Marvin Melville was 10 the first time he put boots and skis together. It was his dad's idea. He'd bought army surplus gear and thought it a good idea that father and son learn to ski together. Neither had any idea how things worked.
Young Melville would have been happy to leave it that way after his first trip to Alta. Being wet and cold and tired from falling when skis would go neither right nor left wasn't his idea of fun.He stuck with it though and went on to become one of Utah's most recognized skiers. Recognition that led to his being picked by the Old Time Athletes Association to be placed in the Utah Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday. Also inducted will be basketball player Jeff Judkins, football great George Melinkovich and writer Marion Dunn.
Melville recalled some hard times in the beginning and that his father became the better of the two - for a time, anyway.
By the time he was 14 he was entering and winning some of the local races. In high school he was good enough to be invited to ski in Junior Olympic events. In one, he recalled, he finished second.
Then came 1955 and the call went out to become an Olympian. A freshman at the University of Utah, Melville responded. He skied in western qualifiers, then flew east to ski in two events there. Good finishes earned him the No. 4 spot on the eight-man U.S. Olympic team.
It was, he recalled, an exciting time. It was not, however, an extremely successful time. The young American skied in the downhill in Cortina d' Ampezzo, Italy, and was one of the 87 of 100 skiers that didn't finish that day.
After the Olympics, he stopped at a couple of European races and it was there he recorded what he considers a high point of his skiing career:
"I had my best international finish," he remembered, "a 4th in St. Moritz (Switzerland). I finished one place ahead of Jean-Claude Killy. The next race I broke my leg."
The following year he tried out for America's FIS team and was one of six to be selected. In competition in Austria he finished 19th in the giant slalom and 26th in the downhill.
In 1959, in the NCAAs as a member of the University of Utah ski team, he won both the men's slalom and downhill, which brought with it the overall combined championships.
That same year he tried out for and made the 1960 U.S. Olympic team. He finished 22nd in the downhill in Squaw Valley, Calif.
At this point, Melville slowed the skiing pace down and stepped out of the competition gates to try coaching.
He organized the first junior skiing program in Utah . . . Was hired as ski coach at Utah from 1963-66. His best finish was a 2nd in 1965 . . . In 1964, Bob Beattie, coach of the U.S. Ski Team, asked Melville to join his staff for the 1964 Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Among Melville's responsibilities was the women's team. When all the medals had been counted it became recognized as one of the U.S.'s most success Olympics - Billy Kidd won a silver in the slalom, Jimmie Heuga a bronze in the slalom and Jean Saubert a bronze in the slalom and a silver in the GS.
In 1969, Melville became chairman of the U.S. Ski Association. In 1970, he turned his skis strictly to recreational skiing.
End of story?
No. Four years ago Melville got back into the racing gates and began competing on the Masters circuit. Two years ago, on a national level, he won his age class in the slalom and was second in the combined.
"You know what's funny about it," he recalled about his return to racing. "It's so much different today because of the equipment. I'll bet I'm skiing faster today that I was 30 years ago when I was competing."