Bill Shorter’s timeless leap during Alta’s 100″ winter storm of ’65

SALT LAKE CITY — In 1965, Bill Shorter, a skiing enthusiast from New York, found himself at Alta in Utah, with powder that he describes as “the greatest snow on earth.” The iconic photograph capturing Shorter jumping over his Chevrolet Corvair amid an avalanche slide is a snapshot that has become a symbol of Alta’s ski history.

The feat was a collaborative effort with Alf Engen, Alta’s ski school director at the time. Shorter, then assistant manager at Alta Lodge, recalls Engen’s proposition to build a jump near the Peruvian Lodge during a week-long storm interlodge. Together they constructed the jump, with Engen taking the first leap, inspiring Shorter to follow suit. Ted Johnson, founder of Snowbird and an amateur photographer, immortalized Engen’s jump in a photograph that would later make its way into a Chevrolet promotion.

Shorter’s skiing journey traces back to his childhood, guided by his father, a skilled skier from the 1920s and 30s. Arriving at Alta in 1962, Shorter embraced the local skiing culture and, at 83, continues to carve through the slopes. His rite of passage as a “newby” includes a humorous incident with waitresses and stiff wooden skis, leading him to buy powder skis that very evening to master the art.

The winter of ’65 is etched in Shorter’s memory,  marked by the snowstorm that dropped 100 inches of snow, and the avalanche that followed, closing the road for a week. Shorter’s jump, frozen in Johnson’s photograph, serves as a testament to the spirit of Alta’s skiing community in the face of nature’s forces.

Decades later, Shorter’s photo gained its own recognition when Johnson’s photograph appeared in a Sotheby’s catalog. The revelation triggered conversations and calls, bringing the memory back to life.

“It’s kind of puffed my chest out a little bit more. It was a big moment in my life. I guess now that I’m in with you know, an article with Junior Bounous and Suzy Rytting who’re ski icons for Utah,” Shorter said, laughing, “and I’m, you know, a jibone from New York.”

Check out the original article on Shorter in the Summit Sotheby’s Collections Magazine.

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