Paul Schipper, February 23, 1923 to February 16, 2009
I helped the Schipper family write this obituary for Paul, so I decided to post it here on my blog. His story was the first national story I ever publicized in my career, and it sure was a fun story to tell. Paul enjoyed being interviewed and telling his story because it helped Sugarloaf to gain national recognition. That made him happy. I sure will miss him.
Paul Schipper, Ironman of Skiing, 1923 – 2009
Paul Schipper, age 85, of Carrabassett Valley, died on February 16, 2009 at Veteran’s Rehabilitation Center in Bangor, Maine. Also known as “The Ironman of Skiing,” Schipper was widely covered in the media for his 24 year skiing streak at Sugarloaf, where he skied every day that Sugarloaf was open from 1981 until 2005.
He was born on February 23, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. His parents were Marie and Jay Edward Schipper. He graduated from Pleasantville (NY) High School and attended Syracuse University for two years before enrolling in the United States Air Force where he became a Lieutenant Colonel before retiring. He then became a commercial airline pilot and was a Captain with Eastern Airlines before a terrible near-tragic take-off in 1961 when the strut of his plane collapsed and caused a fiery crash. Paul had to dive out of the plane, causing his chest to collapse and subsequently several heart surgeries. Luckily there were no passengers aboard at the time, as the plane was headed for another airport to pick up passengers.
He then moved to Maine where he became a Registered Maine Guide and part owner of Kibby Kamp, a classic Maine sporting camp north of Eustis where he spent many happy days fly fishing with his many friends and family members.
Paul was most known for his skiing ‘streak’ which began in 1981 at age 57 and continued through 2005 at age 81. He skied every single day that Sugarloaf was open for 3,903 consecutive days. Because his story became more and more appealing to the media and the public as he skied through bouts of cancer, pneumonia, near blindness in one eye, and trips as far as Poughkeepsie, New York to see his son graduate from culinary school, he became a nationally-renowned media celebrity. His story was featured in the media across the country including the Boston Globe, the New York Times, People Magazine (two times), Good Morning America on ABC TV nationally. He received fan mail from admirers the world around as he inspired people to rise to their personal challenges and stick with their personal pursuits despite physical and mental obstacles. Sugarloaf named a trail in his honor on April 4, 2005, by calling a section of the famous Narrow Gauge Trail as “Schipper’s Streak.”
He is survived by his wife, Christine, of Carrabassett Valley, his daughter Kibby of Wellington, Florida, and his son Jeff and his wife Lori of Caribou, Maine. He will be dearly missed not only by his family but by his many friends who cared for him deeply. Paul was a tough guy who had a tender heart. He loved to have fun and would always surround himself with young people who also enjoyed skiing, fishing, good food, and lots of laughs.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Sugarloaf Regional Ski Educational Foundation, c/o Sugarloaf Ski Club, Village West #13, Carrabassett Valley, Maine 04947 or the Ayotte Scholarship Fund, 1215 Carrabassett Drive, Carrabassett Valley, ME 04947. Paul would want funds to be dedicated to lift tickets for area children who could not otherwise afford to ski.
No memorial services will be held. His ashes will be spread on the two places he loved most: Sugarloaf Mountain and the waters around Kibby Kamp in Eustis, Maine.