Because the story about Bernie Knauss from a few weeks back was so popular, we want to bring you some other old stories that we find in the archives. This one is by Frank W. Martin from People Magazine, January 23, 1978. We can only hope that the new World Pro Ski Tour athletes will have as much crossover appeal as the old pros like Josef Odermatt had! Enjoy.
There has never been much question about the blond and sinewy Josef Odermatt’s claim to the late Spider Sabich’s title as sex symbol of the slopes. But was the Swiss skier as good on the boards as in bed? Just four years ago the Swiss ski federation threw him off the national team, explaining that he’d never make a great racer. “I show them they were wrong,” he says in his powdery English, and so he came to the States and turned pro. The past two years he finished second on the world tour to Henri Duvillard, and this year, with the French champ retired, Odermatt is, at 25, en route to becoming the dominant pro racer.
The training and competition have not totally eliminated his après-ski activities. Last October he was named Cosmo Bachelor of the Month. The groupie slalom seems to be an unavoidable part of the course. “If they really want you, there’s no way out,” finds Josef. “So you say what the hell. I don’t overdo, but maybe I take a bite and not the whole plate.”
The oldest of three children, Odermatt was raised in the Swiss mountain village of Dallenwil. At 3½ he put on his first pair of skis; by 5 his father was already seriously grooming him. “There wasn’t much else to do up there,” he says, but he soon found something. By 15 he had lost his virginity and was using a rabbit hutch on his family’s farm for a trysting place, since “nobody ever catch me there in all that hay.” As a member of the Swiss “A” team at 19, he was as well-known for practical joking as for skiing—he once put itching powder inside a teammate’s pajamas. Ultimately Josef rebelled against skiing because of pressure from his father to be the best. “I lost the fun of it,” he explains. After his hell-raising and erratic record led to a fallout with the Swiss ski authorities, he became a carpenter in his father’s factory for five months before taking off for the States.
Arriving in the U.S. in 1974 with enough for a banged-up car and two months’ expenses, he remarkably wound up third on the tour with $31,700 in earnings in his rookie season. “I had to start all over again,” he recalls. “Those other guys had equipment, endorsements, everything. I had nothing.”
Things are booming as well as schussing for Odermatt these days. With his gross up to $100,000 last year, he has real estate investments, two cars (though he sold the $40,000 Ferrari he bought last summer after burning out three sets of tires) and a $95,000 Aspen condo he shares with Cindi Martinek, a United Airlines stew. They met in 1975 when she was vacationing with her family in Europe and he was visiting his parents. After giving the Martineks a tour of Switzerland, Odermatt asked Cindi to stay. She refused. “Men come and go,” says Cindi, “but not my job.” After Odermatt contacted her when he returned to the States, she had both.
“If I didn’t trust Josef, I’d go crazy with all the ski groupies,” she says, then adds thoughtfully, “but I hope if he desires another woman he will be smart enough not to let me know about it.” Of Cindi’s time on the road, Odermatt likewise reasons, “What I don’t know won’t hurt me.”
Cindi is more than willing not to press the marriage issue. “Skiing is No. 1 for Josef right now,” she says. “When skiing is over, there is plenty of time for me to be No. 1.” That’s just as well, since Odermatt seems little inclined to share the spoils. “I not freeze my ass off on the mountain for taxes,” he grumbles, “or to give money away in a divorce.”