Robert A. Skinner died April 11, 2015, at age 96. He played a variety of significant roles in the history of skiing and ski racing in the U.S. and particularly in New Hampshire where Bob Skinner’s Ski and Sports shops still serve patrons with some of the best service to be found anywhere.
Skinner had not been directly involved with the ski shops for a time, but there is no denying his influence. The Bob Skinner Cup is still awarded by the New Hampshire Alpine Racing Association to young skiers at Mount Sunapee.
Skinner raced for Dartmouth in the era when Dartmouth supplied the bulk of competitors for the national and Olympic teams. His teammates included Dick Durrance, Ted Hunter, Warren Chivers, David and Steven Bradley, Percy Rideout and Chapman Wentworth, part of “The invincible 1939 Dartmouth Ski Team.”
He was best regarded as a downhiller, registering top finishes in the famed Greylock Thunderbolt race and the Inferno down Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mount Washington.
In 1940, Durrance – then graduated, married, and working out west – was recruited by the US Army to develop and train the 503rd Battalion Paratroopers, for what would become part of the famed 10th Mountain Division. Durrance turned to his Dartmouth roots to find qualified instructors. Among them were Skinner, Walter Prager, High Bauer, Sel Hannah, Harry Simoneau, Jim Durrance, Alex Baer and from the west Gordie Wren, Art Johanspn and Bill Redlin. The group, largely through demonstration, forged a formidable group of paratroopers who could quickly mobilize on skis in mountainous terrain.
Robert was born to Thomas and Anna Skinner on Oct. 22, 1918. He attended schools in Manchester, N.H., graduating from Central High in 1935 and Phillips Exeter Academy in 1936. He graduated Dartmouth in 1940 with three varsity letters for skiing.
He worked in the ski industry in Yosemite, Calif., before entering the Air Corps. After training paratroopers with Durrance he became a staff weather officer with a bombing group in World War II, being discharged as a captain.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Mount Sunapee Area Ski Club, Attn: Wendy Nolin, P.O. Box 344, Bradford, N.H. 03221.
Photo by Dick Durrance