FRANCONIA — Passion, experience and dedication are a few of the traits it takes to be a ski instructor for 50 years, something 72-year-old Maggie Doughty possesses and more.
Doughty has been a ski instructor at Cannon Mountain for 32 years. She is the sole Professional Ski Instructors Association 50-year pin recipient at Cannon Mountain and the only instructor with a 40-year pin — making her the most experienced instructor on the hill.
PSIA handed out 50-year pins to 15 people in 2014. Four were women; of those Doughty alone is still working as an instructor.
"It was pretty awesome," Doughty said of the honor.
In 1964, Doughty was 22 and the youngest in her PSIA class to pass the rigorous course and earn her first-year pin at Snow Ridge in northern New York.
"I was there for a whole week and only 30 percent of the students earned their pin," she said. "It was very strict and tough, but I made it. My husband made it also, and we got married right after."
Born in Austria as Magdelena Biack, she started skiing at 3 on a farm after her family fled Vienna during World War II. The easiest way she could get to school was to ski with her mother, who was a teacher.
"There was a farmer who liked me, and he made me a pair of skies out of a wine barrel and took two boards, straightened them out and nailed a pair of nice warm furry boots on it and cut hazelnut branches and gave them to me. I remember that so well, and that was how I learned to ski. I just love skiing, and from then on it was all I did," recalled Doughty.
In 1960, she earned her ski instructor certification in Austria as part of her physical education teacher requirements. She was then hired by Greek Peak in New York. When she came to America, she was surprised by the lack of female ski instructors.
"It never occurred to me there would be no other girls," she said.
Doughty taught two seasons and met her husband, Marshall. The skiing duo, Maggie and Marshall, went on to run ski schools in Vermont at Mount Ascutney, Haystack and Round Top. While at Round Top, a family hired her to be their children's personal coach at Cannon Mountain. She said she fell in love with the Cannon experience and never left.
"Everybody is just great here. I can't say enough good things about everybody, and it's a family here. I don't think you can find it anywhere else," Doughty said.
The Doughtys' two sons were on skis before they could walk, and her three grandchildren ski.
She has taught thousands of kids to ski and proudly refers to them all as "her kids." Her trademark blonde braids, red llama fur hat and Austrian accent have an iconic ski instructor appeal.
She teaches the weekend seasonal program, the school programs and for a few years, was a coach for the Franconia Ski Club. She has churned out three decades of confident skiers.
It's easy to spot her group skiing down the mountain in a snake-like line, in perfect harmony.
"It's a lot of fun, and I love all the children, and they like me. I'm very strict and my group is always well-behaved. We have fun and they always learn something. I'm very proud of my kids, and at the end of the season they are beautiful skiers," Doughty said.
Roisin Henry, 18, said, "I had Maggie as an instructor for three years, and if I had the choice, I never would have left her junior development ski class. Maggie is mesmerizing in everything she does ... I learned so much from her about skiing and how to live life happily without letting others bring me down. She has influenced me so much I took her name, Magdelena, as my confirmation name."
Bridget Henry, a parent, said, "Maggie is an example of a hard-working woman who gets out there and teaches in all weather, with a smile on her face.
She teaches her pupils sound ski techniques, and also ensures they are polite and respect each other and develop stamina. She even loves to ski in rain and on ice and shares this love with her students."
Doughty said she is looking forward to getting her 60-year pin.
"I'll be 82 then, and will hopefully be young and skiing circles around everyone," she said.