Otto Lang
NH Peckett's Inn 1936
Born(1908-01-21)21 January 1908
Died30 January 2006(2006-01-30) (aged 98)
Occupation(s)ski school instructor/director, film producer
Years active1928–1984 (ski)

Otto Lang (21 January 1908 – 30 January 2006) was a skier and pioneer ski instructor from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who lived and worked in the United States. After teaching skiing at a variety of smaller resorts in Austria, he joined the Hannes Schneider Ski School in St. Anton am Arlberg, one of the most prestigious ski schools of the era. Like many instructors who taught Schneider's Arlberg Method, Lang was eventually offered a chance to teach in the U.S., at Pecketts' on Sugar Hill in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He later moved out west and founded ski schools on Mount Rainier, Mount Baker and Mount Hood.[1]

After a visit to Sun Valley Resort at the request of his former student Nelson Rockefeller, Lang was offered a position at their ski school. In the 1930s, Sun Valley was one of the world's most glamorous resorts, the first ever to offer ski lifts. Eventually he became the director of the ski school at Sun Valley and became the ski instructor for Hollywood stars.[2] Later he became a movie director and producer, primarily due to his contacts at Sun Valley, including an ongoing friendship with studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck. He demonstrated ski techniques in Jerome Hill's documentary Ski Flight (1938) which premiered at Radio City Music Hall. His 1936 book Downhill Skiing was recognized in its day as the most comprehensive manual for skiing instruction for the fledgling sport. Ski filmmaker Warren Miller and newsman Lowell Thomas both credited Lang's book as an inspiration for their interest in skiing.

Lang was hired by Darryl F. Zanuck to assist with the ski sequences of the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade starring Sonja Henie, which ultimately led to his cinematic work. Some of his notable feature films include Call Northside 777 (1948 - producer), 5 Fingers (1952 - producer), Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955 - director for scenes filmed in Hong Kong), Search for Paradise (working title The Search for Shangri-La) (1956 - director)[3] and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970 - associate producer of the Japanese segments). He produced the short films Vesuvius Express (1953), The First Piano Quartette (1954) and Jet Carrier (1954) nominated for Academy Awards.

Otto Lang is also an author. His memoir, A Bird of Passage – The Story of My Life -- From the Alps of Austria to Hollywood, U.S.A., was published in 1994, and the same year he was presented Ski Film Maker Legend of the Year award at the Crested Butte International Ski Film Festival.[4] Around the World in 90 Years – Images From My Life’s Journey, published in 2000, is a collection of photographs taken by Mr. Lang during his lifelong travels.[5] The pages include his anecdotal descriptions of the photographs and his life. In 1978 he was inducted into the US National Ski Hall of Fame, and in 2004 he was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award from the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.[6]

Otto Lang's son Peter, inspired by his father's work with animals on the television shows Sea Hunt, Flipper, and Daktari,[7][8] is the founder and owner of the renowned Safari West Wildlife Preserve in Sonoma County, California.



  1. ^ McLellan, Dennis (2006) “Otto Lang, 98; Skiing Instructor Rode the Slopes to Fame as a Hollywood Producer” Los Angeles Times
  2. ^ ISHA (Winter 1995) "A Bird of Passage" Skiing Heritage Journal Vol. 7, No. 1: 33-40
  3. ^ Crestview, Florida, "Cinerama Crews Shooting New Movie At Eglin AFB", The Okaloosa News-Journal - Edgewater Area News section, Thursday 1 November 1956, Volume 42, Number 44, page 1.
  4. ^ ISHA (Sep 1993) "I.S.H.A. Members Invited to Film Festival" Skiing Heritage Journal Vol. 5, No. 2:6
  5. ^ "Otto Lang" (1978) Honored Members US Ski Hall of Fame
  6. ^
  7. ^ Laura Kelly (October 19, 2017). "Safari West, African nature preserve threatened by California wildfires, weathers the disaster". The Washington Times.
  8. ^ Jack Boulware (April 6, 2003). "The Green Hills of Sonoma:Mingling with wildlife just outside the 'burbs at Safari West". San Francisco Chronicle.