A Short History of “Hot Dog” Skiing

Early origins of “extreme” content. Kid you not!

Before Freestyle skiing, there was Hot Dog Skiing. It stormed into the modern ski era in the 1970s tied to great names such as Scott Brooksbank, Suzy Chaffee (aka “Suzy Chapstick”), Eddie Ferguson, and of course the one and only Wayne Wong. These ski dare-devils and innovators were absolutely nuts, and they captivated my attention and imagination growing up. 

How on earth did I get sucked into this madness?  Well, the story once again returns to my dad (the subject of my last blog article).  Turns out, Chevrolet was one of my dad’s biggest clients at the Los Angeles based Eiseman, Johns & Laws ad agency.  This means I grew up on no shortage of Chevy campaigns and ad jingles, a point I underscored in an Ad Age article about my father (Dad’s Gone, But the Jingles Survive).   Anyway, as luck would have it (to me at least), Chevrolet was a premier (and I think the first) major sponsor of the early “Freestyle Ski Association,” and, more importantly, a number of “Hot Dog Skiing” competitions held at Vail, Aspen, Waterville Valley (Vermont), Park City, and other great ski resorts.  Around that time, his agencwong2y also boasted the Vail Ski Resort as a client.

For one of the first major competitions, my dad’s agency produced a signature (dare I say “epic”) Chevrolet sponsored film entitled “Hot Dog Skiing” which featured just about every great name in this emerging sport.  It even included three-time Olympic old medal winner Jean-Claude Killy who offered commentary on the rise of this curious (undoubtedly sixties inspired) deviation from ski norms.  

For a kid infatuated with the slopes, this film was pure gold, and I probably watched it a hundred times, ritually dusting off the massive reel-to-reel sound projector every November or December to kick off every ski season.  The film also became a staple at one-a-year family ski trips to Mammoth and June Mountain (a 5-6 hour drive from our home in Pasadena) as well as for some of the legendary (we’ll keep it at that for now) Pasadena High School ski trips.  

16mm-projectorA few names really stood out in the signature film, starting with  Wayne WongHis early acrobatic tricks and early pioneering of so-called #BalletSkiing put him in a league of his own. Plus, can anyone possibly have a better name?  (Right, Al?)   A Canadian, Wong is considered one most influential skiers of the 20th century, according to both SKI and Powder magazines. He invented the so-called “Wong Banger” and starred in countless skiing movies, according to Wikipedia.

Former Olympic Alpine Racer Suzy Chaffee (often known via a famous TV ad as “Suzy Chapstick”) also figured prominently in this first “Hot Dog Skiing” film, especially her ballet skiing skills.

A year after the first film, my dad’s agency produced a sequel entitled “A Hotdogger in Vail.”  Not nearly as good as the first but thoroughly entertaining, chronicling a goofy yet cool hot dogger skier’s curious travails around Vail.

pw-suzy-chaffee-featured
Suzy Chaffee

I’m convinced that if social media existed back then, most of the footage from these two films would easily have topped the YouTube charts.  Long before Red Bull, Chevrolet was on to something really big.

Damn Litigation:  But all good stories must come to an end.  As far as I know those were the only films produced, as liability issues (e.g. one of the skiers broke his back, or something like that, inevitably triggering a costly lawsuit) officially brought an end to Chevrolet’s sponsorship of the early competitions (hence my dad and his agency’s involvement).

And quickly thereafter the name “Hot Dog Skiing” quickly evolved into the name “Freestyle Skiing,” which in turn not only graduated into more formal competitions, but also made it all the way to the Olympics.

Somewhere in my Cincinnati storage garage, gathering more dust, sits those classic Hot Dog Skiing films. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find even a clip from these films on the internet, but I did find few clips on YouTube that nicely capture the spirit (and madness) of this priceless era in ski history.

BTW, I couldn’t resist putting my son Liam’s jump-pic next to Wayne Wong in my opening graphic.  Fatherly pride, I guess. He’s getting there, as you’ll see in this video we produced (aptly) entitled Ski Tricks Your Mother Won’t Like.

Rest assured, the Hot Dog madness continues.

Author: pblackshaw

Proud father, living in Switzerland

5 thoughts on “A Short History of “Hot Dog” Skiing”

  1. Watching the post above. Two words for those that grew up between Pasadena and Mammoth – WAYNE WONG. That darkroom. That room. Those moments. Will always be, among my most favorite times. You’ll never know the peace they provided, and the love they made true. Thanks pete for these posts. Your Dad was an inspiration to me. and the WAYNE WONG Film…well. Its simply perfect. AND perhaps the true Predecessor to BMW FILMS. Bill was visionary. Happy New Year Pedro. Al.

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  2. Dude, I just got around to watching your posts on Hot Dog Skiing. Damn, it brings me back to all those ski trips growing up and the two of us trying to duplicate the magic of Wayne Wong on the slopes. It also remind me of Dad and his love of skiing. I’m really happy for your kids that they have the opportunity to ski regularly.

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  3. I was a first time participant in the Spring 1972 Chevy Contest at Sun Valley. We hot doggers usually referred to that early “Hot Dog Skiing” film, that Jay Jalbert did for Chevrolet, (of that 1972 SV event) as “The Chevy Movie”. I didn’t know the films real name until years later. Some clips from that movie are in Brian Gilmore’s excellent 2014 documentary “Dog Days of Winter: The Birth and Boom of Freestyle Skiing” (True Grit Productions) including one of me attempting the first double helicopter and looking like a cat out the window, due to overthinking it.

    I learned that day that you can’t start with your heavy 215cm metal Head 720 skis and heavy ski boots wide apart at the start and expect your groin muscles to be strong enough to pull all that spinning momentum back together again to speed up the spin like an ice skater can. Instead, starting with skis wide apart just leads to a very lopsided awkward spin. You may recall my awkward jump in your dad’s old film. I think I may have also been in that Chevy film in the ballet/tricks event, perhaps doing a series of royal christy 360’s that put me second to Wayne Wong after the first run (and tied for fourth after my ski fell off during the second ballet run). Having done well in the ballet event and expecting to do well in the moguls (after skiing in practice on Exhibition with most of the other competitors), I was hoping to do well enough in the aerials (a series of three or four jumps during a single run) to win the overall. On my first aerial run I did my best jump, an aerial 360 helicopter, on two of the jumps. Word came back up the hill, while I was in line for the second run, that I’d been disqualified for that first run for doing the same jumping maneuver twice (a rule I wasn’t aware of until then). I didn’t have a lot of aerial tricks in my bag at the time and while trying to think of what other jumps I could do for my second run, that was happening soon, I was staring down at my skis and 720 was staring right back at me. That started me overthinking what it would take to pull off a 720. I did make a 720 the next time I tried one. That time using borrowed 170cm skis, and my feet tight together all the way around both revolutions.

    By the end of 1972 I’d self published the first book on the new sport that hadn’t even been named yet (so the title I chose had to cover all the bases). “Freestyle Skiing: the parka pocket guide to trick and hot dog skiing”. I had guessed right on the eventual name,

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