“I believe in hard work. And powder skiing is heaven,” said George Jedenoff, the man himself.
The bar for most-kickbutt-human-ever-in-the-history-of-anything-and-everthing-ever was set quite high two days ago at Snowbird Resort. Jedenoff celebrated his birthday by skiing a slushy but groomed slope at the ski resort just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. It was his 100th birthday. But in a life that ticks triple digits this accomplishment was just another for the bucket, because Jedenhoff is no normal man.
Jedenoff was born on July 5, 1917 in Petrozavodsk, Russia, to Alexander Nikolaevich Jedenoff and Varvara Vasilievna Sepiagina, both Russian nobility. His family moved to Ekaterinburg, Siberia, after the Russian Revolution began when the Bolsheviks seized power in St. Petersburg in the fall of 1917. In 1919, the family fully escaped the violence when Jedenoff’s father, an administrator for the Perm Railway, was assigned as assistant superintendent of the Chinese-Eastern Railroad and was transferred to Harbin, Manchuria, China.
In late 1921, the Jedenoffs emigrated to the United States and began to call Seattle home. The Jedenoff family was granted U.S. citizenship on September 28, 1928. George moved to California with his mother after his parents split in 1932. His father and older brother Alexis stayed in Seattle.
By the time high school hit, Jedenoff’s life was already quite full by normal standards. But who the hell likes ordinary? As quarterback, Jedenoff led his Polytechnic high school to an undefeated San Francisco city championship. He also earned varsity letters in track and swimming. And he was the valedictorian of the class of 1935. He applied for a scholarship to Stanford but the Depression limited funds. Rather than give up on his college dream, Jedenoff did what anyone would do in the situation. He got a job in a mine. He also took out low interest tuition loans and held various part-time jobs so he could attend Stanford.
Jedenoff made top marks in engineering and was awarded a scholastic scholarship after his freshman year, which he was able to maintain for the next three years. He graduated magna cum laude in 1940 and decided to continue his education by attending the Stanford graduate school of business. To earn extra coin for class, Jedenoff waited on tables and worked in the kitchen of a sorority house on campus. He met a young sophomore named Barbara there. They’ve been married for 74 years now. In 1942, Jedenoff received his MBA. He also played varsity rugby all six years at Stanford.
Then the really interesting stuff started to happen. Jedenoff served overseas in the Pacific, mostly on Guam, during World War II as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. After the war, he was hired as an industrial engineer with the Columbia Steel Company in Pittsburgh, California. He moved up in the ranks quickly, from foreman to general superintendent of the plant. Then Jedenoff was transferred to a much larger plant in Provo, Utah. And that’s when, at the age of 43, he started skiing.
By chance, Jedenoff buddied up with and learned technique from Earl Miller, the inventor of the first releasable ski bindings and the Miller Supersoft powder skis. He also took lessons from world record ski jumper Alf Engen at Alta. He has skied with his wife, two children, and four grandkids all over the country, and he has skied in Utah every winter since he first clicked into skis 57 years ago. Jendenoff plans to continue skiing as long as he possibly can because to him age is merely a number, not a deterrent. Skiing Snowbird on his 100th birthday was special for Jedenoff, yes, but he’s looking forward to celebrating his 125th by relying on the practices of his lifetime: hard work, never slowing down, and always looking for what’s around the corner…with a good amount of skiing sprinkled in.
“This is a short life that we live,” said Jedenoff. “Even 100 years is not a long time in the path of history. I try to make everyday count by doing something constructive. Skiing is a wonderful outlet. It’s like the dessert after a fancy dinner. You can’t survive just on dessert. And I love dessert, I never pass ’em up. But powder skiing is the best thing going.”
As for advice for others trying to follow his line, Jedenoff offers this:
“Don’t get discouraged and don’t rush it. It takes time so go slow and be grateful for the motion you can make. Don’t push your expectations too high too fast. Going down the slopes is great anyway you do it. Skiing is a great chance to practice patience. And you’ve got to be grateful for what you’ve got when you’ve got it. Don’t overweigh or exaggerate the negative. Just think positive and look ahead. And never stop skiing. You’ll be missing out on an awful lot by giving it up.”
Photos courtesy of Snowbird Resort.