William Banks Berry
Hall of Fame Class of 1976
Information submitted in a nomination letter to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame by John Watson.
Ski writer and historian, William Banks Berry, first covered ski jumping in 1922 as a reporter for the OTTAWA JOURNAL in Canada. His journalism career, coupled with an intense dedication to ski history, spanned almost five decades.
Bill Berry advanced skiing in both the United States and Canada almost from its organized beginnings here in North America. His journalistic donation to skiing, oft-times on his own initiative, dated from 1922, when he reported his first ski jumping meet in Ottawa, Canada for the Ottawa Journal. Not only did he write about skiing, when few were, in the great ski jumping era in the snow belt of the East, but in the Far West he played an integral role in the development of both the nordic and alpine disciplines. From the time Bill Berry traveled west in 1928 at the age of 25, he was more than an observer, he was a creator. From 1938, when he helped revive longboard racing in the Sierra Nevada, he maintained his lifetime romance with ski history as well. He was the principal force in the continuing unfolding of the history of the earliest skiing in the United States – that by the gold miners of the Sierra Nevada from the early 1850s. He skied with most of the Honored Members of the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame.
His ski competition reportage in the Lake Tahoe region started in 1929, setting new standards of excellence.
Reviewing Bill Berry’s accomplishments is like a review of American ski history. These are some highlight of his career:
• Winter sports reporting for the Ottawa Journal; beginning in 1922 when he wrote up the ski jumping championships in that city.
• Reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, New York Herald-Tribune, New York Daily News, Reno Journal, Sacramento Union, all the major wire services and many other periodicals with an international circulation, beginning in the 1920s.
• Ski reporting for the Sacramento Bee (1941-64) and the Nevada State Journal (1928 on), covering as many as eight events per weekend. He wrote up the 1960 Olympics and all F.I.S. championships from 1950 through 1964.
• Responsible, with Harold Grinden, for tracing the Norwegian antecedents of American skiing.
• Appointed in 1938 by Harold Grinden to the Ski Hall of Fame Committee of which he was a member for many years. Berry single-handedly revived the committee in 1966 and served as its chairman through 1972; in 1974 he became Historian Emeritus.
• Responsible for development of most of the museum material now displayed in the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame. Through contacts with Nevada state officials, he lobbied successfully for the construction of two permanent buildings for the Squaw Valley Olympics in 1960 and served on the Olympic Organizing Committee.
• A driving force behind the establishment in 1969 by the Auburn Ski Club of its Western Ski Sport Museum which collects, preserves and exhibits the history of winter ski sports in the American west. Berry served as the museum’s historian.
• Played a leading role in the revival of longboard racing in the Sierra Nevada in 1938.
• Active ski jumper in the 1928-1945 era, had skied since 1909. Was a member of the Reno Ski Club since 1929, the pioneer Auburn Ski Club since 1933 and a charter member of the forerunner California Ski Association.
• Recipient, in 1969, of the Blegen award, the highest honor given by the U.S. Ski Association.
• Won the International Skiing History Association’s prestigious lifetime achievement award in 1994.
• Each year, the Far West Ski Association gives out the Bill Berry Award for outstanding service to skiing by a member of the media. Winners have included John Jay, Warren Miller, Bob Beattie and Suzy Chaffee.
Bill Berry’s half-century career as a ski journalist and historian spanned an era of tumultuous evolution and growth in American skiing. He can rightly be called custodian of this country’s ski heritage.
William Banks “Bill” Berry was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1976.
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