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Merritt Stiles

Hall of Fame Class of 1975

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Information submitted in a nomination letter to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame by Bill Keil, Ski Hall of Fame Commission, Portland, Oregon.

Dr. Merritt Stiles was as well-known nationally as a cardiologist as he was in his principal avocation – skiing. Although he came to skiing late in life, at age 55, his enthusiasm, hard work and contributions to the sport more than made up for his late start.

Born on September 10, 1899 in Stiles, North Dakota, Dr. Merritt Henry Stiles was heavily involved in organized skiing on local, regional, national and international levels. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was to provide the backing and inspiration to move ski competition in the U.S. from a part-time activity to the full-scale status it would achieve. To accomplish this purpose he provided backing for such future Hall of Famers as Dr. Bud Little and Bob Beattie.

Early in life, Merritt moved to Tacoma, Washington and matriculated at the University of Washington. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Ambulance Service in Italy. After demobilization, he married Tana, a registered nurse.

Dr. Stiles enlisted as a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1942, then served in army hospitals all over the country and was named Chief of Medicine at Baxter General Hospital.

Later he took over as commanding officer of the 188th General Hospital in Leyte, the Philippines and was discharged as a lieutenant colonel in 1946. Instead of returning to his medical practice in Philadelphia, he was lured back to Spokane in the hope of having time to relax, hunt, fish and play golf. Things didn’t work out that way. Instead, he entered the organizational phase of his life; first serving in local professional societies, then in the American Heart Association and eventually in organized skiing. Stiles began skiing in 1955 when he strapped on a pair of old wooden skis to watch his son race on Mt. Spokane. After taking lessons with his wife Tana at Squaw Valley, the two became inveterate skiers, logging nearly 100,000 miles a years in ski-related travel. When not skiing, Stiles ran six miles a day (in twenty minutes) at least three times a week.

Stiles was one of the initial investors in Schweitzer Mountain which opened in December, 1963 and where a run is named after him. Stiles was also instrumental in luring Sam Worthington to apply for a job as mountain manager which involved supervising everything from clearing timber for ski runs, installing power and organizing ticket sales to hiring staff and even marketing the new ski area.

Dr. Stiles collaborated with Dr. Robert D. O’Malley of Holyoke, Massachusetts in writing Ski at Any Age (1972) which was dedicated to the principle that people over 50 could grow healthier by taking up skiing. In fact, since he himself had started skiing, Stiles had been a nonstop proselytizer for the sport’s health benefits, particularly its coronary advantages.

A passage from the book illustrates his enthusiasm: “It is an unfortunate fact that the average American of mature years, male and female alike, has allowed himself or herself to deteriorate into a state of physical unfitness. The young adult male often works under too much stress, with prolonged hours, with too little recreation and with no exercise, frequently associated with heavy cigarette smoking, too much alcohol, overeating and resultant overweight. Can such a person turn the clock back? We believe he can, providing he has sufficient desire and providing he is willing to bestir himself to devote as little as one percent of his time to regular healthful exercise.”

Dr. Merritt Stiles was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1975.

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