Carl was a giant of a man whose outsized voice roiled every conversation like a burst dam and whose expansive vision reached across the mixed milieus of research, journalism, risk management and education. I knew him when he was at the peak of his powers, as he explained to me when I interviewed him for a “where are they now?” profile in Skiing History. He was able to conduct long-term research on injury patterns as well as analyze the particulars of the current binding market, turn around and package this knowledge into articles for Skiing and Skiing Trade News, followed up by a workshop tour that would bring enlightenment to the grassroots level. No one but Carl could have pulled this off, and Lord knows no one has had the requisite talent, energy and will power since.
But time and tide wait for no man, and Carl’s finely spun web of influence was eventually plucked apart. The loss of his pivotal positions in the press allowed him to slip from public view before we, the skiers of the world, realized we hadn’t taken the time to thank him.
We have the time to thank him now.
So thanks, Carl, for being first and foremost a teacher, for teaching is at the heart of the evangel’s mission.
Thanks for being so damn stubborn. Your insistence on improving skier safety wore through a wall of resistance as tough as Vermont marble.
Thanks for having a heart as big as that melon-sized head of yours. The fuel to your tireless mind was a caring heart that tried to embrace the world.
Thanks for all the stories once the Mount Gay flowed. Who knew we would have won the Vietnam War if only his superiors had listened? I can’t remember exactly how – he wasn’t the only one drinking Mount Gay – but I recall the light in his eyes as he relayed his twisted tales, taking us down successive rabbit-holes of digression that I lost track of at the seventh level.
That’s what I remember most vividly about my many interactions with Carl: his brain so teemed with thoughts he rushed to get them out in a verbal jailbreak that would travel around the cosmos until returning, many lost minutes later, to the subject that had inspired them. That was Carl: too many words for one sentence, too many tasks to tend to and all of it, every erg of his endless energy, devoted to a cause he never ceased to serve.
Fare thee well, Carl Ettlinger. The world misses you already for it will never see another quite like you, whose every moment seemed larger than life itself.
I raise my glass to you, old friend. Mount Gay, of course.
June 23, 2020