Tom Jacobs, University of Colorado skiing head coach from 1953-56 and a hall of famer who touched every aspect of the sport, passed away April 10 at his Glens Falls, N.Y., home. He was 87 and had just wrapped another ski season, spending 36 days on the slopes.
Known worldwide as the owner of Reliable Racing Supply, Jacobs touched skiing in myriad ways across over six decades as a sport leader. An Olympic athlete, he was a pioneer at Colorado, playing a pivotal role in developing rules for NCAA skiing, served as an executive director for the National Ski Association (now USSA) and led his innovative ski racing supply business to become a global leader.
“Tom Jacobs typified the great pioneers of our sport, combining passion, innovation and hard work to make ski racing the sport it is today,” said USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw.
Jacobs was born in Montreal, but grew up in New Hampshire. A graduate of Maine’s Bethel Academy, he served with the U.S. Army in Japan from 1945-47. He later graduated from Middlebury College, where he led the team to the 1948 national title, then moved onto CU for graduate work in geology. Jacobs was a true skimeister, proficient in cross country, ski jumping, slalom and downhill. He competed on the 1952 Olympic Team in nordic combined and cross country, before returning to CU to coach and chair the NCAA Skiing Committee. He later served with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club before settling in Glens Falls, N.Y., where he began a career selling for a local paper mill.
He remained active in the sport he loved, teaching skiing at nearby Hickory Hill and West Mountain. Along the way he also founded the Southern Adirondack Racing League and the Friends of Cole Woods, developing and preserving cross country ski trails in the Glens Falls area.
In the late ‘60s, his passion for skiing won out, as he gave up his sales job to run Inside Edge, a local ski and later bike shop. He never looked back. Jacobs, and wife Marilyn, expanded the business by leaps and bounds, starting Reliable Racing Supply in 1968, providing much needed product for a growing number of race organizers. The new company provided much sought after nordic supplies along with racing bibs, timing systems and both bamboo and newer plastic slalom gates.
Through the decades, Reliable Racing made its mark as an industry leader known for innovation. It’s pioneering Break-a-Way slalom poles were used at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano and have been a mainstay of alpine ski racing ever since.
Tom and Marilyn retired in 2004, turning the reins to son John who continues to manage the global company in his parents’ image. He was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in January, 2008, as a part of the Class of 2007.
Jacobs is survived by his wife Marilyn, sons John and Jeff, and daughter Diana Jaquin, along with seven grandchildren.