Bob Harkins has always loved the outdoors, and pursued that love in his occupations, including a registered Maine guide, general manager of Mt. Abram ski area and a coach for the U.S. Ski Team.
When he wasn’t instructing hopefuls for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Harkins was also the director of athlete development, for which his main focus was tracking talent and providing training and racing opportunities.
Harkins has continued to develop opportunities for young skiers, such as helping to develop the Perfect Turn program at Sunday River in Newry.
Looking back at his career, including his induction into the Maine Ski Hall of Fame in 2010, it’s clear he’s made an impact on the sport and those who love it.
Name: Bob Harkins
Occupation: General manager of Mt. Abram ski area
What was it like to coach some of the best skiers in the world? It was very rewarding to be a small piece of an athlete’s process or journey. It was great to see the work ethic, athleticism and commitment these kids showed each day, and even more impressive was their character and personality. In Calgary in 1988, for the Sarajevo games (in Yugoslavia in 1984), we did not fill our athlete quota. I flew home with the kids that did not qualify . . . a somber experience.
What was the motivation behind the development of the Perfect Turn program at Sunday River? The motivation behind Perfect Turn was simply to get more people skiing, more often. It was a very guest-centered teaching model, with 75-minute clinics, no more than five people in a class, and a focus on using the students’ strengths to help overcome weaknesses. The Learn to Ski component in the program was arguably one of the best in the world.
Are the Olympics different now than they were in the ’80s? How so?Having been somewhat removed from it, I’m not sure, but my gut is that it is still very similar. Tremendous pressure to make the team, and to compete on such a big stage.
Who are some of the Olympians you worked with? Debbie Armstrong was one that I probably worked with the longest. When I left my position as the director of special programs at Gould Academy in 1978, I moved to Washington and was the program director at Alpental Ski Resort in Snoqualmie. Debbie was a young athlete in the program, and I essentially followed her onto the National Development scene, and then the National Team. Eva Twardokens, Diane Roffe, Tommy Moe, Chip and Tris Cochrane from Maine, to name a few.
When you made it to the U.S. Ski Team, what were your thoughts on that accomplishment? I was pretty excited, certainly, and feeling somewhat out of my comfort zone initially. It was like going from 0 to 100 in three years time after moving from Bethel to Washington, and then to Utah. I bought a decent camera because I traveled so much and wanted to take it all in photographically.
What made you want to work at Mt. Abram? What are some of your goals there? I was not ready to retire, and the opportunity came up, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring. The ski business, in one form or another, has occupied my professional life for over 40 years. My goal at Mt. Abram, which is an amazing family ski area, is to be part of the process to make it sustainable over time. It’s a tough business, but the community of people here are incredibly supportive and the main reason that the resort is still viable. I’m enjoying getting to know the people and the landscape. We’ll see where it goes!
What has been your favorite place you’ve skied so far, and why? I’ve skied some incredible places, but hands down I’ll go for Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah; home to Alta and Snowbird ski areas. Having lived close by in Heber, Utah, for eight years, I got to know Wasatch County pretty well. Amazing country.
Bob Harkins, current Mt. Abram ski area general manager and former U.S. Ski Team coach. (Portland Press Herald file photo)