Congratulations Bill Briggs! U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame!

Post by blogger | October 22, 2008      

By now Bill Briggs shouldn’t need much of an introduction. As the first person to ski the Grand Teton (1971), he’s the man who marks the beginning of modern ski mountaineering in the United States. Thus, Bill’s induction into the National Hall of Fame is not only something wonderful for him as an individual, but honors our sport in a very special way.

Bill Briggs

Bill Briggs, Canada, 1959. Photo used by permission of Roberts French.

Funny thing is, after Bill Briggs’ inclusion in our “guess the skier” contest a while back, I realized that rounding out this website had to include the Bill Briggs biography I wrote more than a decade ago while working on my Wild Snow history book. So I delayed devoting a blog post to this today till I got more of the bio buffed out.

Doing the bio involved getting quite a bit of taped words from the man, as well a a number of check-backs on the phone, along with joining Briggs for dinner at an International Skiing History Association dinner (along with catching him a number of times at Snow King ski area, his real home). Thus, I’ve got a lot of material. Along with that, the stuff I’d written had to be hand-checked because of computer compatibility issues that garbled things up.

The biography is always a work in progress, but good enough to publish so people curious about Bill can get to know him better. Check it out here!

And again, congratulations William Morse Bill “Brigger” Briggs!

If it pleases the Wildsnowers, leave comments congratulating Bill on this honor. It is huge.


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64 Responses to “Congratulations Bill Briggs! U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame!”

  1. Stewart October 22nd, 2008 11:07 pm

    Bill Briggs has been an inspiration since I first read of his pioneering exploits and triumph over adversity – Bugaboos to Rogers without maps, soloing the grand at 40 with a fused hip – what can’t I do. You’ve written a great summary, but it leaves me curious and wanting more. There seems more than enough substance for a book length account of this fascinating life.

  2. Tom West October 23rd, 2008 6:57 am

    Congratulations to Bill Briggs. We are very pleased that a voting panel of nearly 100 electors, which includes many Hall of Fame Honored Members elected him to the Honor Roll. His election could open the doors to many other great skiers of his genre.

    I am looking forward to meeting him in Vail the first week-end of April for his induction.

    Tom West
    US National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
    Ishpeming, MI

  3. Halsted October 23rd, 2008 8:48 am

    It’s about time…

  4. Lou October 23rd, 2008 9:02 am

    You guys, make sure you check out the bio. Been digging through my archives since early yesterday to put it together.

    Tom West, thanks so much for including Bill in the Hall, he does truly deserve the honor, and not only for his ski mountaineering but also as a lifelong devotee of the sport who’s shared it with thousands of people.

  5. Pocono Resorts October 23rd, 2008 9:04 am

    That was a great post. I will have to bookmark this site so I can read more later.

  6. Josh October 23rd, 2008 1:04 pm

    Very interesting, not being a ski buff myself I hadn’t heard of him, but I want to learn more about his adventures.

  7. Peter October 27th, 2008 1:24 am


  8. Jonesin' for snow October 27th, 2008 4:13 am

    I have been looking all over the internet and also in Jackson for several years for the poster “that continues to be a best seller” without success. Where can I purchase it? Pretty cool that one of the skiers that I would identify as my hero is now in the skiing hall of fame.

  9. Lou October 27th, 2008 7:55 am

    Jones, that statement about the poster is probably a legacy from the period when I did most of the writing of the profile. I should probably edit it.

    I’ve heard you can get them from Teton Mountaineering, (307) 733-3595 and may be able to get them direct from Bill Briggs in Jackson. I’ll provide info about that as soon as I know how Bill wants people to contact him.

  10. Greg Petrics November 6th, 2008 7:15 pm

    I am so glad this finally happened. I hope to some day meet this astonishing man. Amazing to think of the men who have skied their way through Dartmouth before me…

  11. charles 'bud' bergmann December 12th, 2008 10:31 am

    in june 1966 hermine visser and i traveled from new york to the tetons to get get married in the most beautiful spot i could think of. there we met bill briggs and his then wife julie who became our witnesses at our outdoor wedding near jenny lake. the next day bill took hermine and i climbing and we had a great time. at the time hermine had done some rock climbing in the gunks and i had spent some time in the white mountain and alaska. we were on our way to alaska, followed by switzerland and seattle, returning a few times to the tetons. on one return, following a fall off the dyke pinnacle, i bumped into bill who was coming up through garnet canyon. being a great guy bill asked me to join him on a climb of the exam ridge and along the way i learned of his great ski descent but also when i said: “bill, you could have killed yourself”, he explained scientology and it would only be his body that “died”. we lost touch but around 1990 our son jonathan, on a solo cross-country bike trip camped in bill’s yard. bill was very gracious, as he always was and always will be.a wonderful person. bud bergmann.

  12. Mark Morrissey April 13th, 2009 6:00 pm

    I was in Teton Mountaineering a couple days ago and had the chance to visit with Bill, shake his hand and get an autographed poster of his descent of the Grand for my five year old son. Thanks for the bio, I’ll print this up and put it away for him to read. Amazing individual, athlete and instructor. I find his traverses in Canada just as impressive as his steep skiing. Great article, thanks for writing it.


  13. Lou April 14th, 2009 5:29 am

    Thanks Mark, and congrats again to Bill as the official induction was just recently celebrated!

  14. Rob Wales April 28th, 2009 11:19 am

    Thanks for a great write-up of a true pioneer…what an inspirational figure and truly deserving of Hall of Fame honors!

  15. Bill Murphy May 4th, 2009 7:32 pm

    Congralations to Bill Briggs he has been an inspriation to me for many years. I still have a black and white poster of his ski decent on my wall. I was very happy to read the article on his life it was great. Happy turns!

  16. Arthur von Boennighausen June 22nd, 2009 3:48 pm


    As an Engineer and Roman Catholic Scholar of Comparative Religion and Philosopy I became interested in the Church of Scientology when I read Lou Dawson’s biography of Bill Briggs about ten years ago.

    I had been on the Grand Teton many times and knew that an ordinary man could not have made the descent that Bill Briggs made especially with one hip locked into a fixed position. I suspected that Bill was one of the “Sons of Man”.

    By the way, I gave my autographed copy of Dawson’s Bible that he calls “Wild Snow” to 80 something year old Himmalayan climber – Duane “Shorty” Lankford who still skii mountaineers in Rocky Mountain National Park on almost a daily basis.

    Shorty is skiing the snowfields adjacent to Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park this time of the year. He drives an old Chevy Suburban with rust spots that hide a new high performance engine and transmission that could beat a Corvette in a drag race.

    Shorty and I laughed when we learned that the President of the United States had given permission to carry guns in the national parks as I have been carrying a Ruger 44 magnum revolver in my backpack for over 20 years as I always enjoyed Clint Eastwood’s movie – “The Eiger Sanction”.

    Before the 44 magnum was invented I carried a 9mm Luger for 10 years into every national park in the United States. You never know when someone might need to be “Sanctioned”………

    Thinking allowed…..

    Arthur von Boennighausen @ The Sierra Mojada Ranch

  17. Phil Huff June 25th, 2009 1:11 pm

    Thanks Lou for the great Bio of Bill Briggs and thanks Bill Briggs for such a great ski mountaineering history and long standing accomplishments. I ran into Bill a few times when he was working at Storm King back when I lived around there in 1979. Bill certainly was willing to run up the hill in the middle of the night for some quick foolishness on skis after work. I still think about this amazing courage when my hip hurts after a long day.

  18. Lou June 25th, 2009 6:22 pm

    Hi Phil, I’m glad we can provide that! It’s a privilege.

  19. John Sidle October 12th, 2009 3:25 pm

    Great bio write up, Lou. Just one correction; “Gross Venture” in the first paragraph should be “Gros Ventre”.

    I am on old friend of Bill’s and first met him at a songfest in January of 1961 in Schenectady, NY. He was in a body cast after his hip operation, propped up in the corner with autoharp, guitar, banjo and mug of Teton Tea within easy reach. I have played with him for years as a member of the Stagecoach Band.

  20. Lou October 12th, 2009 3:36 pm

    Wow, thanks for the help John! I’ll correct immediately! It’s those spell checkers, the dang things…

  21. Mark W October 12th, 2009 7:23 pm

    I’m late on the edit!

  22. Lou October 12th, 2009 8:25 pm

    Who knows how to spell Gros Ventre, let alone how to pronounce it!? Yeah, “grow-vant” as in “grow-want” but when I’m in Wyoming I like to call it gross venture just to see how people react .

  23. Mark W October 13th, 2009 12:23 am

    On the contrary, sometimes the local pronunciation doesn’t especially make sense when considering the original language from which the name came. Examples are many, but how about these: Dubois, WY, and Pierre, SD.

  24. Kristin November 12th, 2009 11:59 am

    I lived in Jackson for most of 1972. I remember 3-4 Californians came out that spring and “surfed” down some of the lower slopes. There were not that many people living in Jackson then, and many of us went out to watch the surfers trace figure eights. A novelty for most of us! Does anyone else remember this?

    Thanks for the bio. Finding it was a small miracle, reading it brought back so many wonderful memories!

  25. joe food February 4th, 2010 3:06 pm

    Bill Briggs continues to inspire me 20 years after my first conversation with him while he was clearing brush one summer day @ Snow King and I was suffering up the summer road on my mountain bike.Bill is like Coombs,Renny Jackson ,John Hunt et all : alpine masters that you would never guess of their accomplishments meeting them out of context.Listening to him yodel at the stagecoach bar bridges the generations from his to mine.Watching him charm my wife and all the other girls proves a ski bum’s inner light never fades.

  26. Fred Wright March 8th, 2010 8:06 am

    Re: Bio group photo with Grand Teton in background I believe the person on the far right is Harry Frishman not Robbie Garrett. I knew all these guys and worked with Briggs at Exum’s in the 60’s and with Harry Frishman in the 60’s building houses and the Mangey Moose in Jackson Hole and at the Colorado Outward Bound School in the 70’s where Harry was a course director. In the ski film “Steep” there is a photo of this same group where Harry is more easily identifiable.

  27. Lou March 8th, 2010 8:57 am

    Fred, thanks, I fixed. Always up for making things more accurate here on WildSnow, as it’s not going away anytime soon (grin). Lou

  28. tony bird April 25th, 2010 12:13 pm

    yes, great skiing and all, but please tell me that photo of bob dylan was NOT photoshopped, i want to believe this. there’s a story there …

  29. Lou April 25th, 2010 1:09 pm

    The photo and story are true.

  30. tony bird April 25th, 2010 4:28 pm

    well, i guess it’s perfectly conceivable, given that briggs had made the scene in greenwich village for awhile. but i’m curious as heck about the details of this. judging from the length of dylan’s hair, i would place the photo around 1965 or 1966. dylan was not the sort to be accompanying anyone–always preferred to be the star of the show. this might imply that briggs and dylan had a friendship in NYC which prompted dylan to visit him in ski country.

    as a footnote, the great bob gibson, a folkie of about the same vintage who had a great sense of what constituted a great song, produced an album, i believe in the late 1950s, of songs he had either written himself or gathered in a brief career of gigging in ski resorts. the songs were all about skiing. anyone know about that?

  31. Robie April 25th, 2010 9:13 pm

    Bob Gibson
    “Ski Songs ”
    Released in 1959 on Electra Records.

  32. tony bird May 4th, 2010 7:48 pm

    just a small “you never know” footnote to the above.

    one of dylan’s most striking works of the 60s was “a hard rain’s a-gonna fall,” filled with images beautiful and strange, an epitome of a troubled time. i took the trouble to learn the whole thing at one point, though it soon fell into disuse (the times, they a-changed). but getting into backcountry skiing in recent years, out exploring slopes and couloirs, i got to the bottom of one run on a beautiful spring day and looked up at the ribbon of corn snow with the sun gleaming on it, and a line from that song hit me like a small avalanche:

    “i saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it.”

    maybe that’s what his friend bill briggs saw on the grand teton as well, and decided, in his pioneering spirit, that such a highway needed travel.

  33. tony bird May 11th, 2010 4:25 pm

    this thread seems to have degenerated into a monologue, but i’d like to thank robie for the “ski songs” reference. i was a fan of gibson for a long time, and it turns out that that album, though not nearly his best, was his best-selling.

    i got the CD via the bob gibson legacy project, which is spearheaded by bob’s talented daughter, meridian green. the best song on there is “in this white world,” a lyrical tribute to a skier’s motivation. but i made a discovery in the album too. my other sport is rock climbing, and that wonderfully tasteless tribute to climbing, “gory, gory, what a helluva way to die” actually seems originally to have been penned by bob gibson for the sport of skiing. you know–skier hits tree, both halves continue on their own–that sort of thing.

  34. tony bird May 12th, 2010 7:46 am

    yea, yea, when will i clam up?

    i do have to revise that estimate of dylan’s age in the photo. definitely into his rock phase. i understand briggs played his 2,000th show at the stagecoach recently and that he began there two years before he skied the grand. maybe somebody local will do the math for me.

    hey, at least i’m starting to remember that winter is warmer than summer. or was it the other way around?

  35. Colleen Rae September 7th, 2010 11:39 am

    I knew Bill as part of his music/folk singing life. I first met him in the Tetons, and although I was aware of his brilliant contribution to skiing, it was the music part I was involved in. I always considered it a great gift to hear Bill play banjo and sing.
    Wonderful article on his achievements in advanced skiing.

  36. tom gilmore October 16th, 2010 12:04 pm

    bill gave me my first instruction as a beginning climber at exum guides. I have known him for over 40 years. A true gentleman and an inspiration to me. I always make it a point to get to the Stagecoach on a Sunday to hear him play. He always remembers me and that in itself says alot about the man.

  37. Adam November 11th, 2010 5:03 pm

    Has anyone here ever heard of an article on Brigg’s descent of the Grand possibly called “Ski Some Good Turns”? It may have run in a WY publication around 73/74. I’m trying to track down a copy if anyone knows where it might have appeared that would be a great help.

  38. Lou November 11th, 2010 6:43 pm

    Adam, I don’t think I’ve got that in the archive I used for writing Wild Snow, but I’ll check.

    One thing great about the new “50 Classics” book is it give credit to both Briggs, Stammberger and Saudan for the seminal North American extreme descents they all made within a couple of month period. With all the emphasis on Briggs, sometimes Stammberger and Saudan get forgotten when it comes to the history of North American extreme skiing.

  39. Graham Barbour January 28th, 2011 11:54 am

    The first jacket I ever bought was as a kid in ’72 and came from Jackson Hole (skiing since ’65, 5yrs old), and I did the first intended somersault on skis in Britain (’74). I had heard of things like this in USA (like the Bugaboos), but have never heard of Bill Briggs before this – quite astounding considering his physical limitations (ie fused hips). The No1 license of our professional association (Derek Brightman) also skied steeps in the early ’70s after Sylvain Sudain (Mont Blanc I believe), and I have a book about skiing from the early ’70s including Patrick Vallencant (courtesy of my father,also a ski instructor/ designer/illustrator) – but as I said had never heard of this man’s achievements – long may he continue skiing steeps and mountaineering!!

  40. Rick Boothe August 6th, 2011 5:45 am

    I first met Bill in 1960, at the Jenny Lake Climbers camp, in the midst of a cross-country bicycle trip. He threw a few Teton Tea parties during the week or so I was there, introducing me to ethnic American folk music – a rarity, at the time, in the West, though a tradition in New England. Teton Tea was amazing stuff, in those days before pot and acid, because it kept you awake, yet loosened you up at the same time, granting the patience to spend hours listening to and singing songs that often had upwards of a dozen verses. Besides climbers – many of whom were from the Dartmouth Outing Club – there were lots of park employees at those parties who, by the end of the summer, had learned most of the verses, and began making up ones of their own. Those songs were magical to us, because they spoke of a time long before the harried pace of modern life had deprived us of the ability to experience the depth of silence and eternity those songs, and the kind of Nature we were experiencing in the Tetons, conveyed. Briggs, thus, played the part of the wise mountain sage, passing along the secrets of the past to the next generation.

  41. Lou August 6th, 2011 7:23 am

    Thanks Rick!

  42. stevenjo August 25th, 2011 2:36 pm

    Lou – slightly off topic and possibly asked numerous times, but do you know of anyone providing/selling prints/posters/digital files of the image with Briggs tracks down the Grand? I’d like to get it framed and provide as a gift. Thanks,

  43. Lou August 25th, 2011 3:39 pm

    Constant issue Steven, thanks for asking. I’d call Teton Mountaineering in Jackson and see what they say. Briggs has always sold them direct, so if you can get his phone number there you go. If I had Briggs number I’d send you an email with it, but I don’t have it at this time. Briggs used to simply be in the phone book.

  44. stevenjo August 29th, 2011 2:30 pm

    Thanks Lou – I’ll try Teton Mt. You have to love a sport where you can call up one of greats on the phone – hmmm maybe he texts messages.


  45. Lou August 29th, 2011 2:47 pm

    Bill’s mission for nearly his whole life has been to communicate, so he’s always been available. Really sweet. ‘best, Lou

  46. Colleen Rae (Shifman) August 29th, 2011 3:25 pm

    I was fortunate to know Bill in the early 1960’s. I thought of him then as a Renaissance Man and still do. He is a fine human being as well as a world-class Mountain skier , climber and folk singer.

  47. Gregg Cronn August 29th, 2011 8:09 pm

    Took this photo of the original Bugs to Rogers Pass traverse team signature and registry on the wall of the Glacier Creek Cabin. This cabin is on the registry of historic buildings in Canada. There are many signatures and route descriptions on the walls dating back to the 1930’s. All of it protected by plexiglass. When I told Bill about it a few years ago he got a chuckle out of the image of their signatures protected behind plastic.

  48. Lou August 29th, 2011 8:32 pm

    Classic! Thanks Gregg.

  49. Daniel December 20th, 2011 11:37 pm

    Just read your bio of Bill. I’m well aware of who he is and what he has done, but big thanks go out to you Lou for writing this up. I can tell you have a great deal of respect, as I do, for Bill. What an interesting guy. And what a humble hero. I really do look up to him. This was a great post, and I hope he has many more years of playing music and spreading the good word.
    Thanks Lou!

  50. Lou December 21st, 2011 8:02 pm

    Thanks for reading the article Daniel!


  51. Jim April 15th, 2012 3:58 pm

    I remember Bill often yodeling in the Shady Lady Saloon next to Snow King where he led the ski school. I knew about skiing the Grand and the Stagecoach Band but never knew he did so much while facing such adversity.
    He also had the perseverance to grow a vegetable garden in Jackson. I’d walk by his house often and in the summer the sprinkler would run all night to keep the garden from freezing.

  52. Forest April 30th, 2012 6:47 am

    At 53, having enjoyed a number of sports, I always thought it ridiculous that someone could have a “hero”. After watching the movie “Steep” a few months ago, my viewpoint has shifted. The opening section has Lou’s comments surrounding a filmed interview with Bill Briggs; after watching that part of the video countless times I still cannot leave it without a lump in my throat. A truly amazing individual. The fact that he is originally from Maine is just icing on the cake! 🙂 If you haven’t seen the movie, you really owe it to yourself.

  53. Lou April 30th, 2012 7:18 am

    Forest, I’m glad you figured out what the ‘hero’ thing is all about! And thanks for enjoying Steep, as well as figuring out who was doing the voice-over!

  54. Forest May 2nd, 2012 11:37 am

    I enjoy all my ski movies, Lou but Steep really hits home; it is in a league of it’s own. Good thing that I have the video on hard drive or I would wear out my DVD or VHS player!

  55. mary douglas edwards December 25th, 2012 3:16 pm

    I went to Aspen with my parents in winter – 1956 or thereabouts. My ski instructor was Bill Briggs. My parents invited him to dinner – at either the Copper Kettle or the Red Onion. My father had gone to Exeter and he and Bill talked about that . I was 15 or 16. I had a huge cush on Bill Briggs. Glad to know what he went on to do… Skiing the Grand Teton is especially cool… I went to camp in Kelly Wyomong in 1955 and 1956. I went on a 4-day back pack trip behind the Tetons when l was there.

  56. brian h December 27th, 2012 7:31 am

    Hello Mary. I have a crush on Bill Briggs too. I’ve never shared this with anyone before…

  57. Lou Dawson December 27th, 2012 7:57 am

    Brian, I’m glad WildSnow can provide some assistance with getting your feelings out there (grin). Indeed, the guy is RAD. When I wrote the book Wild Snow I was so honored to get to know Bill, and interviewing him was a wonderful experience. Of his various accomplishments, I actually like his Bugs traverse the best. That just sounded like such a cool experience. The teton tea sessions are intriguing as well.

  58. brian h December 27th, 2012 10:29 am

    Yep the Bugs traverse. Which I fist read about in YOUR book. I think Chic Scott was on that epic journey too(?).

  59. Colleen Rae (Shifman) December 29th, 2012 3:04 pm

    Congratulations Brigger! YOu are an awesome man!
    My ex-husband, Jerry Shifman and I used to attend the first Teton Tea Parties at the climbers camp in the Tetons during the 1960’s. Bill used to brew up a huge wash tub of tea with some red wine and sugar added and it would keep us all night singing.

  60. Michael Broom Smth January 22nd, 2013 4:01 pm

    Being from the UK/France I only heard of Bill Briggs a couple of years ago when I watched the film Steep. Bill is amazing and while at 51 I am probably too old to be inspired by him I hope my six year old, who has skied since he was 2 1/5, will be.

    Congratulations to Bill Briggs, we should all try and live like him.

  61. Andy McGeoch February 14th, 2013 11:23 am

    Met Bill Briggs a couple weeks ago In Jackson. I think thats the high point of my skiing career. Quite an inspiring guy! Keep it up Bill, happy trails!

  62. Colleen Rae February 14th, 2013 12:14 pm

    Didn’t we all have a crush on Bill Briggs? He was a fascinating individual with a ‘hero’ aura above his head.

  63. John Moran March 13th, 2013 1:16 pm

    Bill & I were classmates at Exeter & Dartmouth, did a fair amount of skiing & mountaineering together. Small corrections: the western ski trip out of Dartmouth was in the spring of 1953, and the summer of mountaineering was that summer. He was inducted into the Ski Hall of Fame in April 2009

  64. Ron fisher January 5th, 2014 8:38 pm

    I only met Bill a year ago while on a back country ski vacation to the Hole. We saw him and the Stagecoach band at the weekly Sunday gig then the next day up at Moose doing his Hootenanny which was truly a treat. What a wonderful humble human being. All the best to you Mr Briggs

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