Actually, since 1950 and we couldn’t stop at 10
Not everyone will agree with our definition of “skiers,” as we’ve peremptorily eliminated Pipe & Park athletes, aerialists and acrobats in favor of what we regard as the most demanding of disciplines, alpine racing.
We also arbitrarily started the time line at 1950 before setting to the highly subjective exercise of picking our favorite male and female skiers of our lifetime.
We fully expect absolutely no one else to agree. Let the debates begin!
The inimitable Stein Eriksen (but we all tried).
Our Top 20 Men
in alphabetical order
Kjetil Andre Aamodt – A speed-event specialist, Aamodt still won an Overall cup and always stepped up to the podium at the Olympics and World Championships.
Doug Coombs – Coombs could ski anything – ice falls, rock slides and the nastiest snow you can imagine – and make it look easy. He took racing skills off trail.
Stein Eriksen – Stein should probably be first on anyone’s list, simply for style. For 3 generations of skiers, Stein was the ideal, how everyone wanted to look on skis.
Marc Girardelli – A record 5 Overall World Cup globes, wins in every discipline, all for the greater glory of Luxembourg.
Marcel Hirscher – How do you pass over a guy who has 4 big globes, going on 5? Hirscher’s technical mastery is beyond dispute and his battle with Ligety in GS is epochal.
Jean-Claude Killy – Killy dominated the World Cup in its first two seasons, winning just about every race in every event, including a gold-medal sweep at the Grenoble Olympics. He went on to be the principal organizer of the Albertville games.
Lasse Kjus – What he did at the World Championships at Vail in 1999, the year he won the Overall, may never be rivaled: 5 events, 5 top-two finishes, including 2 gold.
Franz Klammer – The most DH wins (25) and globes (7), Klammer also made the world watch, riveted, as he snatched the Innsbruck DH gold from Bernard Russi.
Ted Ligety – Second only to Stenmark in career GS points, Ligety helped to redefine perfection in how to edge a ski. To “lay it over like Ligety” is the highest compliment.
Phil Mahre – A contender in all events, the more laureled of the Mahre twins won 3 Overall titles in a row before Girardelli and Zurbriggen began their era of dominance.
Hermann Maier – After winning 3 Overall titles in 4 years, the Hermannator came back from a horrific motorcycle accident to reclaim the crown 3 years later.
Shane McConkey – More than a stunt man or even exquisite skier, McConkey was an innovator, contributing more to freeride ski design than any other athlete.
Bode Miller – There were better technicians, but no one better at finding speed. His physical talents –in victory and defeat – left his fellow competitors slack-jawed.
Toni Sailer – The first skier to sweep all events at an Olympics, Sailer not only won, he won by huge margins. Like Eriksen, Sailer had movie star looks, and unlike Eriksen, he actually exploited them to appear in motion pictures.
Scot Schmidt – If you trace today’s infatuation with all extreme sports, including X Games and all Pipe & Park shenanigans, to its source, you’ll find Scot Schmidt.
Ingemar Stenmark – The benchmark for technical skiers. No one won more or in more spectacular fashion than the cool-under-pressure Swede.
Aksel Lund Svindal – A 2-time Overall Cup winner with a talent for speed (5 Super-G globes), Svindal is still active and very much in the hunt for overall supremacy.
Gustavo Thöni – A technical innovator, Thöni rode the tails of his skis to 3 Overall titles before Stenmark dethroned him.
Alberto Tomba – A force of nature on and off the course, the media-genic Tomba is the only man to take home gold in GS in back-to-back Olympics.
Pirmin Zurbriggen – The only man talented enough to challenge Girardelli head-to-head in every discipline and at every big event during their long, illustrious battle.
The wise skier doesn’t try to emulate Bode