Vail’s Mike Brown tabbed for Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame
Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame Class of 2014
Vail’s Mike Brown is among five people to be inducted in the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, chosen from a field of 16 nominees.
Mike Brown: Brown succeeded at the top level of ski racing as a junior racer and during his 10-year career on the U.S. Ski Team placed in the top 15 in World Cup events and top 100 in the FIS world rankings. After retiring, Brown launched a seven-year career as coach of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, making it the strongest disabled team in the world.
John “C.J.” Mueller: Mueller twice qualified for the U.S. national downhill championships, 1978 and 79, and was one of the leading speed-skiing pioneers of the 1980s. In 1987 he became the first skier to exceed 130 mph. He’s a three-time speed skiing world record holder whose top speed was clocked at 137 mph. Mueller was a member of U.S. Speed Skiing Team and a top-10 finisher at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, where speed skiing was a demonstration sport. Mueller lives in Breckenridge and is one of its most colorful characters.
Jeremy Bloom: Bloom is a three-time mogul skiing world champion, two-time Olympian, 11-time World Cup gold medalist and a member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. In 2005, he won a record six straight World Cup events, the most in a single season in the sport’s history. Born and raised in Loveland, Colo., Bloom was also a standout football player at the University of Colorado.
Kingsbury “Pitch” Pitcher: Pitcher and his family acquired property and moved to Aspen in 1951, where he joined Friedl Pfeiffer and Fred Iselin as a ski instructor. He later became ski school supervisor and was one of the first certified instructors in the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association. In 1957, Pitcher was informally commissioned to look into a location for a major new ski resort in Colorado and was involved in the planning of Snowmass from 1958 to 1960. Pitcher acquired an interest in Buttermilk Mountain, which was later sold to Aspen Skiing Company, and he was involved in the planning and development of Arrowhead, now connected to Beaver Creek. Pitcher purchased Wolf Creek in the late 1970s.
Johnny Spillane: Spillane is a four-time Olympian from Steamboat Springs who competed in Nordic combined. Spillane made his first U.S. Olympic Team in 1998, and although he didn’t medal at successive Winter Games in 1998, 2002 or 2006, Spillane gained important experience that ultimately paid off in a big way. At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Spillane competed in three events and won three silver medals, including the first ever American medal in Nordic combined and only the third American medal ever earned in any Nordic sport.
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.”
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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.”