Pyles-Knutzen, Buxman nominated to Ski Club Vail’s Wall of Excellence
Special to the Daily
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is naming six people to its first Wall of Excellence in the Athlete Category and four people to its Leader Category on Feb. 7 at the Four Seasons Resort Vail. Among the Athlete Category nominees from the early years of Vail are Rudd Pyles-Knutzen and John Buxman.
Climax Mountain was once the home of the Continental Ski Club. When the mine shut down, the town of Climax ceased to exist and so did the club. The young ski racers from the club, Rudd Pyles-Knutzen among them, migrated to Arapahoe Basin with their head coach Don Larsh, and shortly after Vail Mountain opened, to Vail. They became known as the Vail Junior Racers.
After graduating from high school, Pyles-Knutzen continued training in Vail and ski racing. One of Pyles-Knutzen’s coaches from Vail was instrumental in getting him in on a quota to go to his first World Cup in Jackson Hole and a second in Squaw Valley, along with a spot at Senior Nationals.
Pyles-Knutzen hitchhiked to both World Cups, arriving to the first World Cup on time, missing the second, but making it to Senior Nationals. Pyles-Knutzen had no idea just how strong his performances had been that fated winter until he received an invitation that spring to the U.S. Ski Team A team, the first Vail racer to achieve this accomplishment. This call derailed his plan to quit ski racing altogether to focus on college that fall. The rest is history.
Pyles-Knutzen joined the U.S. Ski Team A Team in 1963, but continued to train with Ski Club Vail racers when he was not with the national team. After retiring from the U.S. Ski Team in 1973 he became part of Bob Beattie’s World Pro Tour, alongside being the Director of Racing at Aspen Ski School and later affiliated with Copper Mountain.
Winning several races as a junior racer, Pyles-Knutzen went on to compete in a number of World Cups, including a sixth place finish. He also enjoyed an 11th place finish in downhill at the World Championships, a slalom win in the French American Team Races and several Can-Am Tour wins, along with several great finishes on the World Pro Tour.
Pyles-Knutzen passed along his knowledge coaching at summer ski camps as well as delivering clinics to PSIA candidates and refreshers to top PSIA instructors. He was the co-recipient of the Spider Sabich Memorial Award for his contributions to the sport of skiing on the World Pro Ski Tour. In addition, he formed the American Athletic Development Fund to enable inner city youth to get out of the city to ski, and as he co-authored the book “How to Become an Expert Recreational Skier”.
After a career-ending injury in the late 1970s Rudd Pyles-Knutzen and his wife made their home in Steamboat Springs and later moved to Southern California where they reside to this day, with Rudd Pyles-Knutzen returning winters to Vail.
John Buxman started his ski racing career as a very young boy with the Ski Jets in Arapahoe Basin while living with his family in Denver. By the age of 7, he was already quite accomplished in the sport and showed enormous potential for what was to come. Moving to the Vail Valley presented not only an opportunity for Buxman to take his ski racing talents to the next level at Ski Club Vail, but also for his dad to open up his own grocery store in the Vail Valley, and so the family made the move.
Buxman trained with Ski Club Vail from 1968–1976, at which point he was invited to join the U.S. Ski Team Development Team. He soon moved to the B Team and then the A Team. Buxman earned a great number of World Cup starts and competed in two World Championships. The final pro race of his career, which was held at Beaver Creek, ended in a true high point. After completing the race and finishing up with the press, he headed to the Beaver Creek Chapel by the river where he proposed to his wife.
He grew up in a special era here in Vail, Buxman recounted. Among his cherished boyhood memories was a very long cat ride with Peter Seibert, Sr. and one of Pete’s son, who was a friend of Buxman’s to a magnificent backcountry expanse which Pete Seibert, Sr. exclaimed he was “going to call China Bowl”.
Buxman and his wife continue to live in Colorado, committed to serving their community. He also has given back to the racing community through coaching young Buddy Werner skiers at Sunlight.
Buxman was an amazing ski racing talent at a young age at both the national and international level. He remains humble, grounded and appreciative for being surrounded by adults from a very young age who supported him every step of the way in pursuing his ski racing dreams — something Buxman is grateful for beyond belief as he looks back on his younger years.
By Christmas Eve Day 2017, when chairs 7, 10, 11, 14 and 26 still had not yet opened for the season on Vail Mountain, the resort knew something had to be done. Less than two years later Vail Mountain would be completing one of the most ambitious projects in the resort’s history.