Nic Fiore: The Likes of this California Hero Won't Be Seen Again!
by Barbara L. Steinberg©
I feel very blessed to count myself among the thousands of Yosemite Badger Pass visitors to have experienced the aura and joy that was Nic Fiore. Nic Fiore defined the spirit of Yosemite and with his passing last week, an era has truly come to an end.
A Badger Pass ski instructor for more than 50 years, Nic Fiore was a legend to tens of thousands of novice skiers whose good fortune brought them under his wing.
I don't ski. I never did. But meeting Nic Fiore was the highlight of a winter's visit to Badger Pass. He was already more than 80 years old, he oozed youth, health, and exuberance. I watched in wonder as he zigged and zagged down the snowy slopes with skiers 40 to 50 years his junior. I was enthralled listening to his stories and, in particular, the story of his arrival at Yosemite. A young, handsome Canadian...he came...and never departed.
I will never forget that day. That experience. That Nic! Truly, one of a kind! And along with countless of Californians, Yosemite National Park staff, and Nic Fiore fans around the world...I mourn the loss of this California icon.
Nic Fiore: Obiturary:
1920 - 2009
Nic 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 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 National Park, 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, after teaching 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.
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. Fiore subsequently coordinated similar exchanges in the U.S. 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. Fiore 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 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 snowboardboard, credited to Nic Fiore’s legacy as its longtime director of skiing. While some contributions to skisport 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 (yosemitefund.org) and the Air Warrior Courage Foundation (airwarriorcourage.org).
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I was searching about family holiday insurance when I came across this article. I just want to thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us. Nic Fiore’s determination and love for skiing is very inspiring. It’s sad that I never got to know him. I really admired his strength to teach ski until he still can. 3 generations of skiers? That is a lot. I want to extend my sincere condolence for the relatives and friends of Nic Foire. He is in a happy place now, resting peacefully. Nic Foire will never leave as long as there are fully determined, enthusiastic and committed skiers among us. He’s memory will truly be remembered.
Posted by: Jim is looking for family holiday insurance | Monday, 27 September 2010 at 01:16 AM
Bob and I (Loy) Cutshall and our 4 children were privileged to learn to ski under Nic's teaching. We both worked with him as college students in 1949, 1950. I used to sing for the Firefall ceremony at Curry and visited with him while being involved with the making of the Curry 100 year celebration under Tom Bobb's direction.We shared meals at the Ahwahnee when we visited every year. Also loved seeing him as he hosted the guests at the door in his Bracebridge costume and wonderful engaging smile. We met him at the many Sierra camps and always cherished his table talk at dinner over a bragging session of his staff in the kitchen. (Young kids who learned the right way
to serve food in the high country). He was a joy to all and will always be remembered as the yodeling spirit of Yosemite.
Our last visit with him was in the Assisted living in Fresno.The death of your Mom in Florida had such an impact on his sense of purpose and values. She was always part of his sharing times with us and was amazed she chose him as a partner.
Our lives were always enriched with every esperience. We loved him dearly. He and Bob will meet in their new heavenly home and I know the reunion will be of old memories and times spent in their beloved Yosemite. God's blessings on you and your family.
In fond memories of a dear man and wonderful days of yore. Loy Cutshall and family.
Posted by: Loy Cutshall | Monday, 10 August 2009 at 02:44 PM
Thanks for posting this, Barbara. Nic was truly as big to Yosemite as El Capitan.
Posted by: John Poimiroo | Wednesday, 24 June 2009 at 04:05 PM