A Skier’s Life – James Evans
Pictured above – A young Jimmy Evans navigates the bamboo in his early race days during the Mammoth Mountain Standard Races.
PART I – STRAIGHT SKIS, MAMMOTH MEMORIES & SHOP LIFE
I grew up in the era of “Straight Skis”- pre-shaped era, they were generally longer… a Plus! With just a slight sidecut, my first ‘package ski set’ was Gresvig Super’s 205cm with lift cable bindings and screw in edges (mid-60’s.) A couple seasons later I was totally into Skiing. I splurged and bought my first main line skis, a pair of Head GS (black tops with yellow engraving & sidewalls! Oh, and the price was only $148.50!!) At the time, I thought they were the absolute coolest skis ever.
Next, I was skiing at Mammoth Mountain at least 10 days per month with my first Season Pass, cost only $200! Pretty good value, considering Deer Valley is just about to push $300 for one day!!
Shortly after that, I had the opportunity to go on my first trip to Europe, including my only trip up to Zermatt. It was June 1967 and we skied high up on the glacier, even passing through a Passport Station and some equally fantastic skiing down into Italy!! Now that was ‘Living Large’! On this trip I bought my first pair of Rossi ’Stratos 205cm’. I also bought a pair for my ski pal, Marc Solovy. So, on the trip, I was carrying my suitcase + TWO pairs of 205 Stratos through customs & the airports. I’m pretty sure the cost of these skis was less than $115 per pair.
A few seasons later I was skiing 40 or 50 days per season at Mammoth and got hooked up with my first long term private ski instructor, Lyle Viers (he used to make me ski right on his tails, giving me no choice be but to become a pretty good skier !!!) At that time, I used to roll into Mammoth on Thursday evenings and ski Fri, Sat, Sun, and often Mondays too.
My nick-name during those years was ’The Commuting Local.‘ One of my favorite memories of skiing every day I could up at Mammoth, was one morning, getting my gear on so I could be among the first up Chair #1. Dave McCoy, the founder of Mammoth, came up. tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘come on Jim, let’s go.’ The two of us hiked up the ramp (in those days) and Dave turned on the lift and away we went, getting in that very first run on ‘Broadway!’ That’s a memory I’ll never forget!
To wrap up with our conversation regarding ’straight skis’… In 1967 I started working for Bob Bergstrom at Sports Ltd in Southern California, in the early days, mostly in the shop, mounting and renting skis. One memory during the 1968 Olympics, we were all watching the TV coverage near the front counter, when someone came in to rent skis for their family. Me being low man on the Sports Ltd totem pole, I went back and took care of the rentals and missed out on JC Killy’s first Gold Metal of those games. Luckily for me he won two more during those games.
By the following season, I became Assistant Manager, and as part of my package, I got a new pair of skis of my choice each season. So, I got to ski a number of fantastic ’straight’. skis. Rossignol, new K2 Comp prototypes, Durafiber, Hub Zemke’s Hexcels… the first ones were made under the Mammoth gondola mid-way station, and then many other fantastic different skis.
Part 2 – How It All Began
I was attending Pierce Junior College in Woodland Hills. I Was on the Pierce Ski Team. Our claim to fame was in the mid 60’s we beat USC & UCLA in a Southern California Ski Competition… Excellent! While attending Pierce, I used to stop by my local ski shop, Sports Ltd and a nice young lady, Sherry Keener would make me lunch in the back of the shop. A short time later, she asked me if I wanted to work at Sports Ltd. I thought about it briefly and then said, “Sue – I’d love to work here at the ski shop.” I then had a brief interview with the owner, Bob Bergstrom, and I said I’d love to work here but, I still need to get up to Mammoth and ski every couple of weeks. He said, “I’ll make you a deal. You work every weekend between now and Jan. 1st, and after that, I’ll let you go up to Mammoth skiing every other weekend”… Within 30 seconds, I agreed to these terms.
By the following winter, I had gone from part time, mostly working in the rental shop and learning how to mount skis…. I gained a little traction with Bergstrom, who we all called ‘Bergy’ back then, by taking over the ‘Backpacking Department for the Summer months. When the ski season returned in the Fall, I had moved up Assistant Manager. I even got business cards and as part of my financial package! Bergstrom bought me a Season Pass for Mammoth for the next few seasons I worked for him.
Life was good.
Part 3 – Shop Life
My years with Sports Ltd & Bob Bergstrom were among my very best days during my adult life… Considering I started there in 1967 (FYI – that was just after my return from Europe and that trip up to Zermatt). Now I was a fulltime student at Pierce, 6 to 9 units per semester! LOL!! That was all I was willing to take on as I needed those 45 – 60 some odd-days per season for skiing up at Mammoth, plus now working Full-Time at Sports Ltd.
For years after beginning at Sports Ltd, Bergy would refer to me as Jimmy, who worked part-time at Sports Ltd while attending college. We often laughed about this later, as my part time job was now approaching 60+ hours per week!
In 1972 we opened a second branch of Sports Ltd, 30 minutes East in Sherman Oaks. This allowed me a small ownership position…. Which seemed to be terrific but, by 1975 that would turn on me.
I had helped out a family who had a young ski racer and I was able to get him very cool, real racer stock from a number of main line ski companies like, Rossi, Kastle, and most of all… from my pals up on Fashion Island (Vashon Island, WA) The early glamour days of K2. The early K2’s were primarily package skis, with their ‘Holiday model’ leading the way. Because of strong relationships with a number of key retailers, they introduced the K2 numbered series 1 thru 4, 1’s & 2’s were generally beginner / intermediate skis. The K2 3 was an advanced and a good skier model and exploded onto the ski market as a huge seller each season during its run. The K2 4 (referred to as the K2 COMP) was used by such notables as Spider Sabich and even J C Killy for a stretch.
Of course, I also needed a pair of these new boards, ‘K2 Comps’! My great friend, K2 Western Sales Manager, Dick Zue up on Vashon-Island, provided me a very nice prototype pair, even before the soon to be very famous Red, White & Blue base model was released. (Sidenote: The Red White & Blue bases proved to be an absolute nightmare for ‘P-Tex’ repair, usually in the Spring, back in the shop!! I know because I had to fix them.) About this time, I was also able to acquire a case of these now famous ‘Red, White & Blue top-sheets to wallpaper my guest bath in Chatsworth, CA. It was a big hit! My townhouse was known by Dick Zue and folks up at K2 as ’The Chatsworth Hilton’ Dick & others were often guests here during sales trips and regional shows in SoCal.
In 1972, I moved down to the Sherman Oaks location to take over the day-to-day operation of that Sports Ltd. The store & business went well for a few years and then some squabbles between principles and some poor money movement caused a strain on every aspect of the business. This led to the store closing in 1975… And with that, it was time for me to move on.
Part 4 – Surf Repping Into Retirment
That was easier said than done. Over the next couple of years, I bounced around, with weak product lines and weak sales. Warren Miller’s offices were just 6 blocks from my front door during those Hermosa Beach years. We crossed paths often at his office during that time period. Talking about skiing, ‘life’ and more. One year when I represented “Designs Unlimited’ during these ‘Ski Rep Days’, we printed up the ‘movie design’ T-Shirts and sold them in the lobby of the Santa Monica Civic Theater. Those were some of the highlight memories for that period.
About this time, I got my next huge break. One of the top SoCal Sales Reps called me up one day, saying “We have this line – Offshore SportsWear, and we are too busy and just can’t do it justice. We thought of you, and thought you’d be a natural and you might be able to grow it into something worthwhile… Think OP, Hang Ten, Quicksilver, Lighting Bolt, etc.
The next Saturday morning, I interviewed for the job at OffShore. I came dressed in a sports coat & tie. They informed me that I was the first person wearing a tie to ever show up in their building… LOL! Nice meeting. They hired me on the spot. I started out with all the ski & sport shops in SoCal, Arizona and Vegas. This was the right product to get my foot in the door and create some meaningful business.
My OffShore business grew & grew and with it, my income. By the next round of trade shows, I was offered the position of ‘Major Accounts’ Rep. This would include the department stores, large sporting goods operations… back then Oshman’s led that category (in today’s world think: ‘Dicks Sporting Goods’), and one SoCal lifestyle retailer, known as “Miller’s Outpost”. Miller’s was started and owned by a real class guy by the name of Dave Miller. All of us ‘reps’ met every Thursday out at their corporate headquarters in Cucamonga, CA; usually followed by lunch at some local spot. Almost always the OP or Levis reps would cover the bill. I was doing less business than all of them, and they never let me pick up lunch! LOL! Soon I was doing over $1,000,000 in bookings there…. Thank you Uncle Dave!
About halfway through my Offshore run, Beconta called me (at that time Beconta was the number one company in the entire USA ski industry.) They offered me Beconta Skiwear to go along with my OffShore lines, a Summer / Winter mix of sorts. Although, OffShore wasn’t all that excited about this prospect, It was a huge opportunity for me crossing back into the Ski Business World. By 1981, most of the major brands under the Beconta’s umbrella (Nordica, Volkl, Look, and Fulsap) all wanted to go out on their own and run their own distribution and marketing in the USA – This spelled the end for Beconta.
Part 5 – For All The Reps Out There
One of my repping highlights or coup d’etat’s if you will, was when I invited Dave Miller and his buyers to my Beconta booth at the SIA Ski Show in Las Vegas… I said that I was going to be there and all the buyer’s I worked with should come over, walk the show, take in all the fantastic ‘Fashion Shows’, and then I would take them all out to a Vegas Show. Dave thought that was a great idea. He couldn’t go but, knew all his buying team would love it. That Thursday when I was out at their corporate headquarters, I invited them all over to Vegas. They were floored and excited. I told the Buyers there was only one catch, they had to come up with the show they wanted to see. I definitely scooped the ‘Levis’, ‘OP’ & ‘Lightning Bolt’ Reps that week… LOL
A week later at my Thursday meetings, the Buyers Group told me they had checked out everyone that was playing Vegas during the Ski Show and they wanted to see Willie Nelson! I confess, I didn’t know much about Willie but, I learned very fast that he was going to be one tough ticket to get. I had this ace in the hole at that time though, I knew the lady that was formerly John Wayne’s personal secretary. I spoke to her and told her what I wanted to pull off and she said, “you don’t want too much, do you?’ I had no idea that Willie Nelson would be the toughest ticket in town!! Getting a private table for 10 just 40 feet off the stage was one of my all-time happenings to pull off during all my years in the REP game.
For me, the best part was looking behind us and seeing Dave Gorsuch (legendary Gorsuch Sports founder from Vail & Aspen) two rows from the back wall of the balcony. I waved and then walked up stairs to say Hello; impressed with my production, he asked if there was any way I could be his Offshore Sales REP in Vail. I told him I’d love to and I’d pitch it to OffShore. I did and John Bernards said I must be nuts… LOL! I had a mighty fine run with OffShore. Good times I’ll always remember with John, Charlie, ‘Poolie’ and the rest of the team.
Part 6: Speedo and Moving North
In 1982, word got to me via my ’sub-rep’ that Speedo was interviewing for a Swimwear Rep. The fact that this was just ahead of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was appealing. During the trade show, I wrote out a resume on a legal pad and went over and said Hello to their National Sales Manager. He looked over my handwritten resume and said, “be ready to come up to their headquarters in Portland, Oregon for a meeting,” That Thursday I flew up to Speedo’s headquarters and went home with a full ‘line’ including a few items that would be part of those 1984 Olympics. It was a fairly radical departure from the Ski & Surf worlds but, a pretty exciting opportunity as well. Speedo had 14 or 15 territories, covering all 50 states. Within a year, I had moved up the top #3 or #4 in the company. I loved my time with Speedo, including the Summer of 1984, with me as host to a Speedo Swim Olympic Medal Party, every night at a cool little Mexican restaurant right down by USC, very close to the Olympic Pool.
A year or two later, they brought in a new Sales Manager to replace the person that had hired me. He was from ‘Jockey Underwear’. In spite of my sales volume… he never liked me. Within a year, he called a meeting at the SFO Airport. We met and went over all the spread sheets, talked about product and then he said, “I’m letting you go!” WOW!! I was crushed… Now I had gone from a 6-figure income to the unemployment office line.
I never found the right nitch for Ski, Surf, or anything else that was interesting after that. It wasn’t long till I moved from Los Angeles up to Liberty Lake near Spokane, Washington. There are a few more chapters once I moved up into the Pacific Northwest, revolving around home building permits, and then New Home Sales. I had a nice little run with that too.
I continued to ski a ton of days around the PNW, Schweitzer, 49 degrees North, Look-Out Pass, Sun Valley and more. It was around this time that I found the ADL Ski Club and joined them on their World Cup DreamTrip to Kitzbuhel. It was my first trip back to Europe in many years and a memorable one at that.
Unfortunately, a short time later I had a bad bike accident preparing for my first ski trip up to Alaska. Long story short, I’m now no longer able to ski, or at least not advised to by my doctor!! So, there it is… I’m now retired, having had brain surgery and taking small steps to get back on the slopes, enjoying retirement up here in Liberty Lake. I have always enjoyed my years in and around the ski industry and have been a passionate skier my whole life. I have no regrets and wish everyone a life of happiness chasing snow.
Thank you for letting me share my story. I’m always open to talking about skiing, racing and life in the sport. Feel free to reach out to me anytime.
All the best,
Note from the Editor: This story is Part 1 of a multi part feature on select skiers of the ADLskiclub – A Skier’s Life. The passion for our sport runs deep and for some of our members their history and stories can fill volumes. Here we will do our best to put pen to paper and capture some of their magic memories and fill the historical shelves of our Shotski Journal. If you have a story to tell or a candidate who you would like to be featured, please reach out to us.
James Evans found us in 2017 while searching for a trip to Kitzbühel and Austria. Prior to that he took part in the Mahres Training Center camp at Deer Valley. Always an enthusiastic skier, race fan and man of the sport. It has been a pleasure to get to know James and receive his emails over the years – it was those little snapshots into his life that lead to this story and the beginnings of The Skiers Life Series. Thank you, James for sharing your life in skiing with us.