By Rosalyn Kutsch
There is a true ski legend living in our midst. Hood Corey Fowler, known as “Corky,” was one of the first aerial skiers and fathers of freestyle skiing. At the height of his time he was on the cover of countless ski magazines, featured in Warren Miller and Drew Barrymore ski films, and sponsored by some of the biggest names in the sport. Fowler also had a successful career in acting, film making, and fine arts. Since 2009, he has resided in the area and worked at Bridger Bowl and here in Bozeman on account of the fact that this area “still has spirit.”
On a recent Saturday I had the opportunity to visit Fowler in his nearby home art studio. It is Fowler’s passion and dedication to creativity that brought me to his doorstep. I was drawn to his compelling presentation at Bozeman’s Pecha Kucha night this fall. In the midst of his talk on his travels and adventures during his skiing career, he became silent, clearly overcome with emotion.
“I’d been away from skiing for so long, and when I was giving the presentation, I had forgotten what incredible stuff I had done. As I was speaking this flood of memories and emotions just poured back in. Part of it was a recognition in that moment for how grateful I was for all the things I had done,” Fowler says.
His eyes light up as he describes his ski journeys across New Zealand, Japan, Europe, the exotic mix of people he came in contact with, and most importantly, the feeling he gets when he is on skis. Fowler’s passion is undeniable, stemming from the first day he was on skis at age 11.
“That day in the rain on these 1927 vintage skis, something inside said, ‘this is your life’ From that point on, I just knew in my guts.”
He chased after skiing, starting with teaching and eventually finding his niche in aerial skiing, where he joined a performing team and travelled the world, meeting exotic people and living for the moment.
Skiing was not without its risks, however.
“Every year during the 70s we’d have two or three kids die or end up paraplegic because they missed a jump. When you do that kind of stuff for a living, you really really aware of the risk you are taking,” Fowler said.
Even he faced the possibility of amputating his leg after a particularly bad break while skiing. He recounts the tradition that the performers did before the show.
“We’d all high five and say ‘today is a good day to die.’” And that was serious, not a joke, We all knew the risk we were taking and we had to question ourselves every day and say is it worth it?”
Fowler chuckles, adding, “as long as the answer came back yes, go for it.”
He nods with assurance when asked he thought skiing was always worth it. Even after transitioning from aerial skiing to heli-skiing and becoming director of skiing at Sun Valley he weighed the risk and benefits.
“Even in heliskiing, ships would crash, people would die in avalanches. When you are doing that high risk stuff all the time, you develop an incredible intuition. You learn to trust your guts. You have to trust your guts.”
Fowler credits a “gut feeling” for many of the decisions he has made in life. He recounts a story that while heli-skiing one day for a Barrymore film he knew that something about the conditions of the day and the slope was drastically wrong. Fowler refused to go down the mountain and called off the day of shooting–much to the displeasure of the producers. The slope slid a few days later, killing six people.
Fowler says that this gut feeling should be listened to in all matters–for him one of the biggest moments was when he decided to forgo college to continue skiing.
“My father was adamant that I go to college, my guts said I didn’t belong in college, and I look back and it was true! If I had gone to college, I would have effectively crushed my creative spirit.”
It is this “creative spirit” that Fowler is most proud of. Even after he knew it was the right time to walk away from skiing, he redirected his creativity into rewarding, albeit less exciting, career choices like filmmaking, acting, and painting.
Though he is a man that has achieved an impossible amount in a variety of fields, Fowler is not done yet. Inspired by his travels, he plans to paint a collection of “the beauty of the world” and be able to share it with others in a way that allows them to see the splendor that he sees.
His desire to follow his “gut feeling” has lead to many unseen consequences.
“Following my passions got me thrown out of the house and disowned by the family”
Even now, Fowler lives with uncertainty, choosing to work at local sporting goods store, Bob Ward’s, as “an act of necessity” during the downtime between selling his paintings.
But Fowler has no regrets.
“Life isn’t worth living if I’m not gonna live for myself. Be true to yourself, whatever that is,” he said.
A Legend Among Us: Corky Fowler
By Rosalyn Kutsch