Suzy Chaffee was inducted into the Vermont Ski and Snowboard
Hall of Fame in 2009.
Mention the name Suzy Chaffee and some think ski ballet, others
Suzy Chapstick, and still others, the U.S. downhill darling of the
1968 Olympics - when the statuesque tall blond captured the
attention of the press, if not a medal.
But there's more. Chaffee, a talented racer who came up through
skiing at Pico Mountain and later Killington, was a true promoter
of the sport, advocating first for freedom of expression through
freestyle in all its many permutations-from crazy hot-dogging to
graceful ballet-then for women and minorities in skiing and fitness
Befitting her dynamic advocacy of skiing, Chaffee was inducted
into the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame in 2009,
where she was honored for her many accomplishments and
contributions to the sport.
PRODUCT OF PICO
Born in Rutland in 1946, Chaffee's mother Stevia taught her to ski
at the age of three on the slopes of Pico. Rutlander Joe Jones
became her first coach when she was five. Chaffee grew up racing at
Pico with her brothers Kim and Rick (also Olympians.) They also
raced at Killington, but it didn't open until she was twelve.
When she was a college freshman, Chaffee tried out for the U.S.
Ski Team and finished fifth in downhill at the 1966 World
Championships and was ranked tenth in the world in Women's downhill
As the top-ranked U.S. skier, she captained the 1968 U.S.
Women's Alpine Team at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics. A miscalculation
in ski wax kept her off the podium (she finished 19th), but her
silver racing suit got the attention of the press and helped her
launch a career of many ventures. She retired from ski racing after
the Olympics but not from ski competition.
As a youngster, Chaffee had taken ballet lessons, which led to
fantasies of "dancing down mountains." Combining two passions, she
developed ski ballet, which wed her interest in artistic expression
with an innate joy of sliding on snow.
Soon she was competing in freestyle events, which had taken a
leap forward in the 1960s when Killington instructors Hermann
Goellner and Tom Leroy had executed double and triple flips, thus
helping to introduce the freestyle movement.
Freestyle took off in the 1970s, both at Killington and
nationally. It evolved into the 1970s' spectacular "hot doggin'"
with bumps, ballet, and aerials appealing to a new breed of free
skiers who preferred "self-expression" to skiing's early "forms."
Films featuring early freestylers Wayne Wong, John Clendenin, and
Chaffee and a host of daredevil crazies helped popularize freestyle
as competitions wowed the crowds and took skiing in a whole new
When freestyle became a professional sport in 1971, there was no
women's division, but Chaffee joined the Pro Tour anyway and won
three championships from 1971 through 1973 (yes, competing against
Always the promoter, Chaffee introduced freestyle to America on
Johnny Carson's Tonight Show and raised $1 million to help start
the National Women's division, which debuted when the International
Freestyle Ski Association was formed in 1973.
MODELING & MOVIES
Her freestyle career helped Chaffee launch an eclectic and
adventurous life that included everything from modeling to acting
in movies and creative productions like a workout program and a
The dynamic, friendly and statuesque 5-foot 9-inch blond toured
the country as a promoter for Hart skis. She also hosted Challenge
of the Sexes for CBS, created the Suzy Chaffee Ski Workout,
lectured, studied ice dancing, and even gave a flute performance at
the Metropolitan Opera Club in New York!
Chaffee then produced and directed the ski ballet film "Butch
Chapstick and the Snowdance Kid." In 1986, she starred in Willy
Bogner's hit ski film "Fire & Ice." Chaffee designed fur-lined
skiwear in the 1990s, tying with Bogner to win the "World Ski
Guess who was in the first women sports commercials? Yes,
Chaffee. What's more, her Ultrabrite commercial was deemed "Best
Commercial of the Decade." While her ads for Dannon and others like
Revlon's Charlie might make it seem like she was simply a model,
that was far from the case.
Chaffee was, and is, an astute business woman. Ski magazine once
wrote, "Underneath her rhinestone headband is a mind of a Lee
ADVOCACY & VOLUNTEERISM
The first woman named to the U. S. Olympic Committee's Board of
Directors in 1976, Chaffee advocated for freestyle skiing being
accepted as an Olympic sport. In 1984, she co-produced a World Cup
event that qualified freestyle to become a demonstration sport in
1988 and an Olympic sport in 1992.
Most significantly, she wrote the rule that allowed Madison
Avenue to freely sponsor Olympic teams and individual. This leveled
the international playing fields and made it possible to welcome
all economic classes into Olympic competitions, something she is
understandably proud of.
A true believer in fitness and participation in sports as
leading to good health, Chaffee worked for Title IX legislation
(passed in 1972), which helped create equal opportunities for
females in school sports. She joined the President's Council on
Fitness in 1974, serving through four administrations and assisted
in the passage of the Amateur Sport Act of 1978.
It was while skiing and working on an Olympics bill with
President Ford that his ad man Jim Jordan dreamed up the "Suzy
Chapstick" lip balm commercial.
NEED I SAY MORE?
Based in NYC and LA for many years, Chaffee moved to Colorado in
Chaffee was named to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 1988 for her
many accomplishments in Alpine, freestyle, and sport builder
(sports/fitness promotion) categories.
Hailed as America's "first lady of skiing," she continues to ski
and share her infectious enthusiasm for snow.
Chaffee and Andrea Mead Lawrence (last week's feature in The
Mountian Times) are two of the most famous people to get their
starts at Pico and did the mountain proud.