Remember 'Chene' and ski for free

Gene Landsmann died just over a year ago, but he will be remembered this weekend in ski races at Mount Ashland and Mount Shasta.

Landsmann worked at Mount Ashland for more than 30 years. He was revered not only for his skiing ability, but also for the sense of professionalism he brought to the mountain when he came to Southern Oregon from Sun Valley, Idaho, in the mid-1970s.

"Gene was our dear friend and mentor," Rick Saul, Mount Ashland's marketing director, recalled this week. "He was really the persona of the ski area from 1974 to 2003."

"He really brought a sense of the alpine life to us," said Mike Dadaos, Mount Ashland special events manager, who worked for Landsmann as a ski instructor in the '70s.

Landsmann's prowess on skis was legendary.

"It was never like he was showing off," Dadaos said. "He was so graceful and he made it look so easy. We tried to ski like him, but none of us could."

Gene never quite lost the Austrian accent that gave Mount Ashland a little bit of European flavor. In the newsroom we jokingly called him "Chene" because that's what his name sounded like when he announced himself on the phone.

Mount Ashland's "Gene Day" will include a fun, easy, dual slalom course, with two separate sets of gates, on the lower Juliet trail.

"You can race your buddy," Saul explained, "or whoever is next to you in line."

Entry fee for the slalom race is $5 and you can do the course as many times as you want between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will also be a freestyle event in the terrain park for snowboarders and twin-tip skiers, with a $15 entry fee.

Barbecue will be served on the deck beginning at 11 a.m. There will be kielbasa sausage, homemade potato salad and baked beans for $8. Hang around for a while and you're almost guaranteed to hear some stories about Gene.

If you can't do Gene Day on Saturday, you have another chance on Sunday at Mount Shasta. When Gene left Mount Ashland, he moved to Hornbrook, Calif., just across the state line, and went to work for the Mount Shasta Ski Park for several years before his death.

Mount Shasta's "Gene Landsmann Super Slalom" course will be set on the lower Black Fox and Horizon runs. Entry is limited to people over age 21. Racers will be grouped with others of their own age, and there will be separate competition for telemark skiers and snowboarders.

Entry fee is $25, and lift tickets will be $25. Proceeds will benefit the Mount Shasta Race Association and the Mount Shasta Ski Team. Racers can scout the course from 9 to 9:45 a.m. and the first runs will start at 10.

Now, what about that "ski free" tease in the headline?

It's true. Your Mount Ashland lift ticket won't cost a cent Sunday if you bring along a minimum donation of five cans of non-perishable food. The ski area is working with ACCESS, the community action agency, to collect food for families in need. Last year, skiers and boarders contributed 4,764 pounds of food, and the ski area gave away 962 lift tickets.

"Last year was hugely successful," said Philip Yates, nutrition programs director for ACCESS.

Yates said the ride down the Mount Ashland access road with more than two tons of food was "pretty precarious. I had to keep it in low gear."

Yates said he's hoping Sunday's collection will surpass last year's because the need for food has increased dramatically this year as the economy tanked.

"The need in some areas is up 30 percent," he said.

The free lift ticket gives everybody a chance to enjoy the snow for next to nothing, he said. "It's a great offer. Where else can you get a $30 or $40 value for five cans of food"

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail

Share This Story