Badger Pass Icon Nic Fiore Passes; Taught Thousands to Ski At Yosemite National Park's Ski Area

Nic Fiore, an icon at Yosemite's Badger Pass Ski Area, passed away this week.

Nic Fiore, an icon at Yosemite National Park's Badger Pass Ski area, has died at the age of 88. During his 57-year-career at Badger Pass he taught an estimated 137,500 people how to ski.

Mr. Fiore arrived in Yosemite Valley on a snowy night in 1947 to work as a ski instructor at Yosemite's Badger Pass. He slogged through three feet of snow to his dormitory, exhausted from the transcontinental train trip from his native Montreal, and the following morning met ski school director, Luggi Foeger. Until that moment Mr. Fiore hadn't seen the valley's sheer walls. The 27-year-old ski instructor turned to his new director and, while looking up, exclaimed, "Luggi, this is fantastic, but where do the beginners ski!?"

In the 57 years following his arrival in Yosemite, Nic Fiore answered that question like no other American ski instructor, teaching some 137,500 people how to ski at Badger Pass. He retired in 2004, having taught skiing for more than 60 years. His career began in 1940 as an Army Ski Instructor for the Royal Canadian Armed Forces. Following World War II he became certified by the Canadian Ski Instructor's Alliance and taught skiing in Canada's Laurentian mountains, before moving to Yosemite.

Mr. Fiore, who died Tuesday in Fresno at age 89, is believed to have taught more people to ski than any other ski instructor in North America. Thousands of baby boomers were introduced to skiing at dry-land ski schools conducted by him during the 1950s and '60s, and he became a Yosemite institution not only in winter. He also managed the Glacier Point Hotel, Big Trees Lodge, Hotel Wawona and Yosemite Lodge, and in 1966, began directing Yosemite High Sierra Camps, often walking from five to 25 miles a day between camps.

In 1965, Nic Fiore authored the ski technique guide, So You Want to Ski, and, in 1967, he was selected by the French government to represent the United States at its prestigious French National Ski Instructor's academy in Chamonix. Mr. Fiore subsequently coordinated similar exchanges in the United States to improve American ski instruction techniques.

For many years, Nic Fiore served as executive director of the Professional Ski Instructors of America/Western Division and became the only person to receive both the Northern California and Nevada Ski Media Association and the Southern California Association of Ski Writers awards for outstanding contributions to the sport of skiing. He is the only ski instructor ever to have been inducted into the California Tourism Hall of Fame and the California Outdoor Hall of Fame. He was also nominated three times to the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

The venerable Yosemite Winter Club, one of the oldest ski clubs in the western United States named its highest award in his honor. The club's Nic Fiore Award is presented annually to "an individual who demonstrates enthusiasm, commitment and a love of winter sports" as did Mr. Fiore. Though, the honor he cherished most were the three generations of skiers who would crowd around him at ski shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco, seeking a moment with their instructor, the energetic and joyful Nic Fiore.

Badger Pass is one of America's smallest ski area, but is widely recognized for its excellence as a place to learn to ski and snowboard, thanks to Nic Fiore's legacy as its longtime director of skiing. While some contributions to ski-sport happen in an instant, his occurred over 60 years. Nic Fiore never earned more than a ski instructor's wage, yet said his reward was in passing the joy of skiing to three generations of skiers.

He is survived by two daughters, eight grandchildren and five brothers and sisters. A memorial service in Nic Fiore's honor is planned to occur at Yosemite's Badger Pass ski area in autumn. His family has asked that contributions be made in his memory to The Yosemite Fund and the Air Warrior Courage Foundation.

Comments

My wife, son, and I are among the hundred-thousand who took ski lessons under his direction. I'll never forget him ringing the big bell out behind the Badger Pass Ski Lodge that signaled the start of each session. He made a remarkeable contribution to both Yosemite and the ski industry. He will be greatly missed!

Nic was the embodiment of the Yosemite High Country. I worked with him every summer from 1966-1974, first as a High Sierra Camp helper, then camp manager, at both Glen Aulin and Merced Lake camps. His high energy, enthusiasm for the mountains, and ability to remember faces was legendary, as was that marvelous French-Canadian accent. And to the high country visitors, he was the epitome of what the hospitality industry should be: providing a memorable experience for the visitor, with a ready smile and a true delight in people. Managing the five hike-in camps plus White Wolf and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge was a summer-long juggling act that he handled each year with managerial skill, people-skills, and physical stamina.
Nic was a boss, a mentor and a friend.
Godspeed, Nic. You have left behind a wonderful legacy. You will be missed.

Anita, your characterization of Nic as the quintessential host is spot-on; thank you. (And you learned well -- by the time I was a camp helper at Glen Aulin in the Watergate Summer of 1974, the place ran like a top. Thanks.)

What an amazing man Nic Fiore was. Everybody has a Nic Story; mine is at http://scotts-news.blogspot.com/2009/06/remembering-nic-fiore.html

Here's to walking off the trail -- //S

I knew Nic when I worked in Yosemite as a park ranger-naturalist (1969-71). I learned to ski at Badger Pass. I last saw Nic in 1993, when I took my son for a hike to Tuolumne Meadows via Merced Lake. He was at the Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, prepariing for arrival by an entourage that included actor Michael Douglas.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

I took ski lessons from Nick and his fellow instructors (Jacque Du Pont) up at Badger Pass in the 1960s-70s and what I learned from them gave me a good strong foundation in skiing. Nick and his ski school had a love and passion for the sport-it rubbed off on me and I have been a ski tech for over 40 years and also taught for the last 3 seasons. I often wish I had worked under Nick at his ski school it would have been a" high adventure." His passing saddens me but I often think of him and Badger Pass-Great memories! Tori Goux Truckee,ca

I met Nic Fiore at a Ski Instructor Convention in Mammoth Mountain in November 1978. As a certified Swiss Ski Instructor and student without a work permit I wanted to spend some months in the USA and work as a ski-instructor. Nic helped me through all the administration and papers. I had a great season at Badger Pass, and Nic not only was my boss and mentor, he became kind of the American father for me.
More than 20 years later I send a letter to his address in Yosemite and he answered from a hospital in Fresno. And he made me very proud to have had the possibility to work with him and he called me in this letter his "lost son". I owe him a lot, especially a lot of mental souvenirs of California.

I am very sad, that I have never had the possibility to meet him again and discuss about our accents of English, how to stand "on the skeleton" while skiing and how to be really professional.

God bless him!

Hermann Brunner
Tola
CH-3943 Eischoll / Switzerland