SKI, Skiing magazine editor

Passing Date: 
Sunday, April 22, 2018

An editor at SKI and Skiing magazines for 25 years until 1985, and author of the first American ski encyclopedia, John Henry Auran, 90, died April 22, 2018 at the Mountainside Residential Care Center, Margaretville, in New York’s Catskill Mountain region where he’d lived for the past 30 years. 

Auran and Sir Arnold Lunn (posthumously) were the first recipients in 1993 of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the International Skiing History Association. He was elected to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 1999.

As managing editor of SKI Magazine from 1959 to 1962, Auran wrote about early Head skis and the use of synthetic materials in ski manufacturing. A keen student of technique, he authored an article about Schrittbogen (stepping early onto the outside ski in the turn), and later wrote about PSIA’s American Teaching System.

As Senior Editor at Skiing Auran wrote on a wide range of topics—from environmental concerns over Mineral King, California, to the Black Summit of African American skiers. He reported on all of the Winter Olympics and FIS World Championships from 1960 to 1980. He was the magazine’s authority on boots. He also wrote extensively on the ski business for Skiing’s sister magazine, Skiing Trade News. Auran pioneered the publication of the first daily news report at Ski Industries America’s annual trade show.   

Auran not only wrote about ski philately, he himself owned a collection of 585 rare skiing postage stamps. Mason Beekley purchased Auran’s collection, adding it to his own International Collection of Skiing Art and Literature, now in storage in Denver.

Escape From Germany

Auran was born Hans Heinrich Auerhen in December 1927, when Hitler and his Nazi Party were ascending to power. His family, Jewish, lived in Aschaffenburg in northwestern Bavaria. In 1939, at age 11, he was evacuated with other children to England, where he lived during World War II. Toward the end of the war the family managed to get their 16-year-old son to America, where he changed his name to John Henry Auran. In later years, friends came to call him “John Henry,” not merely John. 

Auran graduated from the University of Washington, where he worked on the student newspaper. After college, in 1951, he enlisted in the Army, was injured in a parachute accident, and served as radio repairman. The experience with electronics in the early 1950s led him to a fascination with personal computers when they arrived in the early ’80s. 

“John was a true early adopter,” recalls his friend and fellow editor Rick Kahl. “He bought one of the first Radio Shack TRS-80 machines available. I remember at the ski shows how amused suppliers were when John would pull out his computer instead of a notepad. He saw how it would transform the way journalists worked, and how magazines would be produced, long before the rest of us had any real idea what was coming.”

After his Army service, Auran worked for several years editing newspapers in Nebraska, Alaska, and in Lebanon, New Hampshire. There he met Bill Eldred, the owner of SKI Magazine in nearby Hanover. Eldred hired him as the magazine’s managing editor. The job didn’t last long. In 1963 Eldred sold SKI to Universal Publishing & Distributing Corp. located in New York City.

Recently married, Auran moved with his artist wife Barbara Wrenn and her two children to Aspen where he worked for the resort lodging association, and for the Aspen Illustrated News. The weekly newspaper was started by Harold “Shorty” Pabst, brother of Bromley ski area founder Fred Pabst, both heirs to a brewery fortune. With the support of Aspen Skiing Co. and its CEO Darcy Brown, who shared his conservatism, Pabst aimed to supply the community with a paper opposed to the liberal Aspen Times of Bil Dunaway.

“There were enough interesting subjects in Aspen at the time,” recalls photo journalist David Hiser, “so that Auran and the staff could pretty much ignore politics, put out an illustrated weekly, and let Mr. Pabst write editorials.”

From Aspen Auran moved to Boulder to work as a freelance writer, principally for Skiing Magazine, which had just been purchased in 1964 by the special-interest magazine publisher Ziff Davis. Auran moved to New York to become a full-time Senior Editor at Skiing’s editorial office on Park Avenue, where he worked for the next 20 years.  

Book Author

The year before Auran’s hiring by Ziff Davis, Universal Publishing & Distributing Corp., SKI Magazine’s owner, cut a deal with publisher Charles Scribner to create America’s Ski Book. It was to be the first comprehensive book published in America on every aspect of the sport—its history, equipment, resorts, technique, instruction and competition. Auran was hired to research, edit and write much of the book, though The Editors of SKI Magazine appeared as the author. Parts of the book consisted of copyrighted material from the magazine, skillfully edited by Auran. He spent an exhausting year in Boulder researching and writing. (The second edition of America’s Ski Book, most prevalent today online and in libraries, was produced in 1972 by myself, as SKI’s editor-in-chief.)

Auran is also the author of Skiing Is a Family Sport, published in 1970, and The Ski Better Book : Skiing, from the Edges Up, with Jerry Winter in 1975. 

Move To The Catskills
At the time Auran retired from Skiing in 1986 he received bad news from his doctors. He was beginning to suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS). He and his wife moved to Roxbury in New York’s Catskills, not far from the Plattekill ski area. Auran’s MS worsened. He lost the care of his wife Barbara, who died in 2004. 

He moved in 2010 to the Mountainside Care center in Margaretville. In 2013 the town of Aschaffenburg, where he was born, in an act of atonement, invited Auran, expense-free, to travel there with other surviving Jews for the 75th anniversary of Pogromsnacht, or the terrible night of Kristallnacht when Nazi-inspired mobs in November 1938 destroyed Aschaffenburg’s synagogue.

Wheelchair-bound, with a helper, Auran, the refugee whose life was defined in America by skiing, made the trip, thrilled and overjoyed to re-unite with families he’d known as a child. —John Fry

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