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John W. McCrillis

Hall of Fame Class of 1966

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John W. McCrillis was among the first skiers to recognize the importance of alpine ski racing. As a delegate to the United States Eastern Amateur Ski Association convention in 1932, McCrillis helped convince the delegates to sanction alpine events and was known as “ Mr. Racing”.

John W. McCrillis was born on January 11, 1897 in Newport, New Hampshire and he began skiing in his backyard as a young boy. During his four years at Dartmouth College he was active in the Dartmouth Outing Club. Its founder, Fred Harris, was one of his lifelong friends. While serving on the club’s committees of Cabin and Trail and Intercollegiate Winter Sports, McCrillis interested many of his contemporaries, including Sherman Adams, in ski touring and cross-country jumping competition.

At college ski races were both intercollegiate and intramural. In 1918 McCrillis was a member of a team that defeated Middlebury at the Dartmouth Winter Carnival. Some years later, when skiing was recognized as a major intercollegiate sport, McCrillis was awarded a varsity letter as a member of the Dartmouth Winter Sports Team of 1918.

The early 20s found McCrillis in the Pacific Northwest where skiing was still almost unknown as a sport. As a teacher at the Moran school for boys near Seattle he led students on the first ski ascents to Anvil Rock (9,000 ft.) and to Camp Muir (11,000 ft.) on Mount Rainier. McCrillis also joined the Mountaineers of Seattle. From 1921 to 1924 he was an official ski instructor for the group, most of who were still on snowshoes. He was also a member of the first Mountaineers ski committee in 1924.

In January, 1930 McCrillis started organized ski instruction at the local high school. A number of his pupils went on to join the 10th Mountain Division. One of his former students, Curtis Chase, became director of the Aspen Ski School.

As a member of the Dartmouth Alumni Committee, McCrillis helped develop the Mt. Mooselauke Ravine Camp and ski trails, including “Hells Highway”. As a delegate of the U.S. Eastern Amateur Ski Association, he showed his film of the Mooselauke downhill race at the NSA annual convention in Chicago in 1932. In Collaboration with Otto Schneibs, the film was the first American Ski film ever made. “Mr. Racing”, as he was known, helped convince delegates who had never witnessed such a race that it should be a recognized event. The convention sanctioned the race for the following year. With 80 contenders and John McCrillis as referee, the Mooselauke Carriage Road was the site of the first National Downhill Championship in the United States in March 1933.

The Newport Ski Club, which McCrillis helped found in 1931, was one of the most active and competitive clubs in the East. Not only did this group compile an enviable racing record, it also cut a two-mile racing trail with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps on Mount Sunapee, NH. The trail was maintained, raced and enjoyed until Mount Sunapee State Park was developed for skiing in 1947.

After returning to Newport, McCrillis and his wife became active life members of the Appalachian Mountain Club. As leader of an AMC ski excursion, McCrillis and other club members obtained the services of Otto Schneibs as their ski instructor. McCrillis was also one of the Dartmouth alumni who urged his appointment as ski coach, a position Schneibs held from 1930 to 1936.

While Schneibs was still at Dartmouth, he and McCrillis collaborated on one of the first technical books on skiing ever published in this country, Modern Ski Technique (1932). Illustrated with McCrillis’s photos of Schneibs displaying skiing moves intended for the novice as well as the veteran, the book went through eight editions and eleven printings between 1932 and 1940.

Among many of McCrillis’s contributions was chairmaning of the first committee of the U.S. Eastern Amateur Ski Association on downhill and slalom racing which made its report in 1933. This committee provided the framework for Eastern alpine competition rules and regulations.

McCrillis and Schneibs stimulated competitive ski racing by donating a perpetual trophy to the Dartmouth Outing Club to be awarded annually to the best all-around non-varsity skier. The Schneibs-McCrillis trophy was established in 1933.

John W. McCrillis was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1966.

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