Your Turn

Readers write, react and respond.

An American Original
Thanks for the fascinating article on Barry Corbet ’58, which brought back some fond memories. The morning of July 22, 1959, I was sitting on top of the Grand Teton with him and Jake Breitenbach ’57. A 14-year-old kid from Iowa, I had never been in the mountains before. My climbing experience consisted of rappelling down a 12-foot boulder the day before. I had also never heard of Dartmouth until listening to the men share some of their experiences there.

My ascent of the Grand marked the beginning of a lifelong love of the mountains, and the charismatic personalities of Barry and Jake also inspired me to apply to Dartmouth. In a very direct sense they were responsible for the most transformative experiences of my life, and I will be forever grateful to them for that. My son is named after Jake Breitenbach, and my love of the mountains influenced my retirement to Estes Park (where I see another legendary climber, Tom Hornbein, occasionally).

I was fortunate to see Corbet one last time when he attended the high school graduation of the son of Roger Brown ’57 at a school where I happened to be associate headmaster. It’s not often that one has an opportunity to personally thank someone who, in one brief interlude, has such a profound influence on one’s life. Clearly I was only one among many!

Eric Waples ’66
Estes Park, Colorado

Your July/Aug cover article brought back some very pleasant but very fuzzy memories from my own past. I am hoping author Broughton Coburn can confirm the truth or correct the fantasy of those memories.

In my youth of the 1960s I had the good fortune to be a member of a ski racing team out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Among the excellent benefits of that activity was an annual trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for year-end downhill competitions. We routinely stayed at an inn called the Alphorn, located right at the base of the Snow King Mountain Ski Area in Jackson city proper (close enough to ski right into the room if another crazy and irresponsible confederate would hold the door open!). My recollection is that the Alphorn was owned and operated by a quiet-mannered Barry Corbet—then said to be a world-class climber—and his family. True?

In the late 1960s the much larger Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (also known as Teton Village) was built on the other side of the valley. Just below the top terminal of the tram is a spectacularly steep and narrow chute that has been very often filmed for extreme skiing pics. I recall this being called Corbet’s Couloir. Am I correct that this is named in deference to a Corbet exploit?

I hope you can help. Nice, fun memories either way. If true, it is interesting to learn only now that Corbet was a Dartmouth alum.

John S. Neff ’73
Darien, Connecticut

Broughton Coburn Responds: Indeed, the Alphorn was the A-frame hotel at the base of Snow King Mountain operated by Barry Corbet and his wife, Muffy. The Alphorn offered a means for the couple to ski and climb throughout the year, virtually outside their door. During the winter of 1964—following the summer when Corbet founded Jackson Hole Mountain Guides—he scouted ski runs that would be developed into the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. One of these runs is a frighteningly steep and narrow chute known as Corbet’s Couloir, which can be accessed only from its top, with a 10-foot vertical “drop in.” In 2011 a paraplegic Olympian named Chris Devlin-Young became the first sit skier to ski it unassisted. The title of the gripping short film Someday, Somebody Will Ski That is attributed to Corbet.

Kudos to DAM editors and writer Broughton Coburn. His July/August feature article is simply one of the most inspirational life stories I’ve ever read.

Jeff Swain ’64
Garner, North Carolina

Editor’s Note: A member of the class of 1958 asked us to share with all alums the posthumous letter from Corbet that appeared in the class’ 50th reunion record book, four years after his death in 2004:

Dear Friends

A very large part of any life is the friendships that develop over the years. As many of you already know, my life is now over. The reason you’re getting this letter is that yours is one of the friendships I’ve treasured, and I want you to know that.

I’m somewhat saddened to be leaving a little earlier than expected, but I feel no sense of tragedy. I’ve lived a lot longer than I ever could have or would have predicted 36 years ago after the helicopter crash. I have no fears for my children, who are all embarked on their own roads and doing it with astounding style and grace.

I’ve had love overflowing, impassioned careers, a life of adventure and everything I’ve ever wanted. Nothing missed and no regrets. So dear friends, enjoy the memories, keep them alive, then let them fade when it’s time.

Live on in peace, health and happiness. Look for meaning when you can, and cherish mystery where you can’t.

My love to all of you.

Power Play
I was flabbergasted to read the July/Aug “Campus” blurb that in 2011 lights were installed at Memorial Stadium, despite the fact that Hanover permits allow for only five evening events per year. Furthermore, the  lights have been used only once per season! I wonder what return on investment was expected when the decision was made to do this. It seems a shame the money spent on this couldn’t have gone toward students’ tuition costs.

Debbi Jayne Seaver ’87
Park City, Utah

No to “Dartmouth U”
In the days of Ernest Martin Hopkins, class of 1901, and John Sloan Dickey ’29, Dartmouth did one thing and did it very, very well: The College educated young men in the liberal arts, or what Dickey called the “liberating” arts as we were liberated from our ignorance.

Since then the College has rightly diversified by welcoming women and minorities. At first the mission continued to be educating young men and women in the liberal arts. Little by little the College seems to have lost its way, seeking to become all things to all men and women.

Now that means seeking to become a university with all the trappings and complexities of a Harvard or Michigan or Stanford. Those are wonderful institutions and America is lucky to have them, but theirs is not the role for Dartmouth College.

Dartmouth’s strategic planning [“Campus,” July/Aug] would do well to focus on what it takes to become the paramount college in the nation for the education of young Americans in the liberating arts.

Richard Halloran ’51
Honolulu, Hawaii

Dartmouth University? Never!

Edward E. Shumaker III ’70
Manchester, New Hampshire

On Target
I have been reading DAM for about 60 years and think the July/Aug issue was absolutely the best! The piece about Corbet was fascinating. The introduction to Phil Hanlon ’77 was enlightening and made me quite comfortable about Dartmouth’s future. The “Days of Pomp & Circumstance” hit the spot. Even the “Personal History” [“Clutch Situation”] was on target. Keep up the first-class work.

Jack Creamer ’52
Scottsdale, Arizona

Off Target
I looked forward more than usual to the July/Aug issue of DAM, because I hoped to find a neutral and thorough reporting of the incidents at Dartmouth so widely reported: allegations of sexual harassment, counters by the administration, an apparent campaign to blame the victims, classes canceled. After all, if such reports are fit for The New York TimesThe Huffington PostUSA Today and Slate, surely the voice of the College to its alums would have something to say. Instead: nothing. Decorous, slick puff, a world unchanged, nothing more. You do us a disservice.

Bruce Ducker ’60


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