If you ski Big Sky, you’ve likely seen Renny Lovold out ripping around the mountain with friends and three generations of the Lovold family. Lovold, 78, first arced turns here in 1973, and has averaged 80 days per year on snow for the last two decades. We sat down with Renny to document his skiing life in his own words.

By Marc Peruzzi | Photographs by Jonathan Finch

I started skiing as a young boy. My dad took me out on his back on the North Shore of Lake Superior. My grandfather was a commercial fisherman from Norway, and he and my father commercial fished for herring and lake trout on Lake Superior. In the winter, they went out on the ice on skis. Later, my father bought me some surplus Tenth Mountain Division skis. They were six feet long and I was only 10 years old. The skis were made of wood and they had a rubber strap on them made from an old inner tube as a binding.


There were no ski areas in that part of Minnesota at that time. I started skiing in Silver Bay—a mining town. Up behind the town there was a hill, it never really had a name. You had to hike to get to it. 


One year we had a mass start race with all age groups. We raced through the woods and then skied down the backside to this little rope tow. I was in the eighth grade. The rubber straps didn’t keep you attached to the skis very well. That’s where I got my love for skiing. 


Later we’d build jumps back there and fly. 


When Lutsen Mountain opened I started skiing there. It’s where Olympian Cindy Nelson learned to ski. Our families became friends. Her father George started Lutsen in the late 1940s. He was another Tenth Mountain Division veteran. 


I took time off from college in 1962—I was a 20-year-old—and went to Vail where Vail’s founder Pete Seibert hired me to bootpack snow. I did that for two weeks and earned a season pass plus food and lodging for the entire winter. 


Later I became a manager of bellhops at Vail Lodge, which meant that I set the schedule. The first day was a 7:00 a.m. to noon shift. The second day was noon to closing. And everyone had their third day off. We skied a lot. The entire U.S. Ski Team lived below us. I bought my first nice pair of skis directly from Howard Head, founder of Head Skis. He worked in a shop in town.


Not long after that I was hired as a part time ski patroller at Lutsen and eventually became the ski school director. It was a weekend job. My full time job was as general manager of LaBounty Manufacturing our family business. I’ve been a full-level PSIA ski instructor for more than 50 years. 


We skied Big Sky for a week the year it opened in 1973. There wasn’t much here in then. I can’t remember where we ate. We did a lot of cooking in the hotel room and would go to Bozeman for a night out. That started our love for Big Sky. We always said ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have a place here?’ It was so quiet and laid-back and the skiing was tremendous. Challenger and the tram wouldn’t be put in until years later. We’d rent a condo a week at a time. Eventually we sold our home in Vail and bought property up on Cascade Ridge.


My good friend John Ethen and our son Erik, a pro skier, had already moved to Big Sky.  


If there were eight people ahead of you in a lift line at Big Sky you were upset, whereas in Colorado, a 45 minute wait was short. 


Big Sky really drew us in. I’d skied all over the country, so I could tell that this was a really unique area full of friendly down-to-earth people. That was what excited us. My family fell in love with it as well. And now my grandson Kade Borson, an MSU student, is teaching skiing here as a PSIA instructor. It’s a family thing. 


The level of skiing is higher here. The terrain was so challenging that it forced the skills. Today, the elite kids are incredible skiers. I still ski with my friend John Ethen a lot. Also Lonnie Ball. He’s a younger guy—only 72. Lonnie was on the ski patrol at Jackson Hole. One day they were looking into Corbet’s Couloir and saying that it would be nice to ski it someday. That’s when the cornice that Lonnie was standing on gave way and he fell into the couloir. Then he skied it. He was the first one. That’s a true story. 


What’s so wonderful about skiing is that if you do it with your family and friends it’s a lifelong pursuit. I ski with my wife Linda, our kids, and grandkids. They’re all great skiers. My family are my best friends. Skiing and Big Sky gave me that.