Benway, Porter to be honored by Ski Club Vail
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is naming six people to its first Wall of Excellence in the athlete category and four people to its first Wall of Excellence in the leader category tonight at the Four Season Vail. Larry Benway and Mike Porter are among the four people being inducted into the Wall of Excellence Leader Category.
Growing up 20 miles north of New York City, Larry Benway made his way out west in the late 1950s. After working in Denver for a year, he became a ski patroller at A-Basin, and in the fall of 1963, began his work as a ski patroller at Vail Mountain, soon in charge of avalanche work. Meeting his wife Willie a few years later while working the summer in Jackson Hole, they married in 1966 and made their home in Vail. Starting his own landscape company a few years later, Larry remained connected with the industry teaching skiing at Meadow Mountain.
Larry and Willie raised their family in the valley. Their son Patrick joined Ski Club Vail around the age of 10 after strong performances in the Buddy Werner League at Sunlight. Shortly thereafter, Larry joined the board of SSCV and by the mid-1980s was on the executive committee and an officer of the club. Larry went on to serve as club president for several years in the early 1990s.
Both Larry and Willie became certified Rocky Mountain Division USSA racing officials, Willie in timing and Larry as a level 4 chief of race and a Level 5 chief gate keeper. Larry also served on the board of the Rocky Mountain Division.
Larry started his World Cup volunteer experience in the late 1980s in a series precursor to the World Cups. Eventually Larry was tasked with training 100 gatekeepers for the World Cup in the Vail Valley. By the second, local World Cup Larry was the chief gate judge, serving in this critical role for the next nine years.
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Bringing Snowboarding to SSCV
Larry led the charge in adding snowboarding to SSCV’s program offerings in the early 1990s. Larry was also instrumental in the club running the first USSA snowboard championships which attracted 300 competitors. During Larry’s time at SSCV he was also very involved in the addition of a post-graduate training program offering. He was also instrumental in growing revenue’s from SSCV’s ski swap, including the introduction of barcoding with the help of a technically savvy friend, allowing the swap to grow to over 20,000 items. These initiatives enabled the club to raise ever important funds to keep program costs down.
Larry is also responsible for the inception and implementation of the early form of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Winter Tutorial to enable athletes to bring their snow sport to the next level in parallel with their academics, at a time when traditional public and private schools in the valley were unable to provide this type of support. The addition of this academic component to SSCV has evolved to become today’s groundbreaking Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.
Among Larry’s many accolades for his community work throughout the years, he was the recipient of the Zella Gorsuch Memorial Award in 1996. Larry’s innovation, dedication, thoughtfulness and foresight coupled with his boundless energy during his time at SSCV has left its mark on the organization to this day.
While running the Alpine Meadows Ski School and overseeing the Austrian National Training Center at that same venue, the opportunity arose for Mike Porter to join SSCV in 1980. Upon his arrival he was the coach for all programs and became the SSCV program director in 1981, remaining with the club until 1988. Charlie Adams joined Mike at SSCV a few years later with Charlie overseeing the younger athletes and Mike overseeing the older ones as well as coach training and development for all age groups. Mike and Charlie were also involved with fundraising at a time when SSCV did not have an administrative staff to drive these initiatives.
A Professional Ski Instructor of America-certified instructor who went on to become a PSIA trainer and examiner as well as run the National Demo Team for 25 years, Mike was instrumental in bringing PSIA training and certification requirements to the forefront for the SSCV coaching staff, enriching the training program for all athletes. Thanks to Mike’s knowledge, leadership and focus on staff development, his coaches’ knowledge base was among the best in the country and SSCV was placing numerous athletes on the U.S. Ski Team and in top collegiate racing programs. A number of the coaches hired and trained by Mike went on to enjoy very successful careers with the U.S. Ski Team,such as athletes like Tommy Moe, Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn, a testament to the foundation they acquired during their time at Ski Club Vail.
The athlete development techniques employed by Mike focused on such things as sports psychology, skill building, learning theories and motor skills development.
Bringing Along Many Innovations
Beyond coach and athlete education, Mike brought many other innovations to SSCV including electrical timing, portable timing systems, athlete video analysis, a transition from bamboo to plastic breakaway gates along with electric drills, making Ski Club Vail cutting edge — the first club in the Rocky Mountain Division to offer all of this.
Mike was also responsible for creating an exchange program with Copper Mountain to provide early season training to SSCV athletes.
Mike spent a great deal of time working with collegiate coaches, having them train at Vail Mountain with their teams, which allowed the collegiate coaches to get to know Ski Club Vail athletes and the Ski Club Vail athletes to see the level of training taking place on these collegiate teams.
Mike ski raced professionally, but his true passion was for the many other things he was involved in during life.
After leaving Ski Club Vail, Mike went on to run the Beaver Creek Ski School as managing director for education as well as rentals. Mike was also instrumental in providing training and support for USSA coaches at a time when there were no formal training or coach certifications, making use of much of what he learned through PSIA and through his work with Ski Club Vail.
Mike’s fondest memories of Ski Club Vail are of the children — his relationships with them and the influence he had over them, channeling their enthusiasm and exuberance to maximize the talents they had, not just in ski racing but in college and in life. Mike also reflects warmly on the huge level of involvement of and support from the parents at SSCV.
Mike and his wife Marie have two children, neither of whom were ski racers, but he warmly reflects on how much he learned and much he personally grew through working with children at SSCV, things he was able to share with his own family.
Mike was a recipient of SSCV’s Zella Gorsuch Memorial Award. The day to day leadership, innovation and professionalism that Mike brought to SSCV throughout most of the 1980s as executive director and head coach propelled SSCV to a new level, achieving great strides as an organization and in the development of highly successful national team and collegiate athletes.