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Ski Show Impresario

Passing Date: 
Thursday, May 23, 2019

Harry A. Leonard, who created the first modern consumer ski shows in 1958, died May 23, at age 92.

Leonard grew up in Philadelphia, earned an engineering degree at Purdue and went to work in Chicago for the printer R.R. Donnelly. He soon joined the Chicago Sun Times as an ad salesman, later moving to the Daily News.

In 1956, at age 30, Leonard traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on his first ski trip, and was hooked. Looking for more ski areas to visit, he learned that no directory existed to Midwest resorts. So in 1957 he launched the 64-page directory Ski Faring. The Chicago Ski Council invited him to help produce their annual fall exhibit at the Sheraton Towers. Leonard expanded it, hiring a ballroom to produce his first Ski Fair with 20 exhibitors. The following year he expanded again. Boyne Mountain sent Stein Eriksen to perform. In 1959 Detroit got a show, and Leonard bought the New York trade show from Andy Squires. In 1961 he acquired the motorized Ski Dek so that skiing celebrities like Eriksen, Art Furrer, Penny Pitou, Jean Claude Killy and eventually the stars of professional freestyle could show their stuff.

Within a decade Leonard had ski shows in ten major venues, plus smaller events on 34 college campuses and in 18 shopping centers. His company produced the Skiing Mechanics Workshops and, beginning in 1974, the Samsonite International Ski Film Festival.

Leonard sold the company in 1980 and offered Telex services to companies without their own facilities. He launched a small real-estate development project, but by 1990 was retired to his home on the Jersey Shore, where he rebuilt old cars.

See his son's video remembrance.

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