Vail Daily obituary: Thomas Jacobson Jr., 1930-2013 |

Vail Daily obituary: Thomas Jacobson Jr., 1930-2013

Tom Jacobson was one of Vail's most legendary ski instructors. He started in 1964
Special to the Daily |

As we recall his story, skiing bit Dad at an early age while growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich. He skied wherever he could in northern Michigan, whenever he could, and it made it easier for him when his parents moved back to his father’s hometown, Frankfort, Mich., when Dad was still in high school.

Even after marriage and starting a family in Frankfort, Dad pursued his passion for skiing at Up North ski areas. He was one of many in Frankfort and Benzie County who loved to ski, so in the mid-1950s it became a huge multi-family endeavor to find a place to accommodate a ski area for families and promote skiing.

It happened near Thompsonville, and Buck Hills was born. All of these families came to work, clear-cutting trees to create three runs: The Buck, The Doe and The Fawn. Mastering three rope tows is a memory all its own.

The warming hut had the best smells of homemade chili and plenty of hot chocolate, but the outhouses were too far away. Our ski boots were leather and fit like bedroom slippers. It was a great place to create trails in the trees, which became hideaways for a couple of kids who were always thought to be lost.

It was also the start of Dad’s teaching experience; he had been skiing many years already, so he was a natural. His lessons were not only in skiing, but also skier etiquette.

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In 1956, Tom and Marge, our parents, drove west to Utah with a large group of skiers from Benzie County to ski at Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Large mountains, avalanches, fluffy powder snow and Alf Engen. They did the same in 1958. This was a whole new way of skiing, and Dad was not only bitten by it, he was hooked.

In the fall of 1960, Mom and Dad left the beautiful idyllic town of Frankfort, Lake Michigan and Buck Hills (now Crystal Mountain) for Sandy, Utah. Mom and Dad worked at the Hercules Power Plant at Bacchus where the Minute Man missile was assembled. Days off were spent skiing at Alta. We lived at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon and the kids were enrolled in the Alf Engen ski school where we thrived learning to ski in the mountains. We learned we were the only kids in our ski school classes who skied! Dad honed his skills not only with Alf at his side, but Eddie “Mo” Morris, skiing deep powder, sometimes bottomless, perfecting his style, becoming a PSIA white pin instructor, which was just the beginning of his dream to come.

Not only did he make his style of weight transfer an art, so was planting the pole — index fingers out. Mastering the “Alta Outhouse Crouch,” and with Alf’s blessing, Dad and his new wife, Ellen, headed for Colorado with hopes of working, living and Dad teaching in Vail.

While waiting for that acceptance of a ski instructor’s position, Dad and Ellen worked at brother Bob’s ranch near Bayfield. That acceptance did happen in the early fall of 1964; off to Vail. Sharon was a part of that move and enrolled in school at Battle Mountain High School, which was in Red Cliff until the new high school was finished in Maloit Park.

Dad was busy with his new position as a full-time ski instructor, booking his own private lessons. Word spread very quickly about his technique, style and fun-loving personality. That never wavered throughout his career. Tom’s reputation on the slopes in Vail grew quickly, and within a few years he was booked one and two years ahead. His clientele was diverse and from all over the world. They were committed to a great way of skiing and they were loyal. He taught several generations of families.

Dad’s own kids continued to ski and some of us have worked or work in the ski industry as of today. We all raced at various levels. Now we are either avid skiers and/or are occasional skiers. Skiing has been passed along to our own children and now our grandchildren are on the slopes. We still try to use the same skills Dad taught us. Being able to pass this ski legacy to our children and grandchildren is something we cherish from our own early childhood skiing beginnings. Dad’s kids are accomplished skiers, and we are grateful that we had great beginnings on the slopes. After Michael joined Dad and Ellen in 1967, his memories are of Jeeping on the mountain roads, riding in the semi-truck during the summers and, of course, skiing.

As we grew up and started our own families it became more difficult to visit Dad. When we were able to get to Vail we did have the privilege of skiing with Dad and his clients. It wasn’t only a ski lesson for the client, but one for us, and a special time to be able to spend with Dad while skiing his favorite runs. There was always a contest among a few of his clients and himself of how many vertical feet they each skied that day, and it was a tally at the end of the ski season. To this day we could pick out a skier who may have had Tom Jacobson for an instructor.

Tom Jacobson Jr. was born March 30, 1930, in Evanston, Ill., and passed away July 28 while at his winter home in Honolulu. He is survived by his wife Cindy, of Denver; and also by his children Sharon (Lints), of Wanship, Utah; Linda (Mark Oleson), of Park City, Utah/Frankfort, Mich.; Thomas III (Marybeth), of South Portland, Maine; Karl (Vicki), of Wanship, Utah; and Michael, of Galveston, Texas; 15 grandchildren; 20 great grandchildren; two nephews; and one niece. He is preceded in death by his parents, Thomas Sr. and Marguerite Brewer; and brothers Warren (Bim) and Robert (Bob).

Dad is always in our hearts and will remain there. We love you, Dad. Thank you for involving us in your passion of skiing.

Happy skiing, Dad.

— Sharon, Linda, Tom III, Karl and Michael Jacobson.

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