When I was five years old, Wayne Abbey ruled the lift line at Taos Ski Valley. Flying through Volkswagen sized bumps on Al’s Run under Lifts 1 and 5, Wayne made minced meat out of the 1,800’ bump bonanza, wearing only an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and jean shorts.
To sum it up, Wayne Abbey was the man at Taos.
Prior to his ambassadorship at Taos, Wayne served as a “Raven” in the Vietnam War. After 3 tours with the Air Force in Vietnam, Major Wayne T Abbey joined this elite group of pilots. An offshoot of special operations, Ravens flew tiny Cessna 0-1 Birddog’s and targeted hostiles in out of bounds Laos in conjunction with the CIA.
Ravens only wore civilian clothes. Ravens were rough. Ravens did not get scared. Ravens wanted a piece of the action.
And Wayne Abbey was a Raven.
During Vietnam, the Air Force Major received the Silver Star for gallantry after saving an entire Army unit at the Battle of Dak To as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross. Abbey received nearly every commendation possible with the exception of the Congressional Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross.
When Christopher Robbins began writing his book “The Ravens,” which documents the unit’s covert and dangerous dealings, he tried to schedule an interview with the Major. Although he is listed among the credits, Robbins never got the chance; Wayne wouldn’t come off the mountain. He was busy crushing Al’s.
Day after day, bump after bump, Wayne rarely missed a step. As a child, I watched in awe as he planted and launched from slop mogul to slop mogul. Meanwhile, I pizza’d in the troughs for the top 3/4 of HIS RUN. He would always continue skiing the final and rowdiest bottom section with ease, slipping off the groomer-made cornice at the bottom and onto the cat track. Stopping for a split-second, Wayne would look up at his cleaned minefield and pole back into lift line.
Wayne was ready for one more.
In 1995 Wayne Abbey died from natural causes and this year marks the 20th anniversary of his passing.
Wayne’s spirit and style shine on and to this day he’s inspired thousands of skiers to take on the Al’s Run challenge. Wayne viewed “Al’s” as the thing to do every day, every run—top to bottom. He inspired me to ski Al’s at least once a day with my brother Karsten. Usually we’d slip into Al’s at the end of the day so we could be like Wayne and the hundreds of falls I experienced on Al’s were all because of Wayne. So when I say I can ski… I can say thanks to Wayne Abbey.
Wayne was more than just a war hero you read about; he was one of life’s heroes. Espousing courage and denying fear, Wayne lived his life and realized his dreams. In doing so, he inspired others to live with the same heart.
These days, I’ll pole off Lift 5 and slip around the top shack of Lift 1 to drop into Al’s. But Wayne no longer skis by. Nowadays, Wayne rides with me bump-to-bump, top to bottom.
Ski in Peace Wayne.