The Lonsdorf Technique

Lonsdorf and daughter Lynn
Fred Lonsdorf and daughter, Lynn

Check out this great flashback to Mont Ripley from the Daily Mining Gazette on December 26, 1958.

“Fred Lonsdorf, Michigan Tech ski coach, believes in starting skiers at the youngest age possible. Here, Fred demonstrates the downhill schussing position to his oldest daughter, Lynn. Lonsdorf has done more for skiing in Michigan and the Midwest than anyone else. He truly is the old pro of Mont Ripley and children, as well as adults, are amazed at the smoothness of the Lonsdorf technique. They clutter around him for tips and advice and probably will continue to do so for some time to come. Fred stresses one point and calls this the best tip he can give any skier or potential racer: “Get out and practice.” Lonsdorf truly practices what he preaches, because all Lonsdorf-coached skiers get plenty of practice and racing experience.”

Does anyone have any fond memories of Coach Lonsdorf, or perhaps some great stories to share from hitting the slopes with friends and family?

15 responses to “The Lonsdorf Technique

  1. Coach

    Coach Lonsdorf spoke at a Fraternity Rush in the Fall of 1965. He told us new non-skiers how to measure skis and poles to fit your body size. He also told us what the best boots and binding options were for beginners. With that info I was able to convince my parents to get me ski equipment for Christmas. That equipment lasted me for my 4-years at Tech. As they say, the rest is history.

  2. I worked for Fred as a ski instructor teaching MTU ski classes and anyone else who signed up for lessons at Mont Ridley, ‘78 through ‘82. If memory serves right, Fred retired in ‘82, and I took over as Ski School Director during my final winter as a MTU student — a role I was woefully unqualified for. But Fred showed me the ropes and mentored me along the way – many good memories – thanks Fred! Am I correct that he served in the 10th Mountain Division during WWII (

  3. I met Fred Lonsdorf as a freshman in the late fall of 1968. The bottom part of the hill was open but there was quite enough snow to open the upper part. We were riding the T-bar and skiing down from the mid-way point when all of a sudden we were going to the top. Fred had all of us sidestep down the middle bowl to pack the hill. We wanted to go up and ski it after it was packed but he told us that it had to sit overnight to harden up. One of many lessons I learned from Fred in my five seasons at Mont Ripley, during which the chair on the west side was installed and skis went from Head Vectors to K2 Competitions.

  4. Ski classes in 1970! The shuttle bus would pick us up at Wads and deliver us to Mt Ripley in time for our PE class. By that time there were herringbone tracks up Racer’s Ridge where Fred had already hiked the entire hill and skied down-either for exercise or catch the fresh powder…we weren’t quite sure until class started. As freshman we we just amazed anyone could hike the hill much less do it on skis. Fred would meet us at the bottom of the hill and up we went through a series of rope tows. Class would start with Fred explaining what we’d learn that day was something you’d be able to do while keeping your balance carrying a backpack on a steep ungroomed slope of deep snow. He said he’d learned it in Colorado at a place called Camp Hale. We were clueless first year students so really didn’t know what that meant. It was only after a little digging that we learned Fred was a vet from the storied US Army 10th Mountain Division. He never talked about his service to our nation …only what and where he learned what he knew. And he wanted to pass it along to us. I’m forever grateful to have known him.

  5. I had Fred for my skiing class instructor. I remember Fred having me ski Mt. Ripley with his daughter between my legs. I later used that same technique to teach my children to ski.
    It must have been one year earlier than the photo shown.

  6. Coach Landsdorf was a great guy and could take a ribbing from his team. During winter carnival of 1976 the team made a snow sculpture of coach Fred. It was a perfect caricature of him, except it was made from dirty snow from the road. Fred also taught a racing camp for young kids during Christmas break. I wore out a brand-new pair of leather mittens riding the old rope tow that week.

  7. Fred was a member of the famous 10th mountain division that fought in Northern Italy. 10 years after I graduated I and several other members of the ski team from 66-70 took Fred to the 10th Mountain Division reunion at Cooper Hill in Colorado where they had trained.That was the last time they all got together for a skiing reunion . It was a truly moving and memorable experience. I fondly remember my years of being a student and friend of Fred.

  8. Earning your”Bowl Pin”, was the biggest prize ever. He watched you do short swings down the chute to qualy. He had a dirt bike but was more into his racing small hydroplanes on lake Gogibic. He had a natural fast “flow state” which I picked up on early. Great family man also.

  9. When I enrolled in 1957, students were required to have six Physical Education (PE) credits to graduate. Just about every college sport had a PE course (or two) except skiing, and Tech owned a ski hill. So, I talked to Fred and to the Dean, and Skiing 101 was offered.

    The next year, I repeated the process and Skiing 201 was offered. When Fred saw all our (repeat) smiling faces, he said that since we all knew how to ski, he was going to teach us all the ways there were to make turns. That way, he said, no matter what position your body is in, you will always be able to initiate a turn instantly. He taught us how to turn using Rotation, Counter Rotation and Split Rotation; Up Unweighting, Down Unweighting and No Unweighting; Uphill Stem, Downhill Stem and No Stem.

    In 1966 I became a member of the Volunteer National Ski Patrol. I Patrolled every winter weekend at Boyne Highlands for 56 years. All the turning methods that Fred taught me had become reflexive. That was a huge contribution to my joy of skiing which continues at age 83. I remain grateful to Fred for those valuable lessons.

  10. On a stormy day in the mid 60’s, Calumet High was closed due to a blizzard. Four of us decided that since we had the day off we would head to Mt. Ripley for some powder skiing. When we arrived, we were the only skiers there and the rope tows were not running. (the T-bar wasn’t installed yet) Fred was there in the quonset hut with a roaring fire in the wood stove. He quickly informed us that there weren’t enough skiers to justify running the tow ropes and that because we were all season ticket holders, that he would make no money. No amount of wining would sway him from his position. Just then a couple of guys from Ontonagon walked in wanting to ski. Because they would be paying for daily passes, Fred reluctantly agreed to start the ropes with one condition. He would only run the lower tow long enough to get us up to the bowl tow. At that point he would turn off the lower rope and leave only the upper rope running. If we came back to the bottom, we would have to walk back up to the bowl. We agreed and had a great powder day in a very uncrowded Mt. Ripley bowl.

  11. I was on the Tech ski team from 1966 thru 1971. At our 1st team practice Fred took us all up the world’s fastest rope tow to the top of Ripley Bowl and said make 10 perfect linked turns down the bowl and you get a Ripley Bowl pin. None of us was successful and he said practice till you can then you get Ripley pin. Fred had a lot of duties running Ripley, don’t know how he did it all. He was a good man and I remember he also liked boat racing which he was very good at. Fred was a good ski coach and mountain manager

  12. As a native of Houghton/Hancock & a Tech grad, I spent many hours on Mt. Ripley & warming up & hanging out in the Quonset hut “ lodge” with friends. I developed my skiing skills in the Christmas time free ski school, & all the great coaching Fred did with us to qualify for many CUSSA ski meets. What a gift it was to grow up with that “ in our back yards”. I wish I had been aware of the 10th Mt. Division then. My two sisters had the same experience as did my good friend Barb Ferries & her brothers & sister. Barb & Chuck became Olympic skiers, my sister Nonie on the US ski team, all groomed on Mt. Ripley! We all remain avid skiers in Colorado & Idaho. Thanks Fred & Mt. Ripley.

  13. I skied Mt Ripley from 1964-68 and took advanced skiing from Fred in 1967. It was the only PE course aside from the Dept of Mines first aid course that required a final exam. The exam was skiing the downhill course without falling. I made it on my first try.

    I also volunteered as gatekeeper for the ski team races. Fred kept an eye on us. On a particularly cold race day he checked on us all and sent me to the lodge because my cheeks were turning grey from frostbite.

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