The Soul Gallery: Bobbie Burns

The original hot dogger

Bobbie Burns, ski designer, stylist, womanizer, born 1935
Bobbie Burns, ski designer, stylist, womanizer, born 1935

The Soul Gallery, a tribute to iconic figures who defined skiing, originally ran in the January 2014 issue (42.5). As pure as snowflakes drifting through the sky, each winter represents a clean slate—an opportunity to meet new people, accomplish new goals, learn lessons about yourself and nature, and be reborn as you fly through deep powder snow. What happens when you can experience this every season throughout a lifetime? What lessons do you learn? What can you accomplish when you ski not just for years, but decades?

For a handful of old timers, the annual return of winter gives them the means to influence everyone around them. Season after season, storm after storm, they see things differently than everyone else, and they keep at it long after others slow down or simply give up. They are the pioneers, visionaries, innovators, artists, and warriors who are fully committed. Eventually, their accomplishments help define an entire sport.

Today, these skiers remind us where we came from and what lessons we can learn in order to follow in their tracks.

PHOTO: Scott Markewitz
PHOTO: Scott Markewitz

The original hot-dogger did not grow up skiing. Rather, Bobbie Burns spent his childhood doing ballet, dance, and platform diving. When he eventually took up skiing in his early 20s, while living in Ogden, Utah, he brought what he learned on stage to the snow, giving him a distinct style that has garnered attention ever since the late filmmaker Dick Barrymore saw him flying over the bumps at Sun Valley in the late 1960s.

You still see Burns’ style there today. With his blonde mane blowing in the wind, legs perfectly together in white pants, and his arms outstretched at eye level while flicking 58-inch poles with his wrists, he wiggles and turns and rips down the mountain.

“The main thing in ballet is your body follows your head and your eyes,” he says. “I found that I could ski huge bumps while standing up straight, but with ankle pressure, and be able to keep my balance with my head and my eyes.”

This is how, he says, he scored one of the most iconic covers in Powder magazine history, in 1974. Burns is also known for designing one of the first skis not built for racing. In 1973, he introduced The Ski, which, like its designer, had a singular purpose.

“A ski should be for pleasure, not for racing and turmoil and anger,” says Burns, who this year worked with Scott Sports to reproduce a modern version of The Ski. “Skiing is fun; it’s for pleasure. So I figure you have to make it a happy, fun ski. That’s what we are. That’s what we do. And it doesn’t matter how good you are. What matters is how much fun you have, how much pleasure you have.”

Also in The Soul Gallery: Betsy Pratt