By Christian W Dietzel
Where the vibe of the ski party met the soul of the next generation of athlete known as the free skier, there are few individuals quite so original as Joey Cordeau. A mogul and skiing legend most often remembered for winning four overall titles on the world mogul tour in the 1980s, Cordeau recounts a particular competition which highlighted the peak of his career.
"Beating Frank Beddor at the 1981 event at with no air [air was 25 percent of the score] at A-basin, Colorado was a treat," Cordeau says. "We were on our way to being rock stars back then. I was being picked up in Warren Miller's films and just appeared as a stunt double in the 1979 movie, "Powder Heads," and Beddor was scoring work in what would become "Hotdog! The Movie" as a stunt double. Everyone was going to Hollywood to be a stunt man and seemed to find work."
Cordeau’s work as a stunt double is highlighted in the Canadian comedy “Powder Heads.”
Now a full-time local of Sun Valley—epicenter of where the ski vibe meets the Hollywood producer crowd—Cordeau is known for his appearances in the films "Wild Skis" (1976), "Wings" (a Salomon production, 1976,), Warren Miller's "Ski Time" (1983), and the 1979 slapstick comedy, "Powder Heads." Joey Cordeau is also one of the most celebrated coaches of moguls skiing of all time. Many credit him as the father of modern moguls technique in consideration of his dedication to evolving the sport and training an ongoing wave of future Olympic contenders, including his son, Shane.
Cordeau began a long career in freestyle competition and eventually in ski films in 1975. These fledging years prepared him as one of the winningest competitors of the 80s. Powder Magazine chronicled the next era in the December, 1980 feature, Ski Hot Or Die, in which the battle of egos between the American moguls scene and European-based World Cup comes heavily into focus. Cordeau was such a force to be feared, that a photo of heat draw was captioned: "Oh no, I've got Cordeau!"
Originally hailing from Biddeford Pool, Maine, Cordeau is perhaps the earliest of freestyle skiers to learn from the late, legendary Jack Taylor, first crossing paths with him in 1972 at Sugarloaf, Maine, while Cordeau was still in high school.
As David Nue wrote in Ski Hot or Die: "It's this learning attitude and a love for the sport that makes him a champion. A hurdler and weekend skier in high school from Biddeford, Maine, Cordeau got turned on by the Chevrolet freestyle movie in 1974, and after graduating that spring from high school, he promptly enrolled in "Airborne" Eddie Ferguson's summer camp in Europe.
The following winter was spent at Sugarloaf, closely observing the style of soon-to-be-mogul champion Jack Taylor. By the first year at Sun Valley, Cordeau had developed his skills enough to take fourth in the 1976 Chevrolet American Freestyle Skiing Tour."
"Meeting Jack Taylor for the first time I'll never forget," Cordeau says of his former mentor. "I looked up the 'Gondi Line' trail (we used the unnaturally large mogul formations that trail consistently offered for training), at what was then 'T-bar 5' and saw this flash of white, like a powdery series of explosions. It was this little dude making more turns than anyone I had ever seen, and I basically told myself, 'I want to ski like that.'"
"I'd watched Jean Claude Killy on TV the year before, and Jack had been around for the '71 world cup downhill which was hosted at the 'Loaf," continues Cordeau. "Killy starred—so [Jack] was watching him in person. We talked a lot about what could be done with the technique we saw around us. He passed to me what he knew, which was great, because at the time, everyone, including myself, was 'recovering' during our competition runs. We didn't really have it under control, not like Jack. Jack Taylor is the godfather of mogul skiing, hands down—a form which he refined by skiing Sugarloaf Mountain in great part."
Cordeau says the biggest thing Taylor taught him was "availment," a technique Taylor picked up from studying Frenchman Georges Joubert. In simple terms, availment is the ability to absorb the bump: the 'sucking up' of the lower half of your body while still maintaining the hip position for both legs to extend into the next terrain feature, thus allowing you to conform your feet to the surface of the snow.
If legacy ever meant anything in the sports world, look no further than Joey Cordeau's son Shane. Shane Cordeau has quietly been amassing a startlingly strong record in freestyle mogul skiing competition, patiently building his resume in preparation for the 2014 Olympics. If he qualifies, Sochi 2014 will position him for the opportunity to compete as one of America's next great Olympic mogul skiing hopefuls… and to continue to lineage of the original hot doggers.
"It all came from little Jack Taylor—the Godfather," comments Cordeau.
The past is never dead. In fact, it's a gas.