Current Issue / DU Alumni

Life is anything but downhill for Ferries

Even though Chuck Ferries has spent much of his life racing down mountains, his life has been anything but downhill.

“I’ve done pretty much whatever I wanted to do my whole life, so I guess you’d say I was free-spirited,” says Ferries, a Pioneers skier who helped lead the 1961 and 1963 teams to NCAA championships and who was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in October 2008.

That free spirit emerged early for Ferries. At age 16, he jumped out of his bedroom window in Michigan with about $200 in his pocket and took a train to Utah for skiing lessons, only to return home a few weeks later with a broken leg.

But he returned west to finish his senior year of high school in Aspen, Colo., so he could get in-state tuition at the University of Colorado. That didn’t work either—instead he won a scholarship to the University of Denver.

“At DU, I could take winters off to ski because it was on the quarter system, and Willy [Schaeffler, DU’s ski coach] was very, very good,” Ferries says.

The move put him in the DU history books. Aside from appearing on a 1963 Sports Illustrated cover with the headline “Best U.S. Skier,” he became the only American ever to win the Hahnenkamm slalom in Kitzbuehel, Austria, and he skied in the 1960 and 1964 Olympic games. He says the NCAA championship wins over CU were “great fun … we were friends with [the CU skiers], but we were taught it was always more fun to win.”

Hennie Kashiwa, DU’s assistant Nordic ski coach, says Ferries left a lasting impression on DU skiing.

“He made a huge impact at DU, and he’s been a great supporter of DU skiing for a long time,” Kashiwa says.

Today, Ferries, 69, lives in Sun Valley, Idaho, and still skis occasionally. He says he was “a couple of credits short” of actually graduating from DU in the 1960s.

His advice for skiers at the start of this ski season: “Take a lesson, have fun and watch out for the snowboarders.”

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