By Web Master, 3-15-12
After my first filming trip to Europe that Merrill Hastings, publisher of Skiing News Magazine, promoted for me in 1953, the only way to convince the airline to send me the second time was to promote a ski tour to the Alps via Scandinavian Airlines. At every one of the shows that fall and winter the audiences were all told of the opportunity to be in my next movie by going to Europe and skiing with me for three weeks.
After promoting the tour in about 75 cities that year, 14 people signed up and I met them all in New York City for a fun-filled, powder-snow, three-week trip. This was only four-and-a-half months after my young wife had died of malignant cancer of the spine. I was ill equipped mentally to handle the trip, but the people had all paid in advance so there was no turning back.
We arrived in Munich and grabbed the afternoon train to Kitzbuhel, where a real surprise awaited us. The person arranging the ground portion of the tour for Scandinavian Airlines assumed no one would book the tour so he or she had made no reservations. My 14 guests slept in 11 different inns, hotels and chalets.
Arrangements were made so we could all eat together. The tour started off so badly for me there was no time to even think about making movies. A perky little blonde lady was the first casualty of the tour – she broke her ankle on the second day. While visiting her in the hospital she was already taking German lessons from her roommate who was reportedly an Austrian countess of some kind. The countess was almost out of money and sold me an antique pocket watch. I endorsed a $20 traveler’s check to her and at dinner that night I was offered as much as $200 for the watch and silver chain. It is an antique in our home in Washington to this day.
By the time the group arrived in Zurs, Herbert Jochum had already heard of our plight and this time I spent the next five days sleeping on a sheet of plywood atop a bathtub in a pension. I could not go to bed until everyone had taken their bath. Every member of the tour would be getting their share of room and board refunded. I did save a lot of money on my travel expenses but the footage of skiing that was taken suffered a lot. As I had in the past, I covered up the missing footage with a lot more words than I did in subsequent years.
The following summer I was scheduled to lead a tour to South America, but I ran out of time and canceled 60 days before the tour was scheduled to leave.
My second annual ski tour to Europe had adequate reservations and I eased up on my responsibilities and took time off from the tour to spend a few days filming. On the second tour we were skiing in Badgastein and decided to ski down to the next town and take the train back. This seemed like a good time for one of the members on the tour to fall and break his leg. There were very few ski patrolmen in those days so I had another member of the tour haul his equipment down the hill and I skied down with him on my back. We caught the 5:53 p.m. train back to Badgastein with me carrying the man. Our concierge located a doctor for me and the message we got was just bring him. The doctor was four blocks from the hotel and so it was another backbreaking slog through the narrow streets of Badgastein with my tour customer on my back. He caught up with us 10 days later in Davos, Switzerland.
Stay tuned for the rest of my short career as a ski tour guide through the ski resorts of Europe.
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