Hall of Fame Class of 2017
First as a fearless champion and then as a beloved teacher and leader, Ed Ferguson made freestyle skiing bigger, better and safer.
For young skiers coming of age in the 1970s, there was no better idol than the ubiquitous “Airborne Eddie.” With long hair flowing out from under a trademark bandana, mirror sunglasses and a gregarious personality, he was regularly pictured throwing an outrageous daffy in the midst of a high speed run through VW-size moguls. Ferguson’s legendary assault on Vail’s “Look Ma” in 1973 remains arguably the most famous in freestyle history. While the entire field chose to enter the imposingly steep mogul run with a big left hand turn through a rut, Ferguson straight-lined the entry, unleashing a huge backscratcher off the berm, and never looked back. The mind-bending performance earned perfect cores from five judges for the first and only time on the professional freestyle tour. For that season, Ferguson would be named “Hotdogger of the Year,” and for the rest of the decade, he would finish near the top of the overall standings.
But Ferguson’s legacy, and his proudest accomplishment, is not his sterling record as an elite competitor. It’s what he did as a leader, mentor and teacher for the sports future. Ferguson’s enthusiasm, instruction background and out-sized personality were just what the nascent sport needed when it burst upon the scene in the 1970s.
Ferguson was fortunate that his father, Earl, and his mother, Barbara, had been introduced to skiing when Earl returned from WWII – the couple got six months of R&R at a newly opened resort in Idaho called Sun Valley. Ferguson started skiing at age 6 and teaching at age 14 at Bogus Basin, Idaho. Two years later, he was the youngest PSIA-certified instructor in the country and in 1970 he became the only U.S. teacher to ever win the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance Exam, moving on to direct the ski school at Todd Mountain in British Columbia at the age of 20.
In 1972, Ferguson created and launched the first of his many “Airborne Eddie’s” Freestyle Camps at Crystal Mountain in Washington, attracting campers from age 11 to 47. “The teaching was in my genes,” he recalls, “and I decided this was a necessary thing.”
For the rest of the decade, Ferguson would teach some 4,000 freestyler at camp from Vail to Snowcrest, Wisconsin and from Sunshine Village to the French Alps. His motto was “freedom with responsibility,” and the curriculum emphasized safety first, with aerial training on trampolines and into swimming pools, foam pits or straw. His students became the “Who’s Who” list of famous early freestylers, including champions Marion and Ellen Post, Scott Willingham, Frank Bedor, Kathy Murphy and Stu O’Brien. In 1975, Ferguson narrowly missed winning the overall title of the PFA World Trophy Tour, finishing second to his student, Mark Steigemeier, who had won a scholarship to Eddie’s camp in a freestyle contest at Bogus Basin. All campers earned Eddie’s trademark T-shirt, which included the crossed out words “I wanna do it,” followed by the slogan “I did it.”
Ferguson was a policy maker and board member of the International Freestyle Skier’s Association, helped form the Professional Freestyle Association, appeared in numerous ski films (including Bill Burk’s Winter Equinox), and also paired with Bud Palmer as a color commentator on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Through his unfailing love of the sport and his ability to lead by example, he was instrumental in its evolution from a band of daredevil skiers to its status today as a widely respected Olympic sport. “I can think of no other skier who has done more for the creation and growth of freestyle skiing,” says Willingham, who dedicated his 1977 World Championship title to Ferguson.
After retiring from competition, Ferguson moved to Angel Fire, N.M. and got a real job selling real estate. He now lives in Chelan, Wash., and manages his own company, High Desert Realty. He lives with his wife of 34 years, Carol (he also has a son, Earl, from a previous marriage), and still gets his turns at nearby Mission Ridge.
1962: Began teaching skiing at Bogus Basin, Idaho
1972-79: Created “Airborne Eddie’s“ Freestyle Ski Caps, teaching “Freedom with Responsibility” to more than 4,000 freestyle skiers
1973: Named Skiing’s “Hotdogger of the Year”
1973-76: Helped take freestyle to the masses by performing in the Harry Leonard Expo-Winter Ski Shows
1974: Won the U.S. Nationals at Stowe, Vt.
1974: Helped bring freestyle to Europe by performing in the Annie Famose-directed Marlboro Tour in France, performing before crowds of up to 10,000 spectators
1975: Second overall and in moguls on PFA World Trophy Tour
1979: Retired from competition after finishing fourth overall on the tour
2011: Honored as a “Pioneer of Freestyle Skiing” in the first class by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
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