Bob Singley, Winter Park skiing legend, inducted into Hall of Fame
Bob Singley is a pretty humble guy.
Though he’s arguably one of the most important figures of the freestyle skiing revolution in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he doesn’t like to make a big fuss about it.
When contacted for this article, Singley was a bit reluctant.
“Oh, you know, I really think people are tired of hearing about me,” he said with genuine concern.
But try as he might to avoid the limelight, Singley is once again making headlines.
Later this year, the legendary skier and stuntman will be inducted to the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame as an athlete and pioneer of skiing.
Susie Tjossem, executive director of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum, described Singley as “iconic” and “legendary,” citing his innovation in freestyle skiing and remarkable career.
“I think he really just captures the spirit and fun of skiing and why so many people joined the sport, and the fact that he has maintained that spirit throughout his life is inspiring,” Tjossem said.
Singley said he’s grateful for the recognition.
“It’s a real honor to be recognized with legitimate world champions and captains of industry, so to speak,” he said.
Singley, 73, still skis when he can and is still very much a part of the ski community. He recalls the community as one of the things that first appealed to him as a young kid from Wheat Ridge, riding the Ski Train to Winter Park.
“I just wanted to go ski,” he said. “I just wanted to be a skier. I liked the expression of the sport. I liked the camaraderie of skiers.”
Those were the good old days, when students could get a round trip ticket on the Ski Train and a lift ticket for $5. Singley and his friends would try to make their own skis with old wood, leather straps and “whatever was affordable.”
Even from the beginning, Singley said he found Winter Park to be a special place.
“I always wanted to live here when I was a kid,” he said. “I always felt good in Winter Park.“
After graduating from high school, Singley spent a season in Switzerland before returning to Winter Park and getting a job as a Ski Patroller.
“As I progressed and got on the Ski Patrol, that opened the doors for everything else,” he said.
While visiting a friend in Switzerland, Singley got a job working on the set of the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That same year he got a job as a stuntman in Robert Redford’s Downhill Racer.
“That whole experience in film was just a special thing,” he said.
It was around this time that Singley was making a name for himself as a skier that pushed the boundaries of what was possible on skis.
In the early ‘70s, Singley toured Europe performing in freestyle ski shows.
The troupe brought its own kickers, ramps and even a portable ski tow, performing for audiences in Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
Their style of skiing, replete with big jumps, mule kicks, helicopters and even a few flips, wowed audiences, Singley recalled.
In a sense, Singley was an ambassador of freestyle skiing.
“We just did things that people weren’t doing,” he said. “We just kind of expanded the boundaries. We were always making jumps. For me it was all about air. I wanted to fly.”
As freestyle skiing began to catch on in the popular consciousness, Singley was there for some of its biggest moments.
He finished fourth in the First Annual National Championship of Exhibition Skiing, the first freestyle skiing competition ever, held in Waterville Valley, N.H., in 1971.
A few years later, Singley was part of the first freestyle competition in Europe, followed by the first freestyle competition in Switzerland.
Though he’s certainly made an international impression, Singley has also had a huge impact closer to home.
He organized the first Epworth Cup, an exclusive summer ski race held near Rollins Pass, in 1966, and started the Tirebiter Ski Club at Winter Park.
Over the years, he’s organized many fundraiser races to benefit Grand County students.
Today, Singley said he’s involved in “more sedate pursuits” with his wife, Gail.
He still holds an unequivocal reverence for Ski Patrollers and a unique philosophy on skiing.
He said he deplores how regimented freestyle skiing has become, saying it’s “too much like racing.”
For Singley, skiing has always been about freedom and expression.
“I won some big events, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “The experience of just doing it is more important than how you do it, to me.”
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