Best known as the Egan Brothers, Dan and John Egan were first spotted by Warren Miller crews at Sugarbush, VT, in 1978. They went on to star in over a dozen Warren Miller films, together and individually, showing that ski bums could make good. In fact, a 1990 clip from Steeper and Deeper of the brothers skiing a huge piece of cornice that broke under Dan, forcing John to make an impossible turn back to solid ground and effectively cheat death, became one of the most-used Warren Miller clips of all time.
Warren Miller described John Egan as the ‘boldest and most innovative skier,’ and likened the brothers to ATVs on skis: go anywhere, ski anything athletes. After traveling the world, and skiing on five continents, we caught up with John Egan, speaking for the duo, at home near Sugarbush, VT.
I was in my first Warren Miller film in the late 70’s here at Sugarbush, and
Sugarbush has sponsored me for my whole career, for 36 years. Now, I ski with guests and do leadership conferences, called the Abundance Leadership Workshop.
Dan is in Val d’Isere right now, the lucky bum. Dan still runs Egan Entertainment Network; his latest documentary is on the US Sailing Team. He’s also still a mountain guide; he is guiding some people in France now.
I have a full-time job as Chief Recreational Officer at Sugarbush. I have two boys, 9 and 14, so to just up and go to Europe for a month isn’t going to happen. “Bye, kids! There’s some food in a bowl, and get your homework done!”
It was a common request from cameramen to ski in sync with Dan. We used to say we were Siamese twins attached at the soul. It was fun, but hectic. It could go awry pretty quick. But we could probably still do that.
The coolest place I ever skied was the Kamchatka Peninsula, in Siberia. It is the most active place in the Ring of Fire. It is so cold, but there is hot lava, and geyser fields, and the skiing was really cool. But it was funky. If I wasn’t an eastern skier, I might not have attempted some of the skiing, but if you could ski funky snow and make it look good, Warren would call you again.
My favorite place to ski is still Sugarbush, with all the tight trees and runs. If you can ski this stuff, a couloir in Chamonix is not going to bother you. I’ve always been based here, even when I was living at Squaw or traveling around the world. We had a house at Squaw in the early 80’s, called the Vermont house, and to live there you had to be from Vermont, and you couldn’t really have a real job.
I traveled to Europe with Warren Miller, there wasn’t a better way to have it done, to be introduced to that ski world. We stayed after the filming and ski bummed for two-and-half months.
It was so fantastic, maybe ski bumming was more accepted then. One of the reasons I got into ski mountaineering was we’d go sleep in the refuges after skiing, because we didn’t have a place to sleep. So we’d climb the mountain at the end of the day. What a great era.
I think ski bums are different today. It is harder to make it now; it is so expensive. Ski bums really followed their dreams. But I’d still say get out there and do it! Don’t listen to what other people tell you that you can’t do, that’s just what they can’t do. I drove an eighteen-wheeler for five years, delivering produce all summer, and parked it all winter so I could ski!
You have to be creative – a picture in a magazine isn’t going to pay the mortgage. You have to get out and make it happen. And pick a good resort, too!