John E. Simms

Induction Year: 
Ski Sport Innovator

John E. Simms (1937 - )

Skiing since he was a toddler in western New York, John Simms migrated west in 1959 after majoring in English, studying non-Euclidian geometry, and completing a tour with the US Navy monitoring the North Atlantic Distant Early Warning line during the Cold War.  A professional ski patrolman at Arapahoe Basin and Vail, John moved to Jackson Hole in 1966, the first year the Aerial Tram opened, where he subsequently served as a snow ranger responsible for avalanche forecasting.

A powerful avalanche at A-Basin resulting in a fatality his first day skiing in the area established John’s early interest in avalanches.  He founded Snow Research Associates (SRA) after relocating to Jackson and began designing and developing tools and techniques to determine the mechanical properties of snow for avalanche forecast and rescue.  SRA became Life-Link International, named for ski poles John invented that link together to form a probe pole.  Life Link poles and John’s patented lightweight, collapsible fanny pack shovel allowed rescuers to locate and extricate avalanche victims more quickly, increasing chances for survival.  His inventions continue to save lives around the globe. John, in collaboration with other original members of the Jackson Hole ski patrol, developed avalanche control programs between 1966 and 1975 that became today’s worldwide industry standard.         

As to John’s skiing prowess, he and fellow "troller" Charlie Sands were the first to ski the then-unnamed north facing couloir off Rendezvous Mountain.  Their premier leap into the precipitous chute – named S & S in their honor -- occurred only after they promised each other they would never tell who went first.