Skiing pioneer, writer passes

Robbins recalled for optimism, Nordic contributions

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Jonathan Selkowitz/courtesy

Paul Robbins died Saturday at his home from an apparent heart attack. Robbins was a journalist who covered skiing for more than 30 years. He was instrumental in the growth of the Nordic Combined program and helped bring World Cup events to Steamboat.

— Former U.S. Nordic combined coach Tom Steitz will always remember when he got the idea to try bringing the World Cup to Steamboat Springs.

Lots of people thought it was impossible.

But legendary skiing writer and Nordic enthusiast Paul Robbins wasn't one of the detractors.

"Most people laughed at me," Steitz said. "The people from the Olympic teams and the U.S. Ski Team said it couldn't be done. I'll never forget that day I talked with Paul on the phone. When I told Paul, he said 'I'll start writing stories.'"

So that is what Robbins did. He wrote stories. He also got other people to write stories and, lo and behold, the Nordic combined World Cup showed up in Steamboat.

Robbins was there to cover each and every local World Cup, along with thousands of other ski events.

Robbins died Feb. 23 of an apparent heart attack at his home in Vermont. He was 68.

The legendary ski and travel journalist was introduced to competitive skiing in the late 1970s and began a 30-year career covering all facets of ski racing for the U.S. Ski Team, Ski Racing Magazine and numerous other publications.

Robbins became a correspondent for the U.S. Ski Team in the early 1980s, traveling for many years on the international circuit with the Nordic teams.

He became a full-time correspondent in 1988 and covered the Olympic Winter Games beginning with the 1980 games in Lake Placid, N.Y.

"It's a huge loss for skiing, Nordic skiing especially," Todd Wilson, Nordic Program Director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, said of Robbins' death. "I have a hard time imagining our little arena without him."

Robbins was as knowledgeable about the sport of skiing as anyone, Steitz said, recalling countless days and nights with Robbins, just talking about the sport.

One of those many memorable experiences came this winter, when local Johnny Spillane returned to the World Cup podium in Nordic combined after a two-year absence.

"He called my house at 5 a.m.," Steitz said, noting Robbins would stay up all night to watch skiing events in Europe. "He said, 'Johnny just got back on the podium.' He got so choked up and emotional he had to hang up and call back later. That's how much the guy cared about Nordic combined."

One of Robbins' greatest abilities, Steitz said, was always dealing with athletes fairly and accurately. Steitz said Robbins was always the one guy skiers wanted to talk to, no matter how they finished.

"He loved Steamboat; he really did," Steitz said. "It's hard to say, but it's just not going to be the same. As I thought about it over the years, without him, winning wouldn't have been as much fun and losing would have been a lot worse."

Robbins is survived by his wife of 18 years, Kathe. He was a native of New Jersey and alumnus of Holy Cross who later moved to Vermont. A memorial service in Vermont will be coordinated by the U.S. Ski Team and his local friends for a date in late spring.

Donations to the U.S. Ski Team in Paul Robbins' name may be made to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation, Box 100, Park City, UT, 84060.

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

skitowngirl 6 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the excellent story about Paul. His enthusiasm for the sport, and for Steamboat, is unsurpassed. He will be sorely missed. He had a great way of communicating with young people that not only taught them how to express themselves in the media, but also made them reach inside themselves to be better than they thought they could be.

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