VAIL — Mike Brown had never seen anything like the downhill course at Garmisch. His first look was from the starting gate for his first World Cup event, and did nothing to soothe his nerves.
As it turns out, self-preservation makes you go faster.
“I was so afraid of the consequences of falling that I did well,” Brown said laughing at the memory.
Vi and Byron Brown moved the family to Vail in the early 1960s. In 1980, Brown became the first Vail kid tabbed for the U.S. Ski Team, and spent 10 years traveling the world competing. This week, he was tabbed for the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.
“My first race was crazy. I went from a handful of local downhills straight to the World Cup in Garmisch. It was quite the eye opener to come from my world to the World Cup. Back then, Garmisch was one of the world’s fastest courses, and that being thrown from the frying pan and into the fire.”
He seemed to like the fire. He started 96th and finished 36th in his first event.
The U.S. Ski Team also liked what they saw. Basically the conversation went like this:
“We’re starting a downhill program and you’re our boy,” the USST coaches told him.
“OK!” said the young Mike Brown.
“I was pegged as a downhiller early, and it stuck with me,” Brown said.
He wrapped up his World Cup career in 1989, competing in his final event for the U.S. during the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail.
Brown says there’s some debate about whether he or John Buxman was Vail’s first U.S. Ski Team member. John and Athena Buxman own Village Market.
“We were there at about the same time,” he said.
Competitor to coach
Brown transitioned smoothly from competing to coaching.
A Vail man named Rick had lost his leg and was training at Golden Peak. Brown spotted him and got together with the Beaver Creek folks. They set up a downhill course on Beaver Creek’s Strawberry Park to train for a World Championship event in Winter Park.
The U.S. Ski Team liked what he did and hired him to coach the U.S. Disabled Ski Team.
With Brown as head coach ’96-’97, the US team became a powerhouse. He coached two of the most decorated Paralympic athletes, Chris Waddell and Sarah Will.
These days, Brown says he has come full circle. He started ski racing in Buddy Werner League at Meadow Mountain. Now, he’s coaching his daughter in Buddy Werner League.
“I’m very excited and humbled. I was incredibly honored to be nominated and never in my wildest dreams thought I would be inducted. When I was chosen, I was thrilled,” Brown said.
The Hall of Fame inductions are scheduled for this fall.
“We are pleased to honor this incredible class of Hall of Fame inductees selected from an inspiring list of richly deserving nominees,” said Susie Tjossem, executive director of the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame. “The 150-member hall of fame election panel truly had a tough task in selecting from among so many great candidates.”