On February 20, 2019

Chuck Hughes becomes race pro

By Karen D. Lorentz

Thousands of kids who were born in Vermont and grew up in the Rutland Region learned to ski at nearby Pico or Killington. Many of them ended up working in the ski industry, most in far-flung states. A few actually ended up making their living working at Killington and/or Pico.

The influence and inspiration of various coaches and a dose of serendipity led Rutland native Chuck Hughes to not only a career of many jobs in skiing but also to working with hundreds of kids himself.

Born in Rutland, Hughes graduated from Rutland High (1975) and Lyndon State College (1983), where he earned a bachelor of science in Recreation with a concentration in ski area management.

That was a natural fit for someone who started skiing at Pico at the age of 5 with his four older siblings. His dad, Paul Hughes, managed Wilson Sports in Rutland for 30 years and the original Pico Ski Shop was run by Wilson’s, so it’s not surprising that sports and skiing ran in his blood.

As the youngest child, Hughes took lessons in the Pico Junior Program and later raced out of the Pico Ski Club and for Rutland High School. Calling himself an “OK” ski racer, he was far more enthusiastic in praising the coaches he had – Crandy Grant, Monk Martin and Greg McClallen – noting in those days athletes participated in Nordic and ski jumping as well as Alpine ski racing.

“I also played football and baseball at RHS for coaches Joe Teta, Rick Eaton, Bunzi Keefe, Jim Leamy, and Bob Dickman.

“I had a lot of coaches who influenced me and led to my interest in coaching. They were all good coaches. I connected with them and worked hard.”

Hughes said he almost went into football “and was set for a post-graduate year at Vermont Academy,” when his father, who was opening a new sports store in West Rutland, needed his assistance. That led to a hiatus from schooling and the start of a ski teaching and coaching career.

“In the fall of ‘75, I coached freshman and JV football at MSJ and did that for three years for Funzi Cioffi and Tony Zingal. I really enjoyed coaching that first year, and I think that is where it all started for me,” Hughes said, evincing respect and admiration for the teaching abilities of good coaches.

“In early winter of ‘75 I attended the Killington School for Instructors and picked up my PSIA full certification in the spring of ’76. My PSIA instructors were Stu Campbell and Peter Duke,” Hughes noted, again expressing appreciation for learning from some of the best in the business.

He became an instructor in the Pico Ski School in 1975 and also started (ski) coaching J3s and J4s and managed the PSC Hopefuls Program, where he met and hired his wife-to-be Betty Rodriguez.

Finding teaching and coaching to his liking, he signed on at Burke Mountain Academy. “I was a rookie coach and as the young guy coming in I learned the ropes working for top coaches – Warren Witherell [BMA’s founder and proponent of the carve in ski racing], Finn Gundersen, Chip Woods, and Luke Robillard.”

During his four years at BMA, he got his degree from nearby Lyndon State. In 1980 he also became a USSS Alpine Level 300 certified coach.

With a move to Killington in 1984, he and Betty raised three children who all raced and attended Killington Mountain School (KMS), where Betty was head of school for many years. As a KMS coach, Chuck took the first group of KMS athletes to train in Europe and continued to organize and manage European training camps for 15 years.

He also supplemented his livelihood as a coach with many other jobs over the years, including managing a Killington ski shop and officiating competitions, having become an FIS Technical Delegate and a certified USSS Alpine official.

Q&A with Chuck Hughes

Mountain Times: What are your duties/responsibilities now?

Chuck Hughes: Today, I manage the KSC/KMS Development Programs for ages 5 1/2-18. The programs are managed by KMS but house in the Killington Ski Club with their support.

We have close to 280 athletes in all our programs with 60 staff members. I also manage all of the KMS special events and help with many of the Killington Mountain events.

MT: What do you like about your jobs?

CH: I like working with so many great people – athletes, coaches, and the mountain staff. I love coming to work in the morning. Everyday is a different day with new challenges and adventures.

MT: What are the biggest challenges?

CH:  Keeping everyone happy daily and making people smile.

MT: What are the attributes you look for in a good coach?

CH: Knowledge of the sport, a good sense of humor, and ability to relate to the athletes.

MT: What do you personally like about coaching?

CH:  Working with people and seeing them improve.

MT: While you have transitioned to managing are you also still coaching kids or their coaches?

CH:  A little of both. I try and get out and listen, watch, and comment. Feb. 14 was day 60 on the hill for me.

MT: Any unique Killington experiences?

CH: Yes, working and preparing for the 2016, ‘17 and ‘18 Killington Audi FIS Ski World Cups. Collaborating with the mountain staff and the KMS staff and a large group of volunteers from all over the region was an honor and a proud moment working with a great team of good people.

[Hughes served as chief of course for the 2016 World Cup and as chief of race for the 2017 and 2018 events.]

MT: Has officiating taken you around the world like coaching has?

CH: I have been a TD [technical delegate] at the Lake Louise World Cups and officiated at: the Beaver Creek World Cup races, Canadian Nationals, NorAm Cups, FIS UNI Races, EISA Championships, NCAA Championships, South American Cups, USCSA Regional Championships, and at all levels of FIS and USSS alpine ski races.

MT: Any advice for kids thinking of applying to KMS?

CH: Study well in school and train hard in athletics, put it all together, and take yourself seriously as a student athlete.

MT: What do you do with your time outside of work?

CH: I enjoy time at the lake with my family and spending time with my five grandkids.

MT: Favorite book or movie?

CH: “White Christmas” and “Sound of Music” with my grandkids and family.

MT: Any advice or words of wisdom?

CH: Live every day and enjoy it. Work hard and stay focused on what you want in life. It is good to dream!!

MT: Anything else you would like to share?

CH: I’ll see you at the Killington World Cup in 2019!

Photo by Karen D. Lorentz

Chuck Hughes

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