Taos Stories: Peter Donahue
Taos Stories: Snowsports Addition
What is your name, and where are you from?
My name is Peter Donahue, and I was born in Washington D.C. where my father was a labor lawyer for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. We skied as a family in western PA, Laurel Mt. and Seven Springs, then Wisp in MD. I moved to Lake Placid NY for school in 1969 and began ski racing in the Northern Adirondack Council of the USEASA.
Why did you become an instructor, and how long have you been teaching?
I started teaching during my freshman year of college at Berkshire East in Charlemont MA. I began teaching part time to have access skiing when I was a college student and had no cash. That was 1976-1977. Been teaching full time since 1981, Taos since 1983.
I remember seeing ads for Taos in Ski Magazine, and articles by Ernie in the late 1960’s when I became a subscriber as a boy. Later, a college friend was going yearly for ski weeks at the St. Bernard. She gushed about learning to ski here at TSV and I always wanted to come.
Most inspiring moment you’ve had while teaching?
My most inspiring moment was skiing with Gina Schreiber beginning in 1986. Gina was a girl, now a young woman with children of her own, who was adopted by local doctor Larry Schrieber through his and his wife’s agency, Child Right. Gina had come from an orphanage in Bombay/Mombai where she had contracted Polio, and she had limited use of her legs. I had volunteered to get her skiing, (I was already coaching Special Olympics, as I do today, at the request of Rhoda Blake’s best friend Myrt Rosen). I accomplished this by getting the repair shop guys (thanks Jimmy Martinez!) to attach a pair of skis to the bottom of a child sized “walker” that I tethered from behind with reins. Gina herself had skis that I attached together at the tips and spread apart with a bar between the heels of her boots to form a small “snow-plow”. She also had lockable knee braces. We then got snowmobile rides up to the “beaver pond” from the ski patrol, and slid our way back down Rubezahl to the bottom. Gina had very limited English, and she would say “bumpy road!” with her strong accent. Ernie saw me working with her one day, and he insisted that I be paid for my work: that it, in his words: “…is not to be your sacrifice.” That was the birth of the Adaptive ski program at TSV. My work with the Taos Winter Sports Team now sponsors 50 children with special needs to come and learn to slide with their peers in the Ernie Blake school snowsports program.
Best tip you give to your students?
To always position their feet and legs so that each boot is directly under the corresponding hip, and that they always have a “little toe on the snow.”
Best tip a student ever gave you? (Not monetary)
A commitment to help fund our TSV adaptive snowsports program and the Taos Winter Sports Team’s Special Olympics Summer ski camp at Mt. Hood OR. Yes, it’s monetary… but not for me personally!
Favorite après after work?
The bar at the old Tunderbird lodge!
Ski & boots of choice this season:
Marker bindings, Dalbello boots, Volkl skis!
Finish this sentence: The Ernie Blake Snowsports School is the…
Home of some of the most experienced and dedicated life-long snowsports instructors on the entire planet!
Taos just got a foot of fresh. Patrol has done their thing. You’ve got an hour before you have to be at lineups. Where are you heading?
The Wild West if there’s time, If not, then B&B trees to Longhorn.