By Nathan Ham
It was a total surprise for Jim Cottrell on Tuesday afternoon. Friends, family and ski patrol members and ski instructors gathered at Appalachian Ski Mtn. for a surprise party to celebrate Jim’s long and distinguished career in the ski community.
Cottrell was the original founder of the French-Swiss Ski College at Appalachian Ski Mountain in 1969 along with retired businessman Jack Lester. The college taught its 1,000,000th skier in 2005.
“We’re here to enjoy a fun day with our beloved friend, Jim Cottrell, and share some of his passion and enthusiasm for skiing. We’ve got a room full of people that are joined by their love of Jim and love of skiing,” said Brad Moretz, owner of Appalachian Ski Mtn.
Walter Jaeger of the Professional Ski Instructors of America presented Cottrell with an award for his longstanding dedication to and enthusiasm for snow sports education in the southern region. He is just the sixth person to ever receive the award from the PSIA Eastern Division Region 7, which extends from Maryland to Florida. The award started in 2005.
“Our challenge of building a ski culture, you have given more than your share Jim. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Jaeger during the award presentation.
Jim’s son, Pace, was there to speak about the multiple generations of families that had learned to ski with the French-Swiss Ski College. Pace learned from his father and Pace’s sons also learned from their grandfather.
“We found out that this (award) was something pretty important and something we wanted to share with everybody that has helped him over the years grow this passion. He’s taught over a million people to ski with the help of French Swiss Ski College,” Pace said.
Some of Jim’s most important memories have been the many years of working with the Special Olympic Games. Jim has been involved with teaching Special Olympians since 1977.
In addition to his Special Olympic work and teaching anybody that wants to come out and learn, Jim has worked with United States Army Green Berets, Navy Seals, West Point Instructors, Marines and Secret Service Agents to teach them how to ski.
Maybe one of the neatest things that Jim did was load up a 60-foot ramp and travel across the south to shopping malls to show off the sport of skiing, show people what they are missing out on and what they can do on a ski slope in North Carolina.
Reba Moretz, the wife of deceased Appalachian Ski Mtn. Founder Grady Moretz, shared her thoughts on the impact that Jim has had at the mountain.
“Not many people have the very special privilege of having a business partner for 50 years. If you think about getting along with one person and working with them for 50 years, that can be a challenge, but with Jim, it has been a special privilege,” she said. “Working with someone like Jim through all the years, I can’t tell you what a pleasure it has been. We always got along. Jim is just a special person.”
Reba said that when Grady took over the ski resort in 1968, he did not know a whole lot about skiing. When Jim decided he wanted to open up a ski college at Appalachian Ski Mtn., which took a lot of pressure off of Grady to find ski instructors and train them to be able to give ski lessons. Jim was willing and able to take all of that responsibility.
“I don’t think people realize the impact that Jim and French-Swiss have had,” Reba said.
David Jackson, the President of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, celebrated the importance of how much Jim has meant to not only the ski business, but also the economic impact that ski resort visitors have in Boone and surrounding areas.
“The impact that Jim has had not only on all of us that learned how to ski through French-Swiss, but just the people that got exposed to this area that kept coming back and kept coming back, bought homes here and made life here. A lot of that is because of you my friend,” Jackson said. “Thank you very much to everybody you have put a little bit of that passion in to make this home for so many people.”
It was finally time for Jim to take the microphone.
“I am totally surprised, I had no clue this was going on. You have done a really good job. I feel like an ostrich with my head stuck in the sand,” Jim joked. “Thank you very much for coming, this has been a big part of my life. I see a lot of faces here that have made this possible for me. It has been a wonderful 50 years.”
Jim plans on being back for another ski season.
Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers presented a special proclamation from the Town of Blowing Rock, honoring Jim and his accomplishments. March 12, 2019 will forever be remembered as a day to honor Jim Cottrell.
Town of Blowing Rock Proclamation Honoring Jim Cottrell
WHEREAS, Jim Cottrell produced a ski show called “The French-Swiss Ski Review,” which used a 60-foot movable ramp to conduct shows in shopping malls all over the South to bring knowledge to others not familiar with skiing;
WHEREAS, Jim developed college credit and recreation programs in over 100 colleges and universities.;
WHEREAS, Jim Cottrell was official ski trainer for West Point Instructors, Green Berets, U.S. Armies Special Forces and Navy Seals;
WHEREAS, Jim Cottrell developed the first ski program used by The President’s Council on physical fitness;
WHEREAS, Jim Cottrell created the firs ski newspaper to promote North Carolina ski areas and started the Junior Race Program in the High Country;
WHEREAS, Jim Cottrell developed Field Trips for all local students to give every student in Watauga County an opportunity to learn to ski and was President of Blowing Rock School’s PTO;
WHEREAS, Jim Cottrell organized and conducted The Special Olympics Winter Games training and competition at Appalachian Ski Mountain for 42 years;
WHEREAS, Jim Cottrell developed and conducted training programs for athletes participating in three International Special Olympics Games;
WHEREAS, Because of Jim Cottrell, the French-Swiss Ski College has taught over One Million people to learn to ski and snowboard.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, Appalachian Ski Mountain Staff, the citizens, ski lovers, and visitors alike wish to recognize Jim Cottrell on this special day for his many years of dedication and enrichment to the ski community;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that I, Mayor Charlie Sellers, on behalf of the citizens and ski lovers of Blowing Rock, proclaim the 12th day of March 2019 as a day to remember Jim Cottrell.