Loss of a Reno Ski Icon: Rusty Crook Lives On (in all of us).
It seems almost everyone who had anything to do with skiing in Northern Nevada and Tahoe knew Rusty.
I met him after he had broken quite a few ribs in a bad fall on Silver Dollar many moons ago... he kept trying to get up despite his injuries and the excruciating pain every time he moved even a little. Still, he wanted me to help him up so he could ski down the hill and not ride in the patrol toboggan. It took less than 30 seconds to realize he was hurt much too badly to be skiing and and as he winced in pain he urged me to try again and get him up standing so he could get his other ski back on. He was bleeding and had labored breathing and was obviously in a lot of pain and I told him thats just not going to happen as I got his other ski off. He was not happy with me as I crossed my skis uphill to protect him from getting hit at the top of the Silver break-over. Patrol showed up and took over treating him for broken ribs and the open cuts on his face and mouth. He had fallen hard... and at speed (of course). Who is this guy I wondered. Not your common everyday skier for sure.
I would find out later that there was nothing common or ordinary about Rusty Crook. In Reno since age nine, Rusty began skiing at Skytavern which went on for well over 60 years as well as at Mt. Rose, Slide Mountain and many other ski areas. A member of the 1956 UNR Ski Team he went on to join the US Ski Team and the World Cup Circuit to refine his expertise. Where Rusty really shown and gained notoriety in the ski world however was in coaching and ski instruction.
A legend at Skytavern and at the Mt. Rose Ski Area, Rusty's mantra to skiers was "I want to show you how much better you can be." And he did. His attention to detail and skier analytics was second to none. Skiing fluidly like water down a river, Crook has a knack for flowing over any kind of snow condition or lack thereof and making it all look effortless and fluid. Perfection on skis, his passion for the sport had put a smile on his face for over 60 years at Skytavern helping hundreds and perhaps thousands over his lifetime learn how to be "much better" for the time they had spend learning from him.
The World of Skiing was a much better place with Rusty in it. He brought a certain rawness to his instruction much like a football coach and urged all his students to just "get in there dammit and make it happen!" He was unwilling to let "ordinary" skiing pass muster. His ski lessons were a mirror of his life: ski with all your heart and let your passion get you back up every time gravity puts you down. That is what makes Rusty Crook's gifts to the Reno-Tahoe ski world so powerful, he was simply not ordinary. He led an extraordinary life and let many others come along for a run or two with his extravagant generosity of giving back and helping others become better skiers for knowing him.
I know I speak for many when I say we are all sorry to see this bright light go out. Know though that the light is not completely out but will be burning on in all of us who had the opportunity to ski with this extraordinary Nevadan. He lives on every time we fall and rise again and don't give up. That was Rusty's greatest lesson.
Thanks Rusty. You are still with us in spirit like the swirling snow on a powder day. You never the lost the smile that skiing brought for all the many decades you were with us.
We also know you are not resting in peace, but out here with the rest of us every time it snows.