Hall of Famer left lasting impact on the sport

Passing Date: 
Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tom Jacobs

A Hall of Famer who touched every aspect of the sport, Tom Jacobs died April 10, 2014 at his Glens Falls, New York 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 influenced skiing in myriad ways across six decades. An Olympic athlete, he was a pioneer NCAA ski coach at Colorado University, played 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.

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 to the University of Colorado 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, NY where he began a career selling for a local paper mill.

In the late 1960s, his passion for skiing won out, as he gave up his sales job to run Inside Edge, a local ski and later bike shop. Tom 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 nordic supplies along with racing bibs, timing systems and both bamboo and newer plastic slalom gates. Its 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. Tom Jacobs was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in January 2008. He is survived by Marilyn, sons John and Jeff, and daughter Diana Jaquin, along with seven grandchildren. —Tom Kelly