- by Karen Cummings
NH Olympians--Brooks Dodge '52, '56
J. Brooks Dodge Jr. skied for the United States in the years 1950 to 1956, competing in the Olympics in 1952 and '56 and in the World Championships in '50 and '54. He raced in all three alpine events, but was considered more of a slalom specialist, gaining a 6th in the giant slalom and a 9th in the slalom in 1952.
Although the 1956 games at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, practically belonged to Austrian Tony Sailer, gold medalist in all three alpine events, Brooks ran an excellent slalom for the 4th place, which at that time was the best showing for an American male in Olympic alpine competition.
Dedication to hard work was the key to Brooks' success in his competitive racing years. His father, legendary mountain man and AMC Huts director Joe Dodge constantly urged him to put forth his best effort in all his endeavors. "I attribute my edge, if you want to call it that," he said, "to the fact that I led a tough, rugged life in the mountains."
Pinkham Notch was a lonely place to grow up for Brooks and his sister, Ann. "When we got home from school," he said, "there were no neighbors so we had to entertain ourselves." During the winter, the two youngsters spent their time skiing. "We learned things as we went along," Brooks explained. "Every afternoon we'd put climbing skins on our skis and climb up the Wildcat or Sherburne trail until about 15 minutes before it got dark. Then, we'd take off the skins, turn around and ski home."
Learning more through observation, Brooks had to work hard throughout the '40s and '50s to keep up with the innovations in skiing techniques. "Racing was just beginning to emerge," he explained. "so I would watch the best skiers and emulate them. We all learned from each other."
The camaraderie between the competitors, no matter which country they represented, was one of the better aspects of Brooks' racing years. "We were competitive, but we enjoyed ourselves," he said. "We were very close with the other teams."
Though he skied on wooden skis throughout his competitive years, Brooks was involved with one major breakthrough in skiing equipment. "The biggest change during my career was the introduction of safety bindings," he said. "We had always raced in the old 'bear trap' bindings where, if you fell, there was no release."
Brooks met Hannes Marker while stationed in Garmisch, Germany, prior to the 1956 Olympics and Marker was glad to outfit the entire American team with his newly developed release bindings for the Cortina games. "We probably weren't as tradition bound as the other teams so we were the first team to all have safety bindings, and no broken legs," Brooks said. "The next year, everyone was using them."
Retiring from the racing circuit after his 1956 performance in the Olympics, Brooks returned to school and received his Master's degree from the Harvard Business School in 1958. Racing became a weekend activity after that, as Brooks concentrated on his engineering and business career with Cabot, Cabot and Forbes, a national industrial real estate firm. Currently residing in Jackson, Brooks and his wife, Ann, have two children, Brooks III, and Christl.
In agreement with other Olympians, Brooks has nothing but fond memories of his years skiing for the United States. "It was very enjoyable to be able to travel, compete in a sport you love, and meet a lot of great people," he said. "I enjoyed the fact that I came out of such a small area and got the opportunity to go to Europe five or six times, South American once, and the West numerous times. I would have never gotten to do that without skiing."
**NOTE: Brooks Dodge passed away at age 88 on January 17, 2018.