At various times in the past 100 years spokesmen for the nation's less urban interests have remarked how well they could get along without the rich and populous East. One of the first great exponents of this theory was John C. Calhoun. The most recent is California's Albert Sigal, President of the National Ski Association, governing body for competitive and club skiing in the U.S.
At a special session of the directors of the NSA in Colorado Springs on December 18 and 19. Mr. Sigal was instrumental in securing a vote to move the executive office of the association from Barre, Mass.—where it had been for 18 years—to Denver, where Mr. Sigal and the delegates of four western divisions thought it should be.
AN UNEASY FEELING
To some easterners this move came as a surprise. Only a few real irreconcilables could still protest the right of the fast-rising West, which now embraces five of NSA's seven territorial divisions, to a strong voice in national skiing affairs. Some easterners even agreed with the principle of moving the executive office to Denver. But an uneasy feeling that the peppery Mr. Sigal had moved with inappropriate haste nonetheless prevailed. Mr. Sigal demurred.
"May I say to you, sir," said Mr. Sigal, "that the tail has been wagging the dog for 20 years, and it's not going to wag it any longer."
One difficulty is that the directors' decision leaves Roger Langley, Executive Secretary of NSA and its only regular paid officer, sitting in Barre, Mass. with four years still to go on a five-year contract and no apparent recourse but to resign.
Not only that—Langley was the association's president from 1936 to 1948, has served as secretary since the presidency was made a rotating office and deserves, so the outvoted directors feel, something better than the old heave-ho. As a further point of honor, some of the loyalists feel that, since skiing has always been run from the East, the administration should be kept there. It was there that the sport first became popular, and there are still more Eastern NSA clubs than in all five western divisions combined. As far as the East is concerned, Langley and Barre still stand.
Sigal and Co., on the other hand, insist that the executive office is now in Denver and can operate quite handily from there without those who refuse to go along. "We," said Mr. Sigal, "don't need the East."
Beneath the booming of these cannon, a crackle of small-arms fire can be heard from an attendant skirmish. The National Ski Patrol System, a loosely organized group of volunteers that slows down schussboomers, insures skiers against injury and brings them down on toboggans when they have been hurt, has developed an East-West split of its own. The Patrol was started in 1938 in the East under Langley's NSA regime; but it was set up as a separate corporation for tax reasons and has, since 1950, been run from Denver by Edward Taylor, a confirmed westerner. But there are a number of anti-Taylorites in the eastern wing of the Patrol who have reduced the argument down to such minutiae as whether the easterners couldn't draw up a better skiers' insurance policy than the one the westerners put in operation. And as if that weren't complicated enough, the Patrol has become a prize in the greater war within the NSA.
The whole situation has long since become too complex for the majority of the nation's 2,500,000 weekend skiers who don't race, don't belong to ski clubs and don't really care whether the flag waves over Massachusetts or Colorado. The same may be said of many of the NSA's 50,000 club members, who are beginning to think rather seriously of dropping the directors and just going skiing.
CALM HEADS FOR A SOLUTION
If that happens, the NSA has had it, and to prevent such a collapse a few calm heads on the top level are working on a solution to present to the NSA convention in May. Furthermore, they know an Olympic year is approaching and, world competition being what it is, no one on either side can afford to find himself in a public wrangle over, say, the selection of the U.S. Olympic ski team. "After all," admitted one embattled official, "there are some things you have to do together."