New England Ski Museum to Honor Mt. Tom Ski Area Innovator

HOLYOKE — Cal Conniff will be honored by the New England Ski Museum (NESM) on Saturday, Nov. 7 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The event is open to the public.

NESM’s Spirit of Skiing Award is given to honor a skiing notable who manifests the motto, “skiing is not just a sport, it is a way of life,” attributed to ski pioneer Otto Schniebs. Previous winners include Olympic medalists Stein Eriksen and Penny Pitou, U.S. Olympians Tom Corcoran and Tyler Palmer, Killington Ski Resort founder Preston Smith, renowned ski instructor Herbert Schneider, and ski-show impresario Bernie Weichsel.

Conniff spent his professional life working for the betterment of the ski-area industry, managing the Mt. Tom Ski Area from 1968 to 1973. He put the small facility on the national map by developing extensive night skiing and one of the earliest snow-making systems in the country in the 1960s, two innovations that were soon emulated throughout the resort industry. During his tenure at Mt. Tom, Conniff targeted the youth market, introducing thousands to the thrill of downhill skiing through numerous school programs.

Conniff took over leadership of the National Ski Areas Assoc. in 1973, moving its offices from New York City to West Hartford, Conn. and ultimately downtown Springfield in 1978, where it remained until his retirement in 1990. He now lives in Wells, Maine.

Conniff was an accomplished ski racer in college and won the four-way combined championships for the American Armed Forces in Europe when he was stationed in Germany in the 1950s. A graduate of American International College (AIC), he hosted a TV show on WWLP called Skiers’ Corner. He was inducted into AIC’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011, and to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1990. He is the former president of the New England Ski Museum, where an annual grants program was established in his name.

Tickets to the event, which starts at 5 p.m., cost $75 and available by calling the NESM at (603) 823-7177 or visiting Proceeds support the museum’s mission to preserve the history of skiing.

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