The Peter Estin Hut is one of the earliest 16-20 person huts built in the Tenth Mountain Division Hut & Trail system from Aspen to Vail. The hut came about as a result of Tim’s close friendship with Aspen’s noted architect and 10th Mountaineer trail visionary, Fritz Benedict (1914-1995 bio and obit). For 35 years since the end of WW II, Fritz had dreamed of and became the spiritual leader of a ski hut trail system linking Aspen and Vail. As an architect’s apprentice, Tim spent years in the mountains with him – as a teenager, college student and young adult – exploring trails and route ideas to connect the two resorts and researching and skiing other noted ski hut systems: France’s famed Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt and Vermont’s then developing cross country ski inn-to-inn trail system. Tim was a founding director of the Tenth Mountain Division Hut Association as the idea became reality. And coincidentally, as his father, Peter, had been a pioneer in the burgeoning east coast US ski industry who died too early in his young life, the stars aligned to bring the Estin family together to build a hut in Peter’s memory.
Director of Ski Schools
Sugarbush, VT 1959-1963, Portillo, Chile 1959-1962,
and La Parva, Chile 1958-1959
Click photo to enlarge
Peter Estin was born in 1927 in Prague, Czechoslovakia to a banker’s family that narrowly escaped Hitler’s genocide of eastern Europe. The family skied frequently on holidays and vacations in the French and Swiss Alps during the late 1920’s and 30’s.
In early 1933, after Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany and the Enabling Act passed in March granting him the freedom to act without parliamentary consent and without constitutional limitations, in effect dictatorial rights, Peter’s father turned to his wife Mary and said, “Dearest, one day we will leave here forever.”
In early fall of 1938, six months before Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, the family quietly left Prague by train on a Friday afternoon with their three young children who were told simply they were going away for the weekend.
Nothing unusual. But of course, it was.
First to relatives in Paris for a few weeks, then to London for a school year (Wellesley House), then another school year in Montreal, Canada (Bishops College School) – the more sure but time consuming immigration route to the US through Canada. It was a two year immigrés journey – before finally settling in the very European scaled, and for them, more adaptable city of Boston versus New York.
With the parents creating their new lives in Boston, the Estin children were enrolled at the boarding schools Andover, for boys grades 9-12 and Abbot Academy, its sister school, both in Andover, MA, a half hour distance from Boston.
After Andover, Peter graduated from Dartmouth as ski team captain and obtained an MS in International Relations from Harvard (Slavic Languages and Literature). He then served in the US Air Force Reserves as 2nd Lieutenant (Intelligence) in the early 1950’s. Afterward, he spent a few years as a Boston-based financial analyst for HC Wainright & Co, but the lure of the mountains always beckoned.
He left the business world to become an ambassador of sorts – or promoter – as Director of Ski Schools at Sugarbush, VT, Portillo, Chile and La Parva, Chile attracting east coast high society and media attention to those resorts in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.
With his younger brother and best friend, Hans, an Andover-Tabor-Harvard educated Boston investment banker, the two founded Ski Club 10* (see link and footnote at bottom) at the base of Sugarbush Mountain, the first American on-mountain ski social club of true ‘jet set’ (international) notoriety where the likes of brothers Oleg and Igor Cassini, NYC restaurateurs and brothers Elio and Alesandro Orsini, Vincent Sardi of NYC’s Sardi’s Restaurant, the Greek shipowner Stravos Niarchos, society doyenne Nan Kempner and others hung out and partied in this new-found fun winter retreat in Vermont’s North Country. Oleg Cassini was the fashion designer for Jacqueline Kennedy, and Igor was the society columnist who wrote a Hearst syndicated NYC gossip column under the name Cholly Knickerbocker. He is credited with first coining the phrase “jet set” and giving Sugarbush its nickname as “Mascara Mountain”.
For at least a five year period, if one wasn’t going to the Alps to ski in the winter, Sugarbush was the place to go.
Peter wrote the book “Ski the American Way” considered by many a ski teaching classic – interpreting and defining what was to be called the new American Skiing Technique – and he was featured in numerous issues of Ski and Skiing Magazines among others.
As a close friend of Bob Lange’s from college days, Peter advised the Lange Ski Boot Co early on and tested many truly revolutionary and space age looking plastic ski boot prototypes. While Peter, and later Hans, tested these unworldly and revolutionary boots, friends and admirers would gawk, squeal and admire the sheer audacity of these “plastics” replacing leather. (“I want to say one word to you. Just one word.” the father says to his son played by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, “Are you listening?… Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”)
As confirmation of his multi-talents, Peter was a speechwriter for Ted Kennedy in Kennedy’s first successful Massachusetts Senate race in 1962, and he was an established cartoonist with works published in New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, True American, Playboy, American Weekly, Saturday Review and others. A book of Peter’s cartoons, “Jestin’ with Estin”, was published posthumously in the 70’s.
He died at age 35 of ski related injuries. Stein Erickson succeeded him as Director of Ski Schools at both Sugarbush and Portillo.
Peter had four children: Lee Cauro, Tim, Heidi Wade (see article) and William. They settled in Aspen from NYC with their mother in the late 60’s after spending a trial two year period there earlier in the decade living in Aspen’s historic West End on W. Hallam and schooling at the nearby Yellow Brick and Red Brick Schoolhouses. The Estin couple had come to Aspen frequently in the 1950’s for their honeymoon and for Peter’s ski racing in the FIS Alpine World Shi Championships**, known since 1966 as the World Cup.
The TMTA Hut Trail System:
For a great description of the Peter Estin Hut and photos/maps of surrounding ski terrain, see hutski.com . There’s also a a good write-up in the Denver Post, Jan. 2006 article. For more hut info see: 10th Mountain Division Hut Association (huts.org); Nov. 2012 Aspen Times article, “Aspen’s Isolated Backcountry Splendor”; Mar. 2013 Aspen Daily News feature article, “Lost in the Backcountry”and June 2015 Washington Post,“A Great Way to Colorado’s Slopes…Without the Snow“.
Peter Estin (right), Director of Ski School, Sugarbush, VT 1958-1963, with best friend and brother, Hans Estin, late 1950’s.
Beloved Hans passed away in 2012.
Click to enlarge.
The Estin brothers with their mother in the Swiss Alps.
Click to enlarge.
The three Estin siblings and a friend (left) skiing in 1934 in Celerina, Switz.
Hans’ 80th Surprise B’day Party
Portillo, Chile, 1961, Peter and Hope Estin (dark jacket and striped shirt)
In Chamonix, Fr and with Ted Kennedy at Sugarbush
Sugarbush, Vt, Skiing Magazine, “Gondolas with Soul“, longest lift in the East in 1961
Click to enlarge.
Dartmouth Ski Team
Sugarbush, Vt and Portillo, Chile 1st to articulate an “American Ski Technique”
Hans Estin in Portillo, Chile early 1980’s
Hans (aka Paul Newman) on family pack trip to identify the Peter Estin Hut site location.
Vat 69 Scotch magazine ad (Peter Estin is background center)
*Peter and his younger brother, Hans, established the private Ski Club 10 which owned a clubhouse at the base of Sugarbush Mountain, Vt. The original “10” founders – a socially ‘connected’ group if there ever was one – were: the Oleg and Igor Cassini brothers – the fashion designer and the society columnist who wrote a Hearst syndicated NY gossip column under the name Cholly Knickerbocker and is credited with first coining the phrase “jet set”, the NYC restaurateur brothers Armando and Elio Orsini, society doyenne Nan Kempner (see Sugarbush retrospective article on 1960 skiing), the Tonight Show conductor Skitch Henderson, Harry Thompson of Madison Ave advertising repute, Greek shipowner Stavros Niarchos, Peter and Hans Estin. (Hans would continue to lead the Club forward through the 2000’s.) The famed restaurateur, Vincent Sardi Jr., was a member early on and for many years. Ski Club 10 was one of the first, if not the first, on-mountain ski club of notoriety in the industry. Every weekend for 5-10 years – in the early jet age before flying out west to ski would become commonplace – this very euro-american, hardcore cafe society group jaunted up to Sugarbush for their winter games in the mountains …quite Mad Men style. (See the Vat 69 Scotch ad above.) According to a 2006 book, “The Story of Modern Skiing” by John Fry, Ski Club 10 helped earn Sugarbush the nickname “Mascara Mountain” in the media.” Jan 8, 2008 NYT. (Skiing Magazine: The Glamour of Sugarbush). Also see Time Magazine, Aug 1959 announcing the new Chilean ski resort of Portillo.
A recent article appeared in the NY Times about skiing at Sugarbush. Jan 2016.
**In Warren Miller’s autobiography, “Freedom Found: My Life Story”, Miller wrote, ” For the first time, in February 1950, , the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships were held in North America in Aspen. It was a milestone month in the history of American skiing. These were the first World Championships to be held outside of Europe, and the first official world championships held since 1939, when the war had suspended international ski racing. Most European nations except for Switzerland were still too strapped for cash to host the event after the devastation of the war, even five years after it had ended.”