Gerald Ford, the skiing president, left quite a
legacy and the lasting image of a nice guy.
In obituaries that flooded the news
Gerald Ford was remembered often for replacing disgraced Richard Nixon
and later pardoning him. Some people still think that “healing” action
may have cost Mr. Ford the chance to be elected on his own.
Several accounts attributed his loss to
Jimmy Carter to frequent and merciless lampooning of Jerry Ford by
Chevy Chase, then on Saturday Night Live. The comedian made merry
about Ford’s tripping and stumbling.
I recalled a news clip of Jerry Ford’s
skiing with Secret Service men ---and falling. Without injury, I was
sure, but I decided to Google. Into the search box went “Gerald Ford
injured while skiing.” An hour and maybe 200 references later, Google,
in its inimitable fashion, started playing back other Geralds and even
the word “while.” I tried to be more precise with “Gerald Ford’s ski
The only thing picked up was that Mr.
Ford did suffer the injury all skiers dread---a torn anterior cruciate
ligament. But it didn’t happen while he was skiing; the torn ACL was
an old football injury that had never been repaired. It was speculated
that it may have accounted for those stumbles.
What Google did yield was panegyrics on
the president’s accomplishments and his subsequent public service. And
frequent references to his life in Vail and Beaver Creek. He and Betty
Ford built a slopeside luxury home at Beaver Creek. Any of us who
ever skied there has ridden a lift that passes right over the house.
The Fords lived in Vail while their
house was being built, The Vail Cascade Lodge and Spa named their
number one suite after the president.
There are other
references to Gerald Ford in Vail, most prominently the large
amphitheater and park named for him, The former president was inducted
into the Colorado Skiing Hall of Fame five years ago, He was honored
for community service and 20 years on the board of the Vail Valley
Foundation. Many residents give credit to Mr. Ford for helping to
bring World Alpine Championships to the state.
I had the good fortune of meeting Gerald
Ford at a celebrities ski race in Beaver Creek. He was relaxing in
street clothes on the deck of the press box at the finish line and was
nice enough to chat with me for a few minutes about skiing and the
racers. He also smiled for my camera.
I was writing a newspaper column in
Pennsylvania at the time. My story mentioned the ex-president but
focused on the public address announcer, who happened to live in the
paper’s circulation area. From photos I submitted with the story, the
editor chose one of the announcer. Gerald Ford did not make the cut.
But he certainly made a lasting
impression on the world. That was obvious to anyone who watched the
televised funeral service in the National Cathedral, The eulogists
reminded us of Gerald Ford’s accomplishments during his short time in
Many of us will also remember his
devotion to skiing.