Local legend: Fraser stuntman Bob Singley blazed freestyle skiing trail
FRASER – If you have followed skiing for the last 40 years you know his name.
He’s been a ski movie stunt double, toured Europe as the one of the first freestyle skiers, was a ski patroller at Winter Park Resort, and has held the ski-industry job all of us ski town folk would love to have: that of a gear tester. The latter allowed him to ski most every resort in North America and Europe, but he always came home to the Fraser Valley.
He’s Bob Singley, and he turned 70 this month; a milestone he celebrated with more than 100 of his friends at Deno’s in Winter Park.
Born in Idaho, Singley moved to Denver at 5 years-old when his father took a job with the U.S. Geological Survey. After earning money on a paper route, he spent it on ski equipment and took the train to Winter Park.
“All I wanted to do was ski,” he said. After high school graduation he traveled for a year and worked for a ski season in Switzerland. He said he feels fortunate to have skied in Europe, but “the conditions here are much better.”
“After a year in Europe, when I got the chance, I moved to Winter Park. I like the feel of Winter Park, and I always like the people I meet.”
In 1959, after years working ski patrol at Winter Park, he got the coveted job working as a ski rep.
“I had to go to Europe and all over the U.S. to ski and try new ski gear; it was my job.”
In 1969, Singley got the opportunity to work on a movie when visiting his friend in Switzerland. Two movies filming crews came to town, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” a James Bond movie, then the “Downhill Racer” film.
Since Singley was a good skier, he was filmed as a ski patroller and then he became a stunt double, featuring several ski-racing crash scenes. During breaks in filming, he and his buddies built kickers.
At that time “hot dogging” was unheard of in Europe, and they would perform aerial tricks to pass the time. Two years later, he joined a ski show and traveled around Europe to 40 ski resorts performing aerials. “It was great to travel and play – doing what I love,” he said.
Singley met many famous people while filming the ski movies including Robert Redford and Gene Hackman. “Redford wasn’t famous at that point, but he was nice and we became friends,” he said. “Many years later when he came to Fraser we would meet.”
Redford invited him to Utah, and Singley toured the film set of “Jeremiah Johnson.”
Fast forward to 2011, Singley has eased into a slower pace in Fraser. “When I traveled all the time, I wasn’t able to keep a garden or shovel snow,” he said. Now, he is content to take care of his property, maintain a Japanese garden with fish, and mow his lawn.
“It’s a great life here, and I had many choices of where to live. We live here intentionally. It’s a Zen thing,” he said.
He still organizes the Tirebiter Ski Club that has been meeting for longer than 50 years. The club has two fundraisers each year: In summer, there is a ski race and party on Mount Epworth’s snowfields, and in winter, an Open GS race on Mary Jane.
“The money raised benefits the junior and high school ski programs, both downhill and cross country,” he said. “We buy them equipment such as downhill helmets or break-away gates to practice racing.” Anyone who wants to be involved in skiing and fun can join this club.
It’s just another way Singley continues to share the love of this sport that has been so good to him.
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The man who died in Grand County’s most recent fatal avalanche asphyxiated after being pinned by his snowmobile on Mt. Epworth outside Winter Park, according to the final report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.