson Trail from Placerville across Echo Summit to Tallac, by boat across Lake Tahoe and then on skis again down to Truckee. Over the same route between 1856 and 1869, Snow-Shoe Thompson made ski history, some historians having referred to the stalwart Norwegian mail carrier as the “greatest of them all” when it came to ski sport in the early days.
Other invasions of the Sierra saw Bradley in 1925 with Sierra Ski Club members tracking the Donner Summit snows: in 1935 with son, Charles, crossing Tioga Pass from Lee Vining to Yosemite National Park, again in 1947 going into the High Sierra from Lee Vining for six weeks accompanied by three sons.
Dr. Harold C. Bradley later retired to Berkley and was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1969.
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