93-year-old Minnesota ski racing pioneer trains the next generation at Buck Hill

Image 1 of 3

Skiing is a lifetime sport and one Minnesota man is using as much of his lifetime as he can to do just that.

At 93 years old, Erich Sailer is still training the next generation of skiers at Buck Hill. His efforts have earned him the nickname, “The Yoda of Ski Racing.”

At least twice a week, you’ll find Sailer at the top of Buck Hill coaching kids with former Olympian Uros Pavlovic.

While Sailer is in his 90s, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

“It keeps me going and active,” he said. “You gotta be physically and mentally alert so that you can do it. It’s good for my body and my health.

Sailer grew up and became a professional skier in Austria, where skiing is the number one sport. He helped bring it to the masses when he moved to the United States in the 1950s.

He and some friends started the country’s first summer ski camp in Mount Hood, Oregon before he moved to Minnesota in 1969 to help find skiers to fill his camps out west.

“I thought, with 2 million people, some have to ski in the mountains and summer is a good time because they are not in school,” he said.

Since then, Sailer has turned Buck Hill’s Junior Ski Racing program into an international powerhouse, training thousands of skiers from ages 8 to 18 and producing U.S. Ski Team members, Olympians and World Cup Champions like Lindsey Vonn.

Although he’s just a few years shy of crossing the century mark, he’s not afraid to hit the slopes himself for the occasional run.

“My skiing is good, but it’s got to be right. The light has to be right. It can’t be flat light, otherwise you can’t see what you need to see at that age and the conditions have to be good. If the conditions fit, I can ski very well,” he said.

Sailer isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to keep coaching, but he takes comfort knowing he’s molded generations of champions both in skiing and in life.

“I know I’m not conceited. I know I’m satisfied with myself,” he said. “That makes me very happy.”

In addition to coaching a few nights a week, Sailer also runs a summer ski camp in Montana. He says doing what he loves keeps him young.