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Bobbie Burns Will Always Be the Original Hotdogger
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Bobbie Burns’ influence was very much in evidence when Sun Valley Resort hosted a ski party celebrating the history of the resort and skiing in 2022 in conjunction with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame induction ceremony held here.
   
Wednesday, May 1, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSSICK

Bobbie Burns, long recognized as “the original hotdogger” on the ski slopes, passed away this past weekend at the age of 85.

Burns called Sun Valley home for most of his adult life, except for a few years he spent designing K2 skis on Vashon Island and a few years in Manhattan designing ski wear.

He was hard to miss on Sun Valley’s ski slopes as he flowing blond hair sticking straight out as he bashed his way through steep mogul fields on Exhibition and Limelight, his long blond curls flowing behind him and his hands holding 60-inch poles above his head rather than in front.

 
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During a fashion history show at Sun Valley Resort, a man shows off The Ski, a line of skis Bobbie Burns designed that helped revolutionize the sport of freestyle skiing.
 

The freestyle skiing he introduced to Sun Valley and the rest of the world changed the face of skiing everywhere.

He could still be seen skiing Sun Valley until 2014, his hatless hair (white by then) hanging down to the collar of his ski parka.

Burns first came to Sun Valley as a young man, winning the trust of Mary Hemingway who would call him to drive her husband Ernest Hemingway home after he’d had a few drinks. He worked as a ski instructor under the stern Sigi Engl, an Austrian ski school instructor who earned his respect even though Burns relished following his own drumbeat.

“He was one of my heroes,” Burns once told Eye on Sun Valley. “I always wanted to be like him. We were all proud to be instructors under Sigi.”

 
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The Ski featured geometric shapes and later what looked like Easter eggs.
 

Burns was born in 1938 in Athol, 50 miles northeast of Spokane in North Idaho, the son of a Union Pacific engineer. But he spent most of his boyhood in Ogden. Although Snowbasin ski area was nearby, he didn’t ski as a youngster, instead pursuing gymnastics, ballet and diving.

He was introduced to skiing at 21 when he got a job tuning skis at an Ogden ski shop. Soon, he found himself tuning skis for the U.S. Women’s Alpine Team led by Sun Valley Olympian Chuck Ferries, the first American to win the Hahnenkamn in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in the mid- and late 1960s.

Burns gained the spotlight performing tricks for movies like Dick Barrymore’s “The K2 Performers,” which featured a host of Sun Valley skiers.

“He attacked a field of moguls like Errol Flynn attacking a band of pirates,” Barrymore recounted in 2020 as Burns was inducted in to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. “He sat down in a permanent toilet seat position with his arms wide over his head…in 1969. the first hotdogger.”

 
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Bobbie Burns joins a line of honorees at a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame event honoring Pioneers of Freestyle Skiing like himself and Glen Plake a dozen years ago.
 

When Ferries left the U.S. ski team to oversee K2 in 1968, Burns followed him to Vashon Island, Wash. He designed skis for K2 in the late 1960s while earning a Master’s in chemical engineering at the University of Washington. His skis won titles for legendary racers like Spider Sabich.

Burns left K2 in 1974 to pursue his passion of designing mogul skis in Sun Valley. In Ketchum he designed The Ski, an iconic freestyle ski with colored geometric squares and rectangles on the tips of solid yellow, blue and white skis.

Its super light indestructible wood was inspired by the sagebrush he saw as he drove from Vashon back to Ketchum, and he even dusted his ski core with some sagebrush. He sold more than 10,000 pair a year, making them the most successful indie brand on the market even to today.

Later, he invented the first fat ski, which he named the Fat Albert. While it allowed him to float effortlessly on powder days. It was difficult to turn on hardpack so he created another ski with an hourglass shape, his Bad House Sidecut predating the shaped ski revolution.

He designed a line of Bobbie Burns ski wear when he wasn’t skiing, even selling it out of what used to be a dynamite shed in Ketchum.

Alzheimer’s took him off the slopes before his body said it was time to go. But he could still be seen walking the streets of Ketchum until a few years ago.

He was named to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2020, which was not held in person that year due to the COVID pandemic. By the time honorees were able to accept their awards in person in 2022 at Sun Valley, Burns was unable to attend due to his failing health.

He had one daughter Montana, while married to former fashion model Cherie Hansen, who still lives in Sun Valley. He also fathered Deva, now 17, with jazz singer Tyia Wilson, who also lives in Sun valley.

Montana, who works as an acupuncturist in Burlington, Vt., said that she plans to be in Ketchum this coming weekend for those who want to tell Bobbie Burns stories. A celebration of life is planned for later this year, during which Burns’ ashes will be spread on Baldy.

He leaves friends and fans with his mantra: “It doesn’t matter how good you are. It’s how much fun you have.”

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