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 at age 35, the stars aligned for the Estin family 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 from Prague in the French and Swiss Alps during the late 1920’s and 30’s.
In early 1933, after Hitler was democratically 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 – 2 boys and a girl – were enrolled at boarding schools in Andover, MA, Philips Academy (Andover) for boys grades 9-12 and its sister school, Abbot Academy both a half hours 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 boots, friends and admirers would gawk and squeal at 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. He was also 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 Schoolhouse. 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 Ski 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 Ski Schools
Author, Skiing the American Way, the first to articulate an “American Ski Technique”
Awarded Posthumously April 6, 2019 at Sugarbush Resort, VT
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)
2018/2019 Sugarbush Magazine, “Sugarbush’s Sweet Beginnings“
The Vermont resort celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2018/2019
Read about how it all began starting on Pg 22.
*Peter and his younger brother, Hans, established the private SkiClub 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 Harry Theodorecopoulis, 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.
SkiClub 10 Founders List – the original 10 – according to long-time Ski Club 10 member and hostess/chef extraordinaire Sigi Haslinger:
Michael Butler – Impresario and theatrical producer of the Broadway Musical Hair.
Igor Cassini – Hearst Publications Society Writer
Oleg Cassini – Fashion designer
Hans H. Estin – Investment Banker, North American Mgmt Corp. (President, eventual owner and ran the Club from 1960’s – 1990’s.)
Peter Estin – Ski school director and cartoonist.
H. J. Heinz II – CEO/President of the Heinz Company, father of US Senator and Congressman John Heinz
Skitch Henderson – Founder: New York Pops at Carnegie Hall
Armando Orsini – Owner of Orsini’s Restaurant, on West 56th Street, a favorite hangout in the ’60s of movie stars and society people.
Harry Theodorecopoulis – Greek shipowner family
Harry Thompson – CEO/President,Tinker Campbell Ewald Advertising and Sr Creative New Product Dev. at Marschalk Advertising.
Michael Butler built the Clubhouse and was its 1st President. After the first 2 yrs, Hans Estin took over. Olivier Coquelin was the manager of SkiClub 10 for the first two years. He left at the end of ski season 1959 and on New Year’s Eve 1960, he founded and opened Le Club in NYC, the “first American discotheque” in the East 50’s near Sutton Pl. Olivier found Henri Borel to run the Club in its third and fourth year, and Henri went on to found Chez Henri in Sugarbush.
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.”
Sugarbush Wall of Fame
Presented April 6, 2019
Similar to a Hall of Fame, Sugarbush’s Wall of Fame seeks to recognize some of the most significant contributors to the Sugarbush experience from 1958 to the present.
The Sugarbush Wall of Fame recognition will be awarded annually to those who have made a significant contribution to “cultivating a spirit of lifelong adventure and camaraderie among Sugarbush staff, guests, and the community.” The Wall of Fame Review Committee met in late February to review those nominations submitted for the Wall of Fame.
After much discussion, Wall of Fame inductees for 2019 were decided and are as follows: Darian Boyle, Dave Gould, Marit Tardy, and Wayne McCue. In addition, the Review Committee established a Founders category for this inaugural year. The Founders Wall of Fame inductees are as follows: Damon and Sara Gadd, Jack Murphy, Lixi Fortna, Peter Estin, and John Roth
The Founders Wall of Fame: Peter Estin
Estin was Sugarbush’s first Ski School Director and was one of the original founders of Ski Club Ten. Czechoslovakian-born, Estin graduated from Dartmouth College, where he was a leading member of the ski team, and went on the win the Harriman Cup in Sun Valley, a precursor to the World Cup. Estin was instrumental in creating a ski school of international instructors which attracted the East Coast “jet set” and NYC glitterati to Sugarbush.