David and Renie Gorsuch headline Eagle County locals celebrated at U.S. National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame event
Vail is home to the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame, which is housed at the Colorado Snowsports Museum. But did you know that ski and snowboard industry leaders, movers and shakers and athletes may also get recognized by a national organization? The U.S. National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum in Ishpeming, Michigan, hosts such an event, and this year the induction gala was held in Big Sky, Montana, in March and recognized some Vail Valley locals.
The U.S. National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum was not able to host the event during the pandemic, so the Big Sky fête inducted the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2022 and one member from 2018. David and Renie Gorsuch were inducted into the 2021 Hall of Fame while Diane Boyer of Skea Limited Skiwear and Cheryl Jensen of the Vail Veterans Program were honored with the Women In Snowsports Industry award.
The demand to gather and honor the two classes of inductees was evident by the 600 attendees who came to the induction ceremonies and the many events leading up them. The process to determine who is going to be inducted involves 400 industry professionals. The nomination and voting periods run during July and August and the new class of inductees is announced in September.
David and Renie Gorsuch of the Gorsuch Ltd. retail shops were joined by eight other inductees including Peter Graves, the announcer for Olympic, World Cup and World Championship Alpine ski events, including the Beaver Creek Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup. Bode Miller, who was actually a part of the Class of 2018, was inducted at Big Sky Resort as well.
Renie Gorsuch was escorted to the stage by her three sons, John, Jeff and Davy. John, the oldest son, presented his mother with the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame medal. They also brought a large photo of David Gorsuch up on stage. David Gorsuch passed away in June 2021.
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Renie Gorsuch reminisced back to the early years of their relationship and the Gorsuch retail shops. The couple, who had been married 60 years, met when they were 15 at the 1954 Junior Nationals in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Renie grew up skiing in the Adirondacks and New England and David grew up near the now-defunct Climax Mine near Copper Mountain. They competed in the 1960 Winter Olympic Games at what is now known as Palisades Tahoe and then got married.
Renie addressed the crowd from the podium at the Huntley Lodge at Big Sky Resort. “First of all, I am filled with joy tonight being here with you, all of you, look at the people in this room. So many friends, what a gift our life in skiing has been, what an honor to be here tonight. My fabulous husband, David, who passed away in June of 2021, is here, too.”
She talked about the early beginnings of the first Gorsuch ski shop in an old Standard gas station.
“Our life together began in paradise, an abandoned gas station in romantic Gunnison, Colorado, a place so cold that February lost two days to frostbite,” Renie joked.
Renie can still be found at the flagship store in the Clocktower Building on Bridge Street in Vail Village, keeping tabs on the family business or working on the new catalog. The retail brand earned the Ski Retailer of the Year award in 1969 and 2003 by Snowsports Industries America. In 1976, it started its signature catalog which reached a circulation of 3.5 million and showcases the best in fashion, models, locations and photography. The flagship location spread to 10 more storefronts including Beaver Creek, Aspen and Snowmass, Colorado, and Park City, Utah.
“We’re not still here today because of any brilliance, we simply showed up, worked hard, love what we do and surrounded ourselves with really great people. We made every mistake you could make, but because of our racing background, we always picked ourselves up, brushed off the snow, gathered our gear and tried a new line,” Renie said.
The matriarch of the family also credited their success to how they treated people like family.
“Whether it was a salesman who walked through the door, the owner of the company, or our customer. We love family, but family isn’t only those who carry our name. Family is everyone who has worked for Gorsuch for the past 60 years. Salespeople, ski tuners, warehouse staff, truck drivers and baristas. Family means every child we gave equipment to for many winters so they could experience the joy of skiing,” Renie said.
She closed out her induction speech by referencing her husband’s photo on the stage once again.
“Thank you, everyone here, you have graciously made this honor possible. David, I know I’ll see you later, the kids send their love, and everyone here says, ‘Hi’ and ‘congratulations.'”
In addition to the induction galas being held over the weekend, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum also recognized other industry standouts with the Women In Snowsports award. The recipient of this award is a pioneer of the industry who has made an extraordinary impact through innovation, product design and functionality, fashion, marketing or any area within the industry. Like the Hall of Fame induction, this award has not been presented in person for a few years due to COVID-19. So, Vail locals Cheryl Jensen of Vail Veterans Program and Diane Boyer of SKEA were the recipients of the award in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Jensen is the founder of Sharing Warmth Around the Globe and the Vail Veterans Program. Sharing Warmth Around the Globe is a program Jensen came up with that takes gently used ski area uniforms and cold weather gear and sends them to remote areas of developing countries. The Vail Veterans Program offers military injured and their families free world-class therapeutic programs designed to build confidence and community. What Jensen thought was going to be a one-time event in 2014, has grown into something that has touched the lives of over 3,500 injured military service members and their families and has raised over $18 million for the cause.
“It is a very special recognition as skiing and snowboarding have changed the lives of wounded service members and their families,” Jensen said.
“One young man by the name of Heath Calhoun had suffered the loss of both his legs above the knee. He was in our first program. That night at dinner, he said to my husband and I, ‘I am not sure why you did this for us, but you changed my life.’ Heath went on to mono-ski in the Paralympic games in Vancouver and Sochi! We knew then that we had created a foundation that could provide support to our nation’s heroes in hopes of assisting them to find a new normal after a life-altering injury,” Jensen said.
Diane Boyer has been a consistent leader in a male-dominated ski industry for decades. She started the Stratton Mountain Freestyle Team in 1971. She has also held leadership roles at Snowsports Industries America, eventually becoming the first female chairman of the SIA board. Boyer is also heavily involved in the Colorado Snowsports Museum and is on its board and has been inducted into its Hall of Fame.
“I was truly humbled to be nominated and to receive the Women In Snowsports industry award. I had no idea that I was even nominated until I was informed of my award! It is such an honor to be recognized by the National Hall of Fame,” Boyer said.
SKEA, a women’s outdoor clothing brand that specialized in ski wear, was started by Boyer’s parents, and has celebrated five decades. It is designed by women who ski for women who ski. SKEA’s fashions were showcased in a 2024 Fashion Preview Show at the event in Big Sky.
“I do think functional fashion is important in the ski industry. People who ski are enjoying a special, happy time on the mountain, so they need a type of release from their everyday clothing, and they need to be warm, dry and comfortable. We skiers wear our ski clothing more than any other clothing during the winter season,” Boyer said.
Next year’s induction gala will be held in Park City, Utah, in March and will most likely feature only one class, instead of multiple classes due to the pandemic. But Boyer said it was amazing to see a mix of freestylers, racers, iconic store owners, inventors and pioneers all together in one place.
“The tapestry of the ski business is woven tight with colorful threads of characters throughout,” Boyer said. “Family and old friends, competitors and colleagues, all together under one roof. The stories went on and on! The snowsports family is so large, and yet so small. I am so happy to be a part of it!”