Ski Icon Emile Allais Passes Away At 100 Years Young
One of skiing’s original savants died Wednesday night (Oct. 17) in the French Alps. Emile Allais, who espoused the technique of parallel skiing when Austrian instructors were teaching the Arlberg (wedge) movement, succumbed after a brief illness.
Allais was a four-time world champion and 1936 Olympic bronze medalist, who exemplified the health benefits of the ski and outdoor lifestyle. He died just a few months shy of his 101st birthday.
Not only was Allais the first great French ski racer. He also developed the country’s ski school into the largest in the world. Allais held the French Ski School’s number two pin in an organization that currently numbers well over 2,000 trained instructors. The French teaching system holds a presence in every ski resort in the nation.
“He was a very, very great (figure) in French skiing,” remarked former U.S. Ski Team women’s coach Michel Rudigoz. “My memory of Emile was in Courchevel, where he jumped with my brother J.P. My brother was 10 years old.”
Everything about Allais’ life was skiing: the son of a baker met his wife at a ski event, he served in World War II on skis, coached the national teams of the United States, Canada and France where he impacted the great Jean-Claude Killy at a young age, taught skiing to celebrities such as Cary Grant and Brigitte Bardot, and helped design resorts in Western Europe and South America.
Through my friend and colleague in Switzerland, Patrick Lang, SnoCountry.com was able to get Killy’s reaction to Wednesday night’s news.
“Emile was always 20 years ahead of his time,” said the triple gold medalist of the 1968 Winter Olympics. “In 1965, I was invited to Chile and thought I was the first and only French to be asked there. But Emile had already been there. “Facing Austria with the power of his action and genius, he repositioned France at the top of the winter sports world.”
Well into his rewarding life, the man could ski. Jon Reveal, the General Manager of Sleeping Giant Ski Area in Wyoming, recalled, “During the shooting of the 1974 Warren Miller film ‘Skiing’s Great’, Emile skied Pat Bauman, Dick Dorworth and I off a cliff at Flaine (France) that we did not know was there. Emile skied away; all three of us fell. When we got down to Warren and Emile they were both laughing. Warren said, ‘Try to keep up boys. He is 40 years older than you.’" In 2005, Allais was invited to the Senate in Paris and was honored for his contribution to the sport he loved.
Above all, and considering the magnitude of his achievements and the fact that he appeared on the cover of LIFE Magazine in 1949, he did not consider himself any type of wunderkind or celebrity.
John Fry was the long-time editor of SKI Magazine. In December 1984, he wrote, “In a world where ‘greatness’ is defined by the aggressiveness with which one announces himself to the world, Allais is an utter anomaly. He speaks softly, his voice resonating like some soft, harmonic instrument. His manner is gentle. He appears to bear malice toward no one.”
In that alone, he was an example to all.
Emile Allais RIP.