Editor's Note: FasterSkier would like to pass on our condolences to Paul's family and friends. Many of us grew up with Paul as one of the major “voices” of cross-country skiing – through his reporting and involvement with the sport. He will be greatly missed.
WEATHERSFIELD, Vt. (Feb. 23) – Internationally recognized ski and travel journalist Paul Robbins, a wordsmith and historian for the U.S. Ski Team for 30 years, died Saturday at his home in Vermont. Robbins, whose wit, humor and vast knowledge was legendary, was 68. He died of an apparent heart attack while working on weekend news stories in his home.
Always recognized by his Scottish tam, Robbins found a niche in writing about ski racing in the late '70s. His work appeared in countless magazines including Skiing, SKI, Ski Racing and more. He had been a primary writer for the U.S. Ski Team for over two decades.
“Paul was an integral part of our sports for three decades, telling the world the story of our great athletes,” said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt. “His vast knowledge and quick wit helped him make friends for our sport worldwide and to elevate awareness of ski racing.”
Robbins was introduced to competitive skiing in the late '70s when he was invited by entrepreneur Tony Wise to help publicize the World Cup cross country ski races at the Telemark Lodge in northern Wisconsin. That began a 30 year career covering all facets of ski racing for the U.S. Ski Team, Ski Racing Magazine and countless other publications. He was widely acclaimed as one of the most knowledgeable experts on ski competition in the world.
He became a correspondent with the Team in the early '80s, traveling for many years on the international circuit with the nordic teams. He also served as public relations director for the Team in 1986 and became a full-time correspondent in 1988. His work grew to cover all ski sports, plus snowboarding.
A familiar face in press rooms worldwide, Robbins worked at eight Olympic Winter Games — every one since the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics where he served as press chief for luge. At subsequent Olympics he served as a press officer for the U.S. Ski Team, as well as an expert commentator for nordic sports for CBS and NBC.
“We have all lost a true friend and vast encyclopedia of sport knowledge,” said USSA Vice President of Communications Tom Kelly, who first introduced Robbins to the sport at Telemark in 1979. “Paul started his career with us in cross country skiing. And while he branched out to other sports, he was always most excited to see the progress of nordic skiers. It was tremendously exciting for him to write about wins by Kikkan Randall and Bill Demong.
“Most of all, Paul was a friend to everyone,” added Kelly. “He brightened every room he entered. He brought joy to those around him and he made millions of new fans worldwide for our sport through his ability to help athletes tell their story through his light-hearted and knowledgeable questions.”
One of Robbins' final projects was moderation of a national media teleconference the day before his death with newly crowned World Cup downhill champion Lindsey Vonn. Robbins strategized to have two-time World Cup champion, and Olympic gold medalist, Picabo Street join the call to surprise Vonn and provide an even more enticing story for journalists.
“This is such a shock to me,” said Street. “Paul and I spent a lot of time talking the last few days. He told me after that call that having Lindsey and I on together was one of the highlights of his life. He did such a good job for our sport and I will deeply miss him.”
Robbins is survived by his wife of 18 years, Kathe. He was a native of New Jersey and alumnus of Holy Cross who later moved to Vermont. A military veteran who served as an information officer in Korea in the early '60s, he later worked for United Press International in Boston as New England bureau chief and as public relations director for Sheraton Hotels in the Pacific in Honolulu. He was also a longtime member of the Society of American Travel Writers. One of his sons, David (DC), now works in sport production for Echo Entertainment, which produces all of USSA's television programming.
A memorial service in Vermont will be coordinated by the U.S. Ski Team and his local friends for a date in late spring.
Donations to the Team in Paul Robbins' name may be made to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation, Box 100, Park City, UT 84060. Or, friends are welcome to contribute to a local charity of their choice, as Paul and Kathe often did.