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Rudolph F. Mattesich

Hall of Fame Class of 1983

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Rudi Mattesich, perhaps more than any other single individual, was responsible for the introduction, development and growth of ski touring in the United States.

Born in 1900 in Bosnia, Yugoslavia (then part of the Austrian Empire), Rudi Mattesich was educated in military schools, graduated from the Austria-Hungarian Imperial Military Academy and was commissioned as a lieutenant and served in the Hungarian white army after World War I. In the manner of the day, he was exposed to the arts and undertook formal training as a painter.

In 1921, Rudi went to work in the Austrian Tourist Office in Vienna, spending his winter holidays trail skiing in the Austrian Alps with little money, old army equipment and not much technique. During this time, he became acquainted with people involved in skiing, including Hannes Schneider who was developing a skiing technique to enable soldiers with packs to cope with different terrain during the war. In 1926, Austria was ready to promote skiing in the Tyrol and Arlberg and Rudi was chosen for the job of convincing Americans of its superiority. From 1926 until 1938, he ran the Austrian National Tourists Office on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Rudi convinced one of Austria’s renowned racers, Hannes Schroll, to enter some of our races in order to assist that promotion. That was the beginning. Rudi had met Hannes Schneider in Austria and in 1936, convinced him to come with his Arlberg team to spread the word in meets and ski shows. Old timers well remember the impact made by those New York Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden shows and the giant step forward that skiing took as a result of publicity generated by the likes of Otto Schneibs, Benno Rybyzka, Otto Lang and Sigi Buchmayr. Rudi was a moving force behind all this.

In 1938, Austria was absorbed by Hitler’s Third Reich and Rudi sadly left the Tourist Office. During the war years, Rudi lived in New York’s Greenwich Village and worked as a comptroller in the Astor Hotel and the Belmont Plaza among other things. Mainly he painted while his wife, Virginia, an accomplished author, wrote. Most of their output sold.

When the war ended, Rudi spent most of his time endeavoring to help post-war Austria. He organized and headed the official relief organization for Austria, “American Relief for Austria” in 1945-47. He was also doing some skiing with his compatriot, Sepp Ruschp, at Stowe. He was increasingly reverting to ski touring which seemed to be more natural to him. Austria called Rudi in 1947 to reopen the Austria National Tourist Office in New York to again promote skiing in Austria.

In 1951-52 with Sepp Ruschp’s help, he financed the first F.I.S. team to come here. Skiing both downhill and trails at Stowe with Sepp, the beauty of the woods on the mountain recalled the joy of earlier trail skiing in Austria. He, Himself, did increasingly more ski touring in an effort to once again get closer to nature. Rudi, like his first friend, Jack Rabbit Johannsen, believed in keeping it simple and inexpensive.

With Ron MacKenzie of Lake Placid, Rudi helped lay out the Mt. Hoevenberg trails. In August, 1962 Rudi, remembering the good old days in Austria, was set to revive trail skiing. In November, 1962 he called Roland Palmedo and discussed plans to foster ski touring. That month they organized the Ski Touring Council with Rudi as president. The Ski Touring Council, through Rudi, published the Ski Touring Guide, a detailed listing and description of touring trails in the eastern U.S., Canada and parts of Western U.S.

In 1969, Rudi retire from the Tourist Office but not from his involvement with ski touring. He moved to Vermont and was busier than ever with the Ski Touring Council. For many years of dedication and quiet devotion, Rudi has received a number of awards. Among them are the National Ski Touring Area Operators Award, the 1976 Golden Quill Award from the U.S. Ski Writers Association for outstanding contributions to American Skiing and the 1974 COMNIE Award from the Association of Travel Editors. He has received two Gold Certificates from the Eastern Ski Association of which he is a long-term member and a special award from the National Ski Touring Instructors. The National Ski Patrol has made him an honorary member.

Rudi Mattesich was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1983.

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