Vail Valley’s Will enters ski hall of fame
VAIL, Colorado -Three adaptive skiers – including Vail Valley racer Sarah Will – head up the largest class of inductees to enter the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame since 1984. This year’s induction ceremony, being co-hosted by the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, will be held at Beaver Creek on April 9, coinciding with Beaver Creek’s Vintage SkiFest weekend. Tickets for the event are still available through the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame located in Vail Village. Will, Jack Benedick and Chris Waddell are the first adaptive skiers to enter the Hall of Fame since the late Diana Golden was honored in 1997. Joining them are three well-known names from the ski world – Stu Campbell, Doug Coombs and Paul Robbins. Rounding out the class of eight for 2009 are Sepp Kober – the “father of southern skiing” – and Ansten Samuelstuen, a holder of three national and four North American titles in ski jumping. Will, who lives in Edwards, was paralyzed in a skiing accident in 1988 and went on to win 12 medals competing on U.S. teams at four Paralympic Games. She swept the gold medals at the Paralympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. Shortly after her accident she read Hall of Famer Hal O’Leary’s book on adaptive skiing and started to train at Winter Park. Within three years she won gold medals in the downhill and Super G at the 1992 Paralympic Games. With Chris Waddell, she started an adaptive skiing program at Vail and was recently recognized by the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame to go along with honors accorded her in 2004 by the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.Waddell recently made international headlines for his successful climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in September, a first for a paraplegic. Paralyzed from the waist down after a skiing accident in 1988, he took up adaptive skiing and won 12 medals at four Paralympic Games. He swept the gold medals at the 1994 Paralympics in Lillehammer. He also competed at three Paralympic Summer Games, winning a silver medal in Sydney in 2000 in the 200M wheelchair event. The Park City, Utah resident has been a charismatic promoter for adaptive skiing and was a prominent ambassador for the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.Jack Benedick of Golden, Colo., who lost both legs in the Vietnam War, took up adaptive skiing when the sport was still in its infancy. He worked hard with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association to create a U.S. Adaptive Ski Team and lobbied the International Ski Federation to accept adaptive skiing. A holder of the Paralympic Order for his contributions, he was a silver medal winner in the combined at the 1984 Paralympic Games.Stu Campbell lived in Stowe, VT and was a writer, instructor and resort executive who wrote six books on ski instruction, served as an equipment consultant to several manufacturers, raced and coached, and provided television commentary. For 30 years he was the instructional editor for SKI Magazine. He died in 2008.Doug Coombs may be the most recognizable skier in this year’s class for his appearances in many ski films in the 1990s. A former ski racer from Montana State University, he and his wife, Emily, started the first heliskiing operation in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains. He won the first two World Extreme Skiing Championships. He died while attempting to rescue a friend in a skiing accident in 2006.Paul Robbins spent three decades as a ski journalist and as the US Ski Team press officer. Robbins died suddenly in 2008 and The Paul Robbins Award for ski journalism is presented annually by the Vermont Ski Museum.Sepp Kober is known as the “father of southern skiing.” After immigrating to the United States and instructing at Stowe, he was the first ski instructor at the first southern ski area to open a rope tow, Weiss Knob, in 1958. Today the Southeastern Ski Areas Association, which he founded, consists of 20 ski areas serving four to five million skiers annually.Ansten Samuelstuen of Louisville, Colo. first arrived in the United States in 1951 and set a record for distance of 316 feet at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs that stood for 12 years. After immigrating to the U.S. in 1954 he successfully won three national titles in ski jumping and held four North American titles. He competed for the United States on two Olympic teams and was the top U.S. jumper with a seventh place finish at the 1960 Olympic Games in Squaw Valley.