Bob Gray was hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, off the grid, when it happened. Later his phone began buzzing, and he learned that his former U.S. Ski Team teammate and friendly rival over decades and decades of races, Charles Kellogg, had passed away.
Gray was surprised. Kellogg had not been well, but the end came fast once months of excruciating pain was finally diagnosed as a malignant and fast-metastasizing sarcoma.
“It hit me hard,” the 76-year-old Vermont farmer said on the phone, still from the trail, last Saturday. “It could be me next… I miss him terribly.”
Kellogg, 75, had been one of the ties that kept Gray and the ski community together.
“It’s pretty much nose to the grindstone,” Gray said of his life at 4 Corners Farm in Newbury, Vt. “Charlie made a special effort to talk; he was always calling me up. It was great to talk to him. He would drag me out of that focused world.”
But while it’s hard for Gray, at the moment, to connect to Kellogg’s family or other friends, in a way the mountains are a poetic place for Gray to say goodbye to Kellogg, who was a longtime member of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and its alumni Old Hutsman (OH) Association, and who always made time for a ski or a hike, even if he had just flown back from a work trip to Asia.
“It’s been on my mind, these two days, just thinking about him,” Gray said. “I had nothing to do but walk and contemplate, without any distractions. It’s a pretty emotional moment for me.”
Kellogg, a 1968 Olympian in cross-country skiing and a national champion, died a week ago on Sept. 21. Known as “Chuck” or “Spike” to some friends, Kellogg was an integral member of the nordic community, a mentor and friendly face to many on the trails.
As noted in his U.S. Biathlon Hall of Fame induction description, Kellogg wasn’t obviously bound for skiing glory from day one. But the guy who grew up primarily in Andover and Brookline, Mass., picked up skiing at Holderness Academy a few hours north in New Hampshire and never looked back.
And so perhaps his first impact on the sport was as the fast racer everyone was chasing: in college races for Williams College, then as he took up biathlon and eventually won a national championship in 1965, and then still as he competed as a cross-country skier in the Olympics and raced as a member of the U.S. Ski Team (USST).
“He was one of a group of half a dozen guys who I would describe as the early generation of capable international-caliber nordic skiers in this country,” said John Morton, an Olympian and coach. “There were a couple of individuals who preceded them, but… I remember when I was on the U.S. ‘B’ team, and those guys set the standard, and the rest of us just desperately tried to keep up.”
Gray remembers a relay race in Reit im Winkl, Germany, in 1968.
“Charlie came in in the lead, and Jack [Lufkin] kept it, and I was able to hold on – we won a relay race in Europe,” Gray marvels. “It was amazing. Everybody was going crazy over there. It was kind of unusual for an American team to win a relay.”
Kellogg’s race career never really ended. In 1998 he won a World Masters Championship in Lake Placid, N.Y.
There, too, Gray was Kellogg’s teammate.
“Neither he nor I had very good points,” Gray remembers. “We started in the back. But we both had incredible skis so together we made up to the front through 80 people. All of a sudden we were in the lead. I couldn’t hold it up – Charlie went on to win. He’s a great skater! Talk about tough competition, that’s the best of the best. I know he was very proud of that.”
Kellogg never boasted about his success, and not all of his friends were familiar with the details of his ski career. But it’s possible to be humble and proud at the same time, and Kellogg was.
“He was very proud of his achievements,” said Doug Hotchkiss, a friend from near Kellogg’s home in Massachussetts who was part of a nonprofit board and also the O H Association with Kellogg. “Of course, he was very modest, so you would never know it unless you asked him about it. But then it was clear.”
No matter which year you ask about, his friends and teammates will tell you that he was a great guy to be around. Kellogg was a role model for how to balance a job, a family, and high-level training.
“I always admired and was continuously impressed with how Charlie was able to balance his training at a high level while working full time for IBM and fulfilling his responsibilities and obligations as a husband and a father,” USST teammate Mike Elliott wrote in an email. “In the late 60s, there just were not many athletes who could do that successfully.”
“He was disciplined and a very tough athlete,” Gray agreed. “But just a real pleasure to go head to head with.”
Kellogg never stopped skiing – this year he competed in the White Mountain Classic in Jackson, N.H., and earned an age-group podium in the 10 kilometer at Masters National Championships in Craftsbury, Vt. – but as he grew older he also bettered the ski community in other ways.
His expertise as a board member was so impressive that a group of biathletes in 2006 lobbied hard for him to be elected vice chairman of the United States Biathlon Association (USBA).
“While most countries were increasing staff numbers, sponsors, and athlete support, many of us felt that USBA was headed in the opposite direction,” Lowell Bailey, one of the signatories on an open letter before the election, wrote in an email. “Charlie represented one of the new faces that we felt could help facilitate and oversee the difficult changes that USBA would need to undertake in order to remain competitive internationally.”
Kellogg, who worked in sales at IBM and later at Global Partners, had a knack for business and nonprofit interactions. He was described by colleagues in three different organizations as a model board member. Besides his help with USBA, he was also the president of the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust near his home in Massachussetts, and a board member of the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, where he and his wife had recently bought a condominium.
How did he manage it all – these many tasks and passions which added up to more than most people could handle?
“He was hyperactive is what he was!” Hotchkiss remarked with a laugh. “But he loved it.”
And people loved Kellogg.
“We had a regularly-scheduled board meeting this week, and all of us were thinking how much we’re going to miss Charlie,” said Ken Kimball, a friend on the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation board.
Before he became a full-time skier, Kellogg started working in the AMC huts. At just 16 years old, he spent his first season at Lake of the Clouds on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Soon he was the hut manager.
His legend preceded him, said Hotchkiss, who didn’t actually meet Kellogg until later.
“Everything I ever saw him do, he led by example, not by being loud and boisterous and carrying a big stick,” Hotchkiss recalled. “I had heard of Charlie and seen that he had all kinds of records for speed hiking. In those days we kept records of the macho things – it was all boys working in the huts then, no women. It was how much weight you could pack, how fast you could go, all of that. That was the measuring stick amongst guys. How many dishes you could wash in as short a time as possible, how big a pancake you could make. Part of the fun of working in huts was bringing the crew together.”
When U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William O. Douglas visited Lake of the Clouds in 1960 with a National Geographic camera crew in tow, Kellogg was managing the hut. He ended up in photos in the magazine. He was 20 years old.
Working in the huts was fun and gave Kellogg a chance to stretch his legs. But working on Mount Washington, home to some of the most extreme weather on earth, was also serious. Kellogg wrote in a recent O H Association newsletter of going out in a gale to find and retrieve the bodies of two young hikers who had perished, dressed only in cotton.
“Of course the terrible visibility contributed to [a lack of volunteers] and the wind was keeping people inside their respective buildings where they plied their trade, such as TV broadcasting, checking weather or testing jet engines,” Kellogg wrote.
Weather didn’t keep him or his friend Greg Prentiss inside, of course.
The ties he forged, to other hutsmen, hikers, and the mountains themselves, stayed strong. Kellogg also worked as a mountain guide in the Grand Tetons at one point, and trekked in Nepal.
Hotchkiss soon met him again, this time in earnest.
“In 1978 when another Old Hutman and I showed up near Jasper in the Canadian Rockies to do a randonée ski trip,” Hotchkiss said. “We were flown back into a remote camp by helicopter, and then for a week we spent every day climbing up with skis with skins, and descending. Charlie was there with his wife and his brother-in-law and his wife’s sister. And so there were six of us who were connected, but we didn’t know they would be there!”
After a day of skinning up thousands of feet, taking a few runs, and then descending to camp, Hotchkiss was usually looking for “an ibuprofen and a beer.”
Not Kellogg or his wife, Gillian.
“Charlie and Gillian would put on their cross-country skis and go out for more skiing on the frozen lake,” Hotchkiss said. “Every day! And then be ready to go the next morning.”
While Kellogg spent a decade racing at the top levels of national and international competition, he was also just as happy going out on the trails with friends who hadn’t been elite athletes. He and Hotchkiss went on several O H Association trips to Maine, where groups of hutsmen and women could ski from the Little Lyford Ponds lodges.
“He was always miles ahead of everybody,” Hotchkiss said. “I’m sure you’ve been hiking with a dog, where the dog goes bolting ahead and eventually will return. That was Charlie’s method.”
While racing was something he loved – Gray and Morton both recalled that Kellogg would never, ever, let it go in a sprint finish, even after a marathon distance spent going together – non-competitive pursuits were also key.
“A lot of athletes, they have their competitive life and then they move on to something else,” Morton said. “They may be nostalgic about the old days, when they were in shape and could do the Presidential Traverse in a single day. Charlie Kellogg kept at it. He probably up until relatively recently could still do a Presidential Traverse in one day, and look forward to it.”
Kellogg was a lifelong steward of ski and hiking trails, as well, not just maintaining AMC trails or those at the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust, but then later in Jackson.
“As we looked at new trail configurations he’d be out in the field skiing around trying to find a new route,” said Ken Kimball of his time with Kellogg in Jackson.
“He was always miles ahead of everybody. I’m sure you’ve been hiking with a dog, where the dog goes bolting ahead and eventually will return. That was Charlie’s method.” — Doug Hotchkiss, friend of Charlie Kellogg
After five summers of training on Mount Washington, in a systematized way or not, Kellogg was beginning to turn heads on the Eastern college circuit. By his senior year at Williams, in 1962, he was the captain of the team.
The next year, he headed to Alaska to join the Modern Winter Biathlon Team at Fort Richardson to fulfill his Army service. During the war, men like Peter Hale, Terry Aldrich, Dennis Donahue, Bill Spencer, and John Morton paid their dues at Fort Richardson, although not all overlapped with Kellogg.
“He said it was great,” laughed Hotchkiss. “He got to ski every day!”
In 1964 Kellogg went to Fairbanks for the Equinox Marathon, which his biathlon teammate Jerry Varnum won, while Kellogg was second. The Fort Richardson program was already a few years old at that point, but it was close to Anchorage, not Fairbanks. The pair’s exploits led the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner to write a blurb, “What does biathlon mean?”
Kellogg represented the U.S. in international competition including in Östersund, Sweden, where he was the top American finisher at the 1964 World Military Championships.
After leaving the Fort Richardson program, Kellogg went back to straight skiing.
“Charlie was very serious in training and when studying the sport of cross-country skiing,” Elliott wrote. “I have nothing but fond memories of my experience of training and racing with Charlie. John Caldwell, as the USST Coach, organized ski team members for running and hiking the length of the Long Trail in summer of 1969. Pictures of that experience shows a bunch of lean fit young men. On that trip were John Caldwell, Peter Davis, Everett Dunklee, Mike Gallagher, Tom Corbin, Ned Gillette, Bob Gray, Charlie Kellogg, Jack Lufkin, and myself, Mike Elliott.”
Gray, too, remembers that trip well – and the crew that went with it.
“It raised a lot of awareness for the team,” said Gray, noting that the men would come off the trail and have dinner or drinks with communities in the local towns every night. “The U.S. Ski Team was gaining ground. A few years later, it was Bill Koch. We were sort of the foundation.”
Elliott said that Kellogg was one of the smartest guys on the team: after eventually making the Olympics, he went to the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth. His LinkedIn profile lists “the Shakespearian authorship question” as a hobby.
And that cerebral nature also came through in sport. Kimball, who would later work and ski with Kellogg in Jackson, remembers meeting him for one of the first times at an Eastern ski race around 1970.
“I was at a race at the Swedish Ski Club in Vermont, and I was just coaxing my just-married wife to also start cross-country skiing,” Kimball said. “That was in the day when race courses were quite snowshoed-out, quite different than today. Here’s a guy out talking about snow crystals and how they penetrated different kinds of waxes. In that day that was all very new and scientific and the rest of us were wondering what this guy was really talking about. But obviously his results showed what he was talking about! That was my introduction to Charlie.”
Kellogg was clearly a leader on the trails.
“The most accurate way to sum it up would be to say that I was in some of the same races that Charlie was in,” said Kimball, who had raced in college and was continuing while he went to graduate school.
But racing was no easy task in those days.
“I was on the U.S. Ski Team for 14 years,” Gray said. “By the last year, they began to have some kind of payments, but I think it was 1500 dollars. To be able to train year round – I didn’t do that until 1970, even then it was hard. By the time I left the team in 1974 I was broke. I mean broke.”
Yet Kellogg held it all together, seemingly.
“When Charlie was racing, you really had to have a second job to stay alive,” Kimball said. “It wasn’t like today where you are a professional or semi-professional athlete. He was like everybody else: you had something else that was a major part of your life to sustain your family and your income, which meant that you really had to have a love for the sport to continue to participate at a high level. He obviously sustained that for quite a while.”
The Board Member
While continuing to ski, run, hike, and bike for fun, Kellogg also transitioned to professional life. After going to the Tuck School and working for IBM and Global Partners, his personality and skills came to be in great demand in the nonprofit world.
Hence that letter, which was signed by biathletes Bailey, Tracy and Lanny Barnes, Jeremy Teela, and Tim Burke. Of the four paragraphs dedicated to lobbying for five different nominees, fully half of that text was devoted to Kellogg.
“As Vice President Mr. Kellogg would support new fundraising initiatives and help USBA gain the necessary resources to reach a medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics,” they wrote at the time. “As a successful professional fundraiser, he understands the fine points of generating financial stability within an organization. The new Vice Chairman must be business savvy, but also possess an adequate knowledge of our sport. Charlie Kellogg is more than qualified in both respects.”
Kellogg more than delivered once he was elected, according to the biathlon community.
“What struck me most about working with Charlie was the thoughtfulness with which he promoted biathlon and cross-country skiing at both the elite and recreational levels,” Walt Shepard, a former biathlete who was an athlete representative, wrote in an email. “His love for the sport — coupled with his serious credentials as a former Olympian — inspired enthusiasm from folks in both camps. More than anything, he was just a great guy to have a conversation with. He was very interested in getting to know people, and I really appreciated that about him.”
“More than anything, he was just a great guy to have a conversation with. He was very interested in getting to know people, and I really appreciated that about him.” — Walt Shepard, former biathlete and athlete representative
“[Kellogg] was at the core of a group of newly elected board members and staff who ushered in a new chapter in USBA’s history,” Bailey wrote in an email. “In many people’s eyes this is the period where USBA went from an ‘also ran’ to a legitimate medal contender on the world stage… Perhaps more impressive was Charlie’s genuine love of our sport and the athletes and staff of USBA. I considered him not only a crucial member of our US Biathlon Team, but more importantly, a friend who cared about my life both as an athlete and a human being.”
It was after the election of Kellogg and other new board members that Burke and Teela hit the World Cup podium for the first time, and then in 2014 Bailey and Susan Dunklee did as well.
“He was on the board during a time of probably the most dramatic advancement of the sport in America, and the most success for our program and our athletes,” Morton said. “He was part of the leadership which has allowed our team – we’d had individual athletes, but certainly never more than one or two – that so consistently were in a position to be on the podium. He was part of putting that program together, and probably more importantly, securing the funding.”
In the nonprofit world, moving towards decisions and policies can be a painstaking process if a board of directors is fractured. Kellogg proved to be adept at advocating not only for his own ideas, but for forward progress.
“He seemed impatient, but he somehow was able to show patience,” Hotchkiss said. “When you’re working for nonprofits it’s more of a consensus-based decision. He had a real talent for moving groups towards that.”
“He was a very good board member,” agreed Kimball. “I’ve served on a number of boards and some people are just warming a seat, but others really join in and participate. Charlie was one of the latter.”
Kimball said that Kellogg was particularly good at understanding the challenges Jackson faced, given that many of their trails are situated on private land which makes further development impossible.
“Charlie was also very good at bringing up his ideas constructively with the board, and pushing his ideas forward, and also trying to make them happen,” Kimball said. “A lot of people are willing to just spit out ideas and hope that someone else will pick up and do all the work. That’s not how I would label Charlie. He was also willing, if people disagreed with him, to accept that as well. It was a real pleasure to work with him.”
So both at the national and the local level, the ski community was lucky to benefit from Kellogg’s devotion.
“Charlie has paid it forward by paving the way for so many others that have come after him,” Elliott wrote.
Hotchkiss was around this summer as Kellogg’s pain got worse. It was months before the sarcoma was diagnosed as the underlying problem, but Hotchkiss knew Kellogg was in trouble when he took the short route home during a trail-clearing day for the conservation group.
“That was completely unlike him,” said Hotchkiss, who added that he could never imagine how Kellogg, who was outside at every possible moment, ever held a desk job.
By August, Kellogg was in the hospital and had to miss Lake of the Clouds’ 100th birthday party, an O H Association event he had been looking forward to.
“I did get a book of pictures of Mount Washington, and a lot of his friends signed it and put comments it,” Hotchkiss said. “That’s the kind of association we have. We all stick together. I brought it back, and he seemed to enjoy going through that and reading the notes from people who were up there.”
Others are left looking back at particularly fond memories of their friend.
“When the UNH Carnival was up here, there was a race for old codgers like Charlie and myself, and we all went out and did our one or two kilometer loop,” Kimball said. “When you ski with Charlie, he always had a big grin on his face. He’s just a good person to be around.”
To honor Kellogg, donations may be sent to two organizations he devoted so much time to: the Charlie Kellogg Memorial Funds at the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust, P.O. Box 1486, Manchester, MA 01944 or at the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, P.O. Box 216, Jackson, NH 03846.
Do you have any memories of Kellogg to share? Please write them in the comments below.