Leroy Hill Celebrating 50 years ‘on the mountain’ …. offered by Mike Livak

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Leroy Hill since he and Tony Hardy hired me as a rookie ski instructor in 1990.  It is truly an honor to speak at Leroy’s retirement event; he is a legend in the industry and here at Squaw.

In 1990, Leroy was the director, Tony was the Assistant director, and the supervisors included Dave Precit, Larry Murdoch, and Mike Sodergren.  Karin Bell was the office manager.  Children’s and Adult lessons were all taught out of the same school.  I clearly remember the 3-day tryout, being pushed to perform a bunch of ski-agility tests that challenged our balance and skills, then craning our necks around the crowd of roughly 100 applicants to see who received a job offer for the dozen or so spots that were available, on the typewritten list posted in the ski school office window.

My college ski racing friend Jim Annan and I somehow got hired, and began the search to upgrade our accommodations from living in our trucks in the parking lot. We were honored and humbled to join the history that is Squaw Valley.  That was a drought year, and we skied the brand new Red Dog and Squaw Creek chairs about a thousand times in the rain, relying on the brand new snowmaking system that had been installed at Squaw.

Now, Leroy seems like an easy going guy, but Leroy was a serious authoritarian.  Although there were plenty of hi jinx and comraderies, lineup was fearsome.  It was easy to get sent home if you were remotely out of uniform, and chatting with one’s neighbor was forbidden.  Wearing the wrong hat could earn an instructor a stretch of 10 days teaching first timers.  I think one day we were fooling around doing tip-stands in the back of the line and we got sent home, suspended, and got a tough lecture in the principal’s office.  Leroy always looked perfect in his uniform, and what an elegant skier!   It was a tough year.  We showed up at lineup every hour and never got work.

Back in those days, the uniforms were reversible, so if you were free skiing, you were expected to reverse your jacket so that the “beauty stripe” was on the inside.  Do that 5 or 6 times for hourly lineup, and never mind if you got wet because it was raining.

Later, I learned a lot more about Leroy.

His start as a lift operator who suggested to Alex Cushing that operators should ‘bump’ chairs for the guests in 1960-61, because guests were less likely to fall off the lift after loading.   Alex had yelled at Leroy not to touch the chairs.

His work on the Patrol, ski packing Siberia Bowl, dragging a length of culvert coated with floor wax behind a crude tracked- machine to “groom” the snow.

His employment as Assistant and Patrol Director, working with Dick Reuter, and as assistant gunner -working with Norm Wilson.  Throwing explosives out of helicopters in British Columbia, duct taped to the ship for safety (yes they had duct tape in 1964) to keep from falling out, protecting the Granduc Mine in Stewart BC.  Leroy is an understated guy, and you might not be able to picture him at the controls of artillery or throwing bombs from the air, but there it is.

Acting as Snow Safety Specialist for the State of CA in the late 60s here at Squaw.

Leroy and his wife Elisa’s global travels, including treks to Everest, China, and other exotic locales.

Finally, Leroy’s work with ski schools and many luminaries of ski instruction at Squaw and Kirkwood, including associations with Stan Tomlinson, Hans Standteiner, JP Pascal, Cliff Taylor, Tony Sgro.  Trips to Bariloche Argentina in summer with the ski teams.

Leroy’s role as President of PSIAW, and defining the direction of ski instruction in the west for decades. His job  as Director of the SV school from 1980-1991, his work as an executive with the Company as manager of all profit centers, and his first ‘retirement’ back to ski instruction in 1999, when Leroy returned to the front line and taught more hours than anyone here since then, rain or shine, virtually every day.

Leroy has committed his life to education, to sport, and to helping people discover the love of skiing.  That has been a noble endeavor, and changed the lives of many.  It is very fitting that one of the few runs named for people here at Squaw carries Mr. Hill’s name.

This season marks Leroy’s 50th, and he joins an elite club at Squaw that includes Alex Cushing, Wes Schimmelpfenning… and that’s about it.  Think of that.  Of the many thousands who have worked at Squaw, 3 people dedicated 50 years of their lives to make this place what it is.

Even Pete Heuga, Jimmy Huega’s father who operated the tram for many years, or John Buchman- the cab driver that Alex met on the way to the airport and brought west as a laborer- whom he soon hired to manage Squaw Valley- or Hans Burkhart, our fearless General Manager who built the tram, funitel, and most of the other lifts and infrastructure that you see at Squaw, did not work here for 50 years.

Leroy’s achievements have been varied and significant, and he’s made a real difference in so many people’s lives, through the very development of the sport of skiing.

Leroy, congratulations, and THANK YOU.

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