Bernie Weichsel - President
Bernie first strapped on skis at the age of four, barreling down the slopes of Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills of New York. The son of immigrant parents, Weichsel was born, raised, and educated in New York City. Although Bernie’s first love is skiing, his second has always been organizing and producing activities, events, and promotions. While attending college, he started working ski shows on weekends – selling T-shirts and posters at the nationwide International Ski and Winter Sports Shows, produced by the Godfather of Ski Promotion, Harry Leonard. Such experience has proved invaluable, as Bernie’s company, BEWI Productions, Inc., currently owns and produces nationally renowned Ski & Snowboard Expos held in Denver, Boston each fall.
Bernie's life through the years
1950s to 1965: Early years of Ski Promotion - Weichsel’s skiing life started in 1952 when he was four. Raised in New York City, he and his family spent vacations in the Catskills, where Weichsel learned to ski at Belleayre Mountain. In high school, he worked as a dishwasher at Trailside Ski Camp near Killington, and organized a ski club at his high school, Brooklyn Tech. Trailside also had a booth at the New York City ski show run by Harry Leonard, which Weichsel oversaw for the camp. In the domino of connections, Leonard—as part of his deal with Mike Cohen, owner of Trailside—asked the 19-year-old Weichsel to help promote the show. Weichsel gathered a gang of friends and stenciled the sidewalks of Manhattan with “Go Go Ski Show.” The local constabulary didn’t like it, but Harry Leonard did.
1966 to 1976: Ski Bum - Bernie first attended college for a year at the Colorado School of Mines in Boulder, CO (“I had this idea I wanted to be a geological engineer, but I really was there for the skiing.”) where he was introduced to the Rocky Mountains. He transferred back to City College of New York in the fall of 1967 where, when not in class - which was often, he pursued an "education" in student activities, including being editor of one of the school papers; President of the student union and - his favorite - creating and running the City College of NY Ski Club (which he built to become the largest College Club in the Country), exceeding 500 members. In the fall of 1969, he started working with Harry Leonard, Jerry Simon, and Donna Catena presenting ski shows across the country. Weichsel had a mix of jobs—cleaning out booths, managing the floor, and running a booth called Bernie’s Boutique, in which he sold knick-knacks, crazy posters, and T-shirts. “When I found out Harry did a circuit of shows around the country,” Weichsel remembers, “I thought this was heaven. I always wanted to run away and join a circus, but this seemed like a good alternative.” Eventually, in January 1970, Bernie took an official leave of absence from school (never to return) and dropped out to become a ski bum. He worked for Leonard every fall and held odd jobs during the ski season: including clerk for a drugstore in Vail, helping out at a design studio in Aspen, and working as a tour guide in Innsbruck.
1974 to 1976: International Freestyle Skiers Association (IFSA) tour - An admirer of Stein Eriksen, who gave an early push to ski tricks that evolved into the freestyle ski movement, Weichsel was an early advocate of “hot dog” skiing, the early name of “Freestyle Skiing” which he included on the ski deck as an exhibition at Harry Leonard’s shows. In 1974, Weichsel was hired to run the International Freestyle Skiers Association (IFSA) tour, sponsored by Chevrolet – the first organized professional Freestyle Skiing competitive circuit with events at 5 resorts nationwide. “Huge numbers of people would watch. The athletes were much more colorful than in other sports,” he says. Politics – i.e. ego and jealousy – amongst various competitors, as well as the ski industry’s resistance to the sport’s image and perceived dangers, stymied freestyle’s growth. After disappearing for a while it came back stronger than ever, under the guidance of the F.I.S and the USSA, and is now one of the most popular winter Olympic events.
1979 to 1996: Founder and President of SKIUSA - SKIUSA successfully introduced the American mountain experience to skiers and snowboarders around the world by representing the United States’ premier ski resorts in more than eighteen foreign countries. It’s the work he is most proud of, not only exposing U.S. Skiing to the world – and in turn helping to bring millions of skiers and snowboarders to U.S. resorts nationwide (with some resorts now seeing up to 20% of their business coming from international guests), but it introduced Bernie himself to a cadre of friends worldwide, for which he is most grateful. In the end SKIUSA became a victim of its own success, with areas believing they could market themselves internationally better by themselves than working as a group, a position Bernie still does not endorse! He gave the program to NSAA in 1996 which closed it down a few years later.
1969 to Today: Youth Enrichment Services (Y.E.S.) Board - Weichsel is passing on the torch to a younger generation of would-be ski bums. Cal Conniff described Weichsel’s contribution to Y.E.S. during his own remarks at the presentation for the Spirit of Skiing Award*: “Bernie wanted to help people less fortunate than he and went out of his way to do it. He got involved with Y.E.S. and brought kids from the inner city to the ski areas. These were kids who didn’t have a ghost of a chance of getting on skis unless it was with Bernie and Y.E.S. programs.” Weichsel insists he only helps out with some donations and equipment. To anyone who knows him, however, it doesn’t seem quite in character for him to “only” do something. *Bernie received the "Spirit of Skiing" Award from New England Ski Museum November 17, 2012. The honor is given annually to a notable skier who embodies the motto that “skiing is more than a sport, it’s a way of life”.
1979 to 2008: Organizing Urban Festivals & Expos - Bernie’s passion for outdoor sports also saw him create the Active Sports and Adventure Travel Expos, the New England Festival of Folk Music, URBAN cross-country ski and snowshoe events in New York's Central Park, Chicago’s Lincoln Park, the Ellipse in front of the White House, and on The Boston Common, and the New England Youth Sports Festival, all events that Bernie has produced in years past. The most successful of these was the New York City Winter Festival, which he produced for the city of New York for 14 years in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
1979 to Today: Ski & Snowboard Expo Production - Bernie founded BEWI Productions, Inc. in 1979 and in 1982 purchased the Boston Ski Show from Harry Leonard. Times had changed and crowds were not what they had once been. “We changed the format and brought it back the first year “from the gutter to the curb,” says Weichsel. Bernie further grew the show by moving it to the Bayside Expo Center on the waterfront and joining forces with Ski Market, who staged the region’s largest preseason sale, which resulted in the event growing steadily year over year. Since reviving Boston, BEWI has produced expos in more than 15 cities, including Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, New York, San Jose, and many more. At present BEWI produces two major consumer expos each year, in Boston and Denver, expos that collectively attract tens of thousands of visitors each year.
1989 to Today: Bernie has found himself immersed in his passion – Ski History. Over the years he has been involved with the N.E. Ski Museum, and the International Ski History Association. Most importantly, Bernie served as Chairman of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame (2009 to 2014). In that role Bernie used his marketing and promotions savvy to start successful fundraising events for ISHA and the Hall of Fame. His “Big Idea” was to merge the Skiing History Week of ISHA with the HOF Induction ceremony to become one event enjoyed at different ski resort destinations across the country. This expansion of Skiing History Week and the annual Induction Ceremony created an event that now attracts over 500 people each year. Bernie was inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame on April 8th, 2017 in Stowe VT and this link will take you to the full video of his ceremony and acceptance speech (there is a small break in the video so wait to hear his speech).