There are countless reasons why former Boisean “Airborne” Eddie Ferguson deserves to be inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
▪ Ferguson was the World Freestyle champion in 1973, and that same year Skiing magazine named him “Hotdogger of the Year.”
▪ Ferguson began teaching skiing at age 14 at Bogus Basin, and two years later — in 1964 — he became the youngest fully certified ski instructor in the history of the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
▪ Ferguson taught and trained more than 4,000 students at his Airborne Eddie’s Freestyle Ski Camps around the world from 1972 to 1979.
The accolades surrounding Ferguson’s career go on and on.
But perhaps the biggest reason Ferguson deserves to be inducted in the hall of fame is this: He might lead the skiing world in cool memories.
“Looking back on it now, especially after getting notified that I’m getting inducted into the hall of fame, these memories are starting to pop,” Ferguson said.
Memories such as serving as a commentator alongside Bud Palmer on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” while also competing in freestyle events. Or teaching Hollywood star Steve McQueen and his son how to ski for 10 days in Sun Valley. Or having lunch with legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell.
“As I look back on it now, it’s probably more amazing now than it was then,” Ferguson said. “Because it was such a whirlwind back then.”
Ferguson will be inducted in the hall of fame along with seven others at a ceremony April 14 in Olympic Valley, Calif., home of Squaw Valley Ski Resort.
“It is a really big honor,” said Ferguson, who turned 70 on Sunday. “To be recognized like this is quite humbling.”
Humble probably wasn’t a word used to describe Ferguson as he grew up in Boise, however.
“I was pretty hell on wheels,” Ferguson said. “Skiing probably kept me out of a lot of trouble. The people at Bogus, the people on that mountain, were very dear to me.”
Bob Greenwood, the original owner of Greenwood’s Ski Haus, was one of those people.
“Eddie was a free spirit,” Greenwood said. “He did what he wanted to do, and he was a really good skier.”
Mark Stiegemeier, who also grew up in Boise, was 4 years younger than Ferguson, and he admits to being awed by Ferguson’s presence and prowess on the ski slopes.
“He was good friends with my older brother, Eric, and I always looked up to both of them,” Stiegemeier said.
Stiegemeier went on to attend one of Ferguson’s camps, and later became one of the camp’s top coaches.
“It’s always been a little awesome, if you will, to think about the impact he had on my life,” Stiegemeier said. “And there were thousands of other kids impacted by him at his camps.”
STUDENT VS. MASTER
Somewhat amazingly, the two skiers who called Boise home and Bogus Basin their home resort squared off for the 1975 World Freestyle Championship in a dramatic finish that unfolded on “Wide World of Sports.”
“Nobody knew what Bogus Basin was or where it was or anything about it, really, because it was a smaller ski area,” Ferguson said.
“That year, Ed and I went head to head all season long,” Stiegemeier said. “It really went down to the wire. The last event was at Snowbird (in Utah), and Ed and I were just neck and neck, and ABC was trying to make a big deal out of it.”
The two were tied going into the moguls event.
“I had a surviving run, and then Ed went after me and crashed 50 feet from the finish line,” Steigemeier said. “He easily would have overtaken me … but I ended up winning the thing by the slimmest of margins, and it’s kind of like the student surpassing the master.”
Said Ferguson: “He won, but I got hurt. I still got second to him. … We were way ahead of the pack that year, me and Mark. But I couldn’t think of a better guy to take the title away from me.”
A GOLDEN ERA
Ferguson and Stiegemeier both marvel at the odds of two young men from Boise going on to see the world on skis — during freestyle skiing’s heyday.
“It was an amazing time, it really was,” Steigemeier said. “It was special and unique.”
Ferguson said he was proud every time he was introduced at freestyle events — and on “Wide World of Sports” — as a professional skier from Boise and Bogus Basin.
“I felt good about that,” Ferguson said. “Bogus was good to me.”
And, in turn, he was good for Bogus.
Brad Wilson was named the seventh general manager of Bogus Basin before the 2015 ski season. When he was growing up in California, however, he never had heard of the ski area 16 miles away from Boise.
That is, until he heard about “Airborne” Eddie Ferguson.
“I can tell you that Airborne Eddie was huge in the mid-1970s,” Wilson said. “I used to watch footage of him all the time. In fact, the first time I heard of Bogus Basin was when I learned that it was Eddie’s home mountain.”
Today, Ferguson lives in Chelan, Wash. He has been involved in real estate for 30 years, and has owned his own company since 2003. He skis every year at Mission Ridge in Wenatchee, Wash.
But he said he will always look back at his years growing up in Boise — and at Bogus Basin — with a special fondness.
“When I was a little kid, 8, 9, 10 … the city rec department would pick us kids up at the bottom of the hill at Greenies, Bob Greenwood’s, and they would bus us up to the hill,” Ferguson said. “Then we would boot-pack the main run. You’d put your ski boots on and walk up the hill, and then you’d walk back down the hill and they’d give you a sack lunch. That’s what created the base until the next snowfall. … I bet you could talk to a thousand young skiers today and none of them would know what boot-packing is. So, that’s kind of dating myself.”
Maybe. But it’s also just another example of all the great memories that Ferguson can share as he is inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
“Ed made an impression on everybody,” Stiegemeier said. “He still does today.”