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Combining Passions: Law and Skiing

Joe’s pioneering spirit led him to see the potential of skiing well in advance and he used his legal skills to establish Salt Lake as a premier ski destination.

As Joe was working hard to build his law practice, he also took time to enjoy the beautiful nature in Utah.  He loved to hunt ducks and fish, run rivers in Southern Utah, and sail at Bear Lake.  In the mid 1920’s Joe found himself often driving his son, David, and his friends to the nearby mountains to hike up and ski down.  As legend goes, he didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and bought himself a pair of skis and quickly fell in love with the sport.  From then on, he and his family spent their winters exploring the Wasatch Mountains.

Joe committed himself to furthering the sport of skiing.  In addition to chairing the Utah Ski Club from 1935 to 1938, Joe served as the club’s long-term secretary-treasurer and Board of Trustees member for many years.  He judged and promoted both jump and alpine events throughout the State including the US National Ski Jumping Championship held at Ecker hill during his tenure.  He saw skiing grow significantly in popularity when Alpine events were officially added at the 1936 games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.  In 1938, along with several other local businessmen,  he founded the Salt Lake Winter Sports Association which later became the Alta Ski Lifts Company.  After securing the surface rights to land in the Albion Basin, and with the sum total of $10,000 raised from these investors, the first chairlift in Utah was built going up the Collins Gulch in 1939.  It cost 25 cents a ride and $1.50 for a full day ticket.  Joe did all the legal work for what became Alta Ski Lifts Company and served as treasurer/secretary from 1939-1958.  He then became the president and served the company in this role for the next 25 years.

As the company grew, Joe worked tirelessly with the Forest Service to resolve such matters as avalanche control, placements of ski lifts, parking facilities, permits for new lifts and building construction, and issues of water, roads, trees and even rocks. And in 1939, seeing a gap in the law, he co-authored the Passenger Tramway Inspection Act.  He also authored the liability waiver which was printed on the back of every pass and adopted by ski areas nation wide.  According to famed ski jumper and first director of the Alta Ski School Alf Engen, Joe was the nation’s leading authority on everything connected with snow and skiing.

In 1967 he received the Winter Sports Award from the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce in recognition for his efforts to further the development of winter sports in Utah.   Joe Quinney was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1975 and is regarded as the Father of Utah Skiing.