The Odyssey of Ozzie

If you've been active in the cross country and downhill skiing/racing/jumping world for, oh, the last 60 years or so, you know Ozzie Nordheim: jumper, skier, racer, instructor, and legendary teller of stories.  Turns out, his former business partner wrote a book of those stories, and Jeff Eustis has reviewed it for us.  Thanks, Jeff (and thanks, Joan, for the fun photos)!

A book review of

The Odyssey of Asbjorn O. Nordheim by William Blades

I first met Ozzie in 1964. He was my ski coach at Crystal Mountain, downhill, of course. I was 16; he would have been 28, but to my eyes seemed much older. Ozzie was the real deal. He skied the Norwegian technique and he spoke with a Norwegian accent. Our paths did not cross again for another 23 years, when I joined the Kongsbergers. I had often wondered, sometimes while being passed on the Viking: What happened in between? That question, and many more, are answered in this 2017 biography by William Blades, a former partner of Ozzie’s in the crab fishing industry. 

You would learn that Ozzie was born on January 6, 1936 and raised on a small farm outside of Al, a village about half-way between Oslo and Bergen. Ozzie was the youngest of seven children. The family largely lived on what the farm produced. The farm lacked indoor plumbing. The family used an outhouse in the barn. Ozzie hauled water. 

It is probably pretty well known that Ozzie skied for Denver University, but Denver did not bring him to the US. Wenatchee Junior College did, when Ozzie was 22. In the late fifties, Wenatchee JC had a very strong ski team, competing against Denver, the UW, Montana and Montana State and UBC. It did not take long for Ozzie to be recognized by others, particularly Willy Schaeffler, the Denver ski coach. Ozzie transferred to Denver, initially skied four-way, but in a second year concentrated in jumping and cross country. His performances got him twice named to the All American ski team and admitted to the University of Denver Hall of Fame.

Following college, Ozzie moved to Seattle, where he was also recognized as a skier, among other things, active with and president of the Kongsberger Ski Club in 1962. He gained some notoriety in the summer of 1965 by doing a demonstration ski jump off the Coliseum roof (now Climate Pledge Arena) constructed with 40 tons of crushed ice.

Club members probably knew of Ozzie’s work in the crab fishing industry, at least by his contributions of King Crab legs at various events. But the extent of his involvement, may not have been fully appreciated. At one time he owned three crab boats all working in the Bering Sea during very challenging times. Despite the volatility of the industry and the advances and setbacks he experienced (all detailed by the author), Ozzie never lost his positive outlook. At the club, he was always “fantastic” and that day of skiing could never be better. By the end of the book, the reader, and especially a Kongsberger, will appreciate the extraordinary character that Ozzie is. 

The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets.  

Review by Jeff Eustis