Vail Daily column: Snowsport is about family | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Snowsport is about family

Tom Kelly

Chris Davenport has stood atop the world’s most awe-inspiring peaks. But, tonight, he’s humbled just walking around the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame’s Hall of Honor. Erik Schlopy’s mind wanders back to that magical day in St. Moritz, Switzerland, when he won his World Championships medal as he reflects on his own stature as an honored member. Kristina Koznick Landa, who won six World Cup slaloms, tries to hold back a tear as she spots the plaque honoring her own coach, Hall of Famer Erich Sailer. Ross Powers, who won Olympic gold in Park City, Utah, sees the pride in his mother’s eyes as he’s formally enshrined into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

In April, they were among 10 candidates inducted into the Hall of Fame. Last month, they all made the pilgrimage to Ishpeming, Michigan, the birthplace of organized skiing in 1905, to be formally enshrined along with nearly 400 others who have been recognized since the Hall began in 1956.

‘One More Run’

“When I walked into the Hall I immediately saw some familiar names from my hometown — Carrol Reed, Tyler Palmer, Hannes Schneider, Brooks Dodge and Toni Matt,” said Davenport. “Being associated with these greats made me extremely proud of my heritage and upbringing in New Hampshire. Then I began seeing Hall of Fame members from Aspen, where I have lived for more than half of my life. Folks like Klaus Obermeyer, Christin Cooper, Dick Durrance and John Clendenin have made a big impact on me as a skier and as a professional.

“Reading all of the stories of these amazing individuals, and knowing that I would have a place next to them, was almost overwhelming.”

Skiing is a family sport. Kids get started by mom and dad or older siblings, often skiing together their entire life. Schlopy told the story of the ski sweater he wanted so badly. He got it one Christmas. In his first race in the new sweater, he made a big mistake the first run and came into the finish vowing to quit the sport. He reflects on the impact his dad had that day. ‘Yes, son, you can quit. But you have to take one more run first.’ He did. And he didn’t quit. And he became a World Championship medalist.

Pioneer for Women

Jeannie Thoren grew up a stone’s throw from the Hall of Fame in Ishpeming. In her career, she made a difference for women’s skiing by pioneering women’s-specific gear. “Walking through the door, I was finally a member of the ‘locker room’ that I’ve always wanted to belong to. Like Andrea Mead Lawrence, I feel I made a difference. I finally achieved my lifelong dream — to have helped others love the sport like me.”

When you think of skiing today, your mind gravitates to places like Vail, Aspen, Park City, Stowe and more. In 1905, Ishpeming was the center of the American skiing universe. Today, the small Upper Peninsula community still takes deep pride in its role. And when newly named inductees come through the doors and into the Honor Hall, it simply takes their breath away. There is so much history in that building.

All Intertwined

“I was honored to be inducted Hall of Fame — I mean, who wouldn’t be, right?” said Koznick Landa. “But the true gravity didn’t hit me until I walked into the building. There were no crowds, no people to greet, just silence. I got to see the history of skiing in our country unfold, right before my eyes. I got chills reading about the men and women that had been inducted before me. I felt very humbled to know that my name would be among them now.

“Every direction I looked, every name and plaque that I read, we were all intertwined, as if one of us could not be there without the others. It was a moment I will never forget.”

“I always told myself that if my legacy in skiing could simply be a positive contribution to the sport, then I would be happy,” said Davenport. “And I am.”

One of the most experienced communications professionals in skiing, Tom Kelly is a veteran of eight Olympics and serves as vice president of communications for the Park City-based U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. This column first appeared in the Park Record in Park City, Utah.