Erik Fisher's Armenian ski mission

07 November 2010 20:36

By Michael Mastarciyan

Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller may be the most popular U.S. skiers in the world these days – but if you canvas ski fans in Armenia, the tiny mountainous country that sits on the doorstep of Asia - they’ll tell you US Ski Team speed specialist Erik Fisher is Number One on their list.

Fisher’s special relationship with Armenia began this past spring while visiting his sister Carlie, who was there serving on a church mission. He says his initial interest in the country grew out of her experience.

“My sister has fallen in love with the Armenian people and my love for Armenians has stemmed from her love. The people in Armenia took very good care of her while she was there and that means so much to me. Having spent some time in Armenia and in their homes I was able to develop a special relationship with them.”

During the trip Fisher’s natural skier curiosity drew him to some of the former Soviet Republic’s numerous ski resorts. After visiting Tsakhkadzor, a ski resort that neigbours a 1000-year-old mountain-top monastery, just north of Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan, Fisher was made aware of a serious need for ski equipment – especially among the country’s youth.

Now, the Boise, Idaho native says he is on his own mission of sorts – to help the country’s less fortunate and financially challenged young skiers hit the slopes with the gift of free equipment from America.

“I met with Gagik Sargsyan, the head of the Armenian Ski Federation, and he mentioned the lack of ski equipment in Armenia. We started talking and decided that something needed to be done about this issue.”

When Fisher returned to Idaho he approached the Bogus Basin Ski Foundation (his local ski club) and asked if they would be interested in sending any equipment left over from their annual ski swap (which happened this past weekend) to needy ski enthusiasts in Armenia. Fisher says they loved the idea and now a substantial shipment of skis, snowboards, boots, poles and other related accessories are being packed for shipment overseas for a new life on snowy slopes just a stone’s throw from Mount Ararat - the same place Noah parked his Ark after 40 days and 40 nights of biblical precipitation.

“The cost of shipping is the only hurdle we have to overcome. We have some good ideas of how to come up with the cost, but any help we can get from big companies or from individuals will help,” Fisher says.

Shuffling ski gear around is something the 25-year-old Olympian also known as The Flying Fish is quite familiar with. When he’s not tearing it up on the World Cup tour, Fisher runs Skodeo.com, an online business that helps snow sport aficionados sell and trade unwanted equipment. Fisher says he’s glad he can give back to the ski community – even if the community he’s helping out is half a world away.

“These people were so happy and cheerful about life when they had so little. They opened up my eyes to what is truly important in life. I would love nothing more then to spread the stock of skiing in Armenia!”

Fisher says his relationship with his new-found Armenian ski cousins will be a lifelong one, and even plans to strap on skis in the land of Noah’s Ark someday himself.

“Tsakhkadzor was nice and had some decent terrain. They actually have a FIS legal GS on the hill. I wasn’t able to ski it on this trip, but did have the chance to ride up the chair lift and checked it out. I don’t have any immediate plans of going back but I have been keeping in contact with some friends over there and they want me to come back. I will make it back to Armenia for sure at some point and hopefully one day I’ll even get to ski there.”

Erik Fisher and sister Carlie at Armenia’s Tsakhkadzor ski resort.