Simon Unkovskoy, ski instructor for North Shore club, dies at 92

Simon Unkovskoy learned to ski in the majestic mountains near his childhood home in Austria, and later sharpened his skills on the even more challenging slopes of the Eastern Alps around Salzburg.

In 1951, he immigrated to Chicago, started a family and embarked on a career in sales and retail. But on weekends, and for nearly four decades, he shared his skiing expertise as an instructor and director of the Lake Forest-based Snowflake Club, one of the oldest and most popular youth ski clubs on the North Shore.

Former students called Unkovskoy’s mastery of the sport “mesmerizing” and lauded his lead-by-example style of teaching.

“That guy could ski!” said Chip Stride, a Lake County attorney who joined the Snowflake Club in his early teens. “He had speed, grace and fluidity. He was an elegant skier.”

Unkovskoy, 92, who more recently taught skiing at Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin and during visits to Durango Mountain in Colorado, died in his home in Spring Lake, Mich., of complications from a stroke he suffered last year.

A former longtime resident of Lake Forest, Unkovskoy had moved to Spring Lake with his wife of 59 years, Joanne, nearly 20 years ago.

Born Dec. 13, 1924, in Munich but raised in Vienna, Unkovskoy was the maternal grandson of Prince Pavel Pavlovich Galitzine, a member of the State Council of the Royal Court of Czar Nicholas II, said his daughter Aleka Scott.

He spent summers at his aunt’s estate in what was then Czechoslovakia before moving with his parents to Salzburg, where he worked as a translator for the U.S. Army.

Fluent in Russian, French, German, Hungarian and English, he helped liberate the Nazis’ Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria that contained numerous Russian prisoners, according to his family.

After coming to Chicago, Unkovskoy married, settled in Lake Forest and worked for several companies, including Carson’s, Fostoria Glass and Denby Pottery.

In the early 1970s, Unkovskoy signed on with the Snowflake Club, which has been organizing local ski trips and lessons for children for more than 50 years. He initially served as an instructor, and later as the director of the club, during the late 1970s and into the ’80s.

“Simon was one of the best ski instructors our club has ever had,” said Kathy Borkowski, a former student who now serves as director of the Snowflake Club. “He was very old-school European…

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