Chairlift Q/A: The Extreme Brothers

Vermont’s ‘Siamese Twins’ of skiing are getting inducted into the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. 

This April, in Stowe, John and Dan Egan will be the first brothers inducted into the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. Known as the “Siamese twins of skiing” for their synchronized skiing, they often skied where world-wide news was breaking: at the Berlin Wall when it was being torn down, and in war fronts around the Middle East and former Soviet satellite countries.

The Egans starred in a dozen Warren Miller films and produced their own films under Egan Entertainment Network. John also did numerous first descents on terrain that, as Warren Miller said at the time, “no one thought could be skied.”

When he is not hosting clinics at Killington, Dan, 52, still runs Egan Entertainment Network and produces documentaries for the U.S. Sailing Team and the America’s Cup. He also guides ski and mountaineering trips around the world under skiclinics.com. John, 58, is the Chief Recreational Office at Sugarbush, where he also hosts clinics. For clips from their movies, see vtskiandride.com

So, bruthas, if we were on a chairlift, what chair would we be on?

John: Castlerock (at Lincoln Peak, Sugarbush), no question. And we’d be heading for the Cliff Trail (right under the Castlerock lift), one of the best trails in Vermont. Dan: For me, it’s the Bear Quad at Killington to access Devil Fiddle, the best run in Vermont.

What pushed you to be so good?

John: I think we were just determined little Boston boys who loved to play hard. I was drag racing as a teen, hitting 92 mph in souped-up go-karts and bikes. By the time I got introduced to skiing, speed seemed fun. I came to Sugarbush in 1976, met some amazing skiers and learned from them. Then I went to Europe with Warren Miller, lived in Chamonix, met other amazing skiers and was taken in by them. Dan was six years younger and in high school but he wanted to go too. We became the Egan Brothers per se in 1988. We got to travel five continents together and do a bunch of crazy stuff.

Favorite ski day (caught on film)? 

Dan: Skiing in Portillo Chile in 1989 making 75 powder 8 turns and jumping the train tracks with Kevin Andrews. John: Probably skiing Greenland. It’s amazing skiing right to the water’s edge.  But also, Dan and I skiing together right here in Sugarbush in a film we made, Return of the Shred-I.

What’s your best story from your travels?

John: I was invited by a Russian colonel who loved skiing to ski volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia. It’s a military zone with 122 volcanoes—the most active ring of fire in the world. I went there for a month. We cased out the mountains from an old Soviet helicopter, and skied a bunch of them. It was cold, but there was hot lava, geyser fields and funky skiing.That was a real experience. Dan: Ah… too many to tell. Come take a clinic with us to get the stories!

Scariest moment?

Dan: In 1990, I was lost in a mountain storm on Mount Elbrus in Russia that killed 33 people. I spent 38 hours in the storm with 14 others, and that experience changed how I view the world around me. John: The famous clip of Dan and I skiing in the opening  of Extreme Winter in 1990. We’re in Grand Targhee, Wyo., when this cornice breaks off in front of me and I barely managed to ski out of it (as Warren Miller said in the film, I “cheated death that day.”) And there was the time at Heavenly Valley (Calif.) when I jumped off a cornice and into a chute just as it breaks apart and avalanches. I looked down and it was a jigsaw puzzle fracturing as I landed, and down I went with the avalanche. In the film, the camera pans back to Dan looking down and Warren Miller says, ‘And now we’re down to one Egan,’ but, of course, I made it out.

What’s kept you in the East? 

Dan: I’m an Easterner, born with a Yankee mind set and my family is here. Making my home here has allows me to travel the world and, when I get home, I have the beauty of New England to restore my soul.  John: This is the training ground. I challenge anyone in the world to keep up with the guys I ski with here. They keep me on my toes, and that’s important.

What are you most proud of in your ski career? 

Dan: How many people I’ve been able to guide and coach.  John: It’s the friends I have made and influenced over the years, especially, kids from the YES (Youth Enrichment Services) program out of Boston, and the kids I help coach.

Coolest thing about being in the Hall of fame?

John:  I don’t know if Dan and I thought about our careers when we were skiing for films. It went by so fast. It’s kind of cool and humbling at the same time to look back and realize that maybe you made a difference. n