Otto Tschudi’s boundless energy attracted sponsors and fans to World Pro Skiing tour
Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum
This winter, Vail and Beaver Creek hosted the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships for a third time. The Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum has opened its ski racing archives to tell stories that connect the dots between today’s spectacular made-for-TV competitions and their humble beginnings. This series will feature many of the significant milestones, instigated here in Colorado by individuals now enshrined in the Hall of Fame, which helped shape skiing and international racing. When you are in Vail Village, stop by the museum for a trip through skiing’s past. For more information, go to http://www.skimuseum.net.
Otto Tschudi is not one to do things half bore. He wakes up early at his home in San Francisco, around 1:30 a.m., so that he has plenty of time to research the financial news of the day and be ahead of his competitors in New York, and his clients in Europe. Otto works hard, and plays hard — a ski racer who learned the values of work ethic from a very young age.
Born in Norefjell, Norway, Tschudi grew up looking at the mountain where the 1952 Olympics held their alpine events. The town was so small; it didn’t yet have a high school. Otto’s dreams, on the other hand, were quite big and he moved to Oslo for a better education and better race opportunities. He joined the national team at age 14 and attended his first Olympics in ’68, while still only 19. The following season on the World Cup, he was recruited to race collegiately for Denver University. He jumped at the opportunity, eventually claiming five NCAA titles while pursuing his degree and still racing on the World Cup. After a second Olympics in ’72, Otto stopped by a World Pro Skiing race to see what it was all about. He loved it, turned pro on the spot and began a seven-year career marked with podiums, charisma and excitement.
For Otto, the World Pro Skiing tour offered him a chance to do more. Always more. Right away he formed an international race team for Rossignol, with international greats like Jean-Claude Killy, Tyler Palmer and others. Like all pro racers, Otto joined the International Professional Ski Racers Association, which helped govern the pro circuit. Unlike most racers, he did more than just join, he served as the vice president of the association from 1973-76. With his eventual wife, Yvonne, Otto designed and manufactured the world’s first padded race suit, providing safety against the bamboo gates used at the time. Otto even delved into boot design, co-developing the Raichle Flexon ski boot. He was everywhere, doing a little of everything, always at full speed. On the WPS tour, Bob Beattie asked his racers to be outgoing and enthusiastic. Otto was more than that. His boundless energy attracted sponsors and fans. He was a mainstay at the Pro-Ams, where people loved his wild hair. A smart businessman who could ski fast and speak seven languages, Otto’s appeal was international.
Otto competed at the highest level for 17 years, an industry record. His eventual retirement coincided with Beattie’s decision to end the tour in 1981. With a few other hard working former racers, Otto fought to keep the pro circuit alive, forming the Professional Ski Racers Association and acting as president from 1981-82. Soon, he found himself seeking something more, again. Otto called Will Weinstein, a friend he had met while racing in the Director’s Cup, and asked for advice. With his well-known work ethic, he was recruited on the spot. Otto moved to San Francisco and jumped into the finance world, finding the excitement on par with his racing days. He bounced around different departments, learning everything and anything, until finding his niche in sales. His vivacious personality was perfect. Otto worked his way up, and opened then ran the London branch of Thomas Weisel Partners from 1999-2003.
Skiing has and always will be a central part of Otto’s life. His professional racing days behind him, he now supports the sport in other ways. Despite his high profile job, Otto returns every year to race in the Legends of Vail, and he seems to always finish in the top four. In 1992, he was called upon by his alma mater, Denver University, to help re-start the ski team that he had thrived on many years before. It had fallen victim to athletic department downsizing in 1983. Despite a busy schedule, he couldn’t say no. With Otto on board, the Pioneers thrived, and have since won eight more NCAA team titles. Now a member of the Board of Trustees, he works almost daily with Denver University to help better their ski program. Otto also helps skiers prepare for their post-racing career through charitable work with World Pro Skiing Foundation.
For a boy born in a town with no high school, Otto has done pretty well for himself. His body has aged, but his mind and drive stay sharp. Otto still loves to ski race, and he pounds his legs between runs to pump oxygen back into his veins. He skis as fast as he can, then conducts business on the chair lift. He is a man who does everything 100 percent, and loves every minute of it. Perhaps that’s the secret.
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