Advice Jim Followed: When You Come To A Fork In The Road, Take It.

Ski buddies Alan Engen (l) and Jim Gaddis at Alta c. 2001. Credit: Alan Engen Collection

From the time Jim was a youngster, his single goal was to be an Olympic ski racer. He lived for that. He trained for that. But when he was shut out of the Olympics, it didn’t stop him. He generated ways to help others in the sport he loves.

His accomplishments include being an elite Intermountain ski racer, an inspiring coach, a great salesman, an imaginative program starter, a premier fundraiser — and he’s still moving on. Just try to keep up with him.

Yankee baseball legend Yogi Berra had a saying for it: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Every time Jim came to a fork, he took action, reinvented himself, and moved forward. It’s a lesson we all can learn.

From Sears Skis To Winning National Racer

As a youngster Jim sledded on a golf course and saw someone using strange equipment: skis. He asked for skis for Christmas, and his parents bought him a complete set: skis, strap bindings and boots from the Sears catalog for $5.

He practiced at Alta and Brighton when his older brothers could give him a ride there. And he strived to ski like his good friend and acclaimed ski champion Alan Engen, son of famed Alf Engen.

Alan Engen (l) and Jim Gaddis hold the Intermountain Ski Association Alpine Combined trophy. Each won the championship 3 times. c. 1959. Credit: Alan Engen Collection

Early on, he entered his first race on his $5 skis. It was a slalom-type course on the steep face of Collins at Alta. “I don’t know how many times I fell, but I made it down in about 4 minutes,” he said. The winning time was 40 seconds! Defeat spurred him on.

His skills and determination grew, and he entered — and won — national races. He won the National Giant Slalom Championship. And three times he won the NCAA Alpine Championship and three times the famed Snow Cup. But three was not his lucky number. His dreams were derailed when he broke his legs not once, but three times in race accidents, Still nothing stopped him.

Finally he was on target for the 1964 Olympics, and he qualified for it. But his dream was crushed. He was shut out of the elite team that included Jimmie Heuga, Buddy Warner, Billy Marolt and Billy Kidd, with Bob Beattie as the coach.

“It was very hard to deal with,” he said. “It was my whole life’s ambition to be an Olympic racer — and maybe win.” At that point, he didn’t even have a job because he was totally focused on being an Olympic racer.

It was a fork in the road. He took action, reinvented himself and surged ahead.

Metamorphosis

Using his degree in banking and finance, he became a stock broker. But his passion was skiing, so he created the Gaddis Training Organization to coach elite and youth racers. The program grew to 110 racers with seven coaches, and he ran it for 12 years. It became Park City Mountain Resort’s ski team.

His Olympic dream had a legacy. But he didn’t stop there.

Another fork

Jim discovered he had a natural ability to promote and sell. When the University of Utah had trouble raising funds to expand its stadium, Jim took the challenge and quickly sold 40 seats.

From that beginning, his fund raising expertise expanded. His accomplishments read like a Who’s Who of skiing.

Energetic and active Jim Gaddis today. Credit: Harriet Wallis

He spearheaded fundraising for many ski organizations, and founded and chaired others including: the Youth Winter Sports Alliance which gets kids involved in winter sports; the National Ability Center, teaching skiing to handicapped; the Stein Eriksen Opportunity Endowment, which raised $2 million in two years to help local athletes with equipment and travel expenses; and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Foundation Ski Ball, raising funds for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams.

He also chaired the Jimmie Huega Express, which raised $1 million annually for the Huega Multiple Sclerosis center; was instrumental in fund raising for construction of the Alf Engen Ski Museum, which preserves the Intermountain history of skiing; and helped found and raise funds for the Utah Ski Archives, the country’s largest ski research repository of historic material. The Archives collection currently contains 500,000 images, 250 manuscripts and 6,000 audio,video and films, and it’s open to the public.

Just recently, Jim once again raised funds for his Alma Mater. He chaired the University of Utah’s campaign that raised $2.5 million and built a dedicated training facility for the University’s winning ski team.

His Olympic dream lives on in unique ways. He really is a gold medal champion.

Jim’s life demonstrates his philosophy: “Always do a good job. Do it right, and do it honestly. Don’t let anything stop you.”

Today, energetic and active, he takes time from initiating programs and raising funds to ski with a group of friends at Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort.

To read more from Harriet click here for her stories on SkiUtah.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar Beth Johnson says:

    What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Gaddis was famous in the Intermountain Division long after he stopped competing. One of the most formidable racing teams in the area was GTO: Gaddis Training Organization. Sometime before that, he was my own first coach, together with Ted Wilson, who later became one of Salt Lake City’s most popular mayors.

    Good on ya, Jim. Always good to see you and very happy for the well deserved recognition you’re getting.

  3. Avatar Bruce Sherman says:

    Harriet…I did the same landscaping thing with large parts of my yard…cut way down on water consumption…and bills. Did I ever tell you about my interview with ToniMatt on his schuss ofthe Tuckerman Headwall? I wrote it up as an article in Ski News Magazine for Merrill Hastings who started the publication.

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