Fred Strauss trades his wings for skis as part of the American Airlines ski team
Fred Strauss spends his working days at 30,000 feet flying international Boeing 767’s for American Airlines. On his time off, however, Strauss loves flying downhill at some of the elite snow skiing venues across the globe, participating in domestic and international airline snow skiing competitions.
Strauss, a 30-year resident of Wonder Lake who has worked for American Airlines since 1979, learned to love skiing when he attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I had skied lightly before that,” Strauss said. “I learned to love it in college. That was four years of hard skiing.”
Strauss joined the American Airlines ski team in 1996, and his first competition was at Lake Placid. The team has four domestic meets annually in the North American Airline Ski Federation, which has 40 participating airlines, and in one international meet every year in the International Airline Ski Federation, which has 50 airlines. Competitions occur once a month from January through April.
The American Airlines team trains every December in Steamboat Springs, Colo. at the Billy Kidd Performance training center. Kidd is a local hero in Steamboat Springs, having won a silver medal at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, and a gold medal at the 1970 World Championships in Val Gardena, Italy.
Strauss competes for bragging rights among much younger airline employees, including his own son Kevin, who works for SkyWest Airlines, and some more potentially competitive airlines based in snow cities, such as Delta/Northwest Airlines with bases in Salt Lake City and Denver. He has competed in the last decade at numerous World Cup snow ski venues – Schladming, Austria; Levi, Finland; Bjorkliden, Sweden; and Garmisch, Germany.
“I enjoy hanging out with friends at other airlines,” Strauss said. “I spend more time with friends from other airlines than friends from American during those five weeks [of competition].”
In March, Strauss’ Alpine Team Slalom and Giant Slalom finished in third in the most recent World Airline Snow Championship held in Crested Butte, Colo. Strauss, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in January, still managed to finish 43rd individually among 200 men and approximately 80 women, about 80 snowboarders and 60 Nordic cross country entries.
“The fun is being with driven world-class competitors who enjoy the same sports and pastimes that I do. I am blessed to experience physical challenges and recreation in some of our planet’s most pristine areas of terrain,” Strauss said. “I am looking forward to next year’s races in Niseko, Japan.”