Who, What, Where, Now!
U.S. Ski Hall of Fame Week in Review
Photography by Hailey Tucker
In the world of freestyle, it is all about going big. And with this year’s U.S. Ski Hall of Fame Inductions featuring some of the biggest names in the sport, including the likes of Shane McConkey and Glen Plake, it only seemed fitting that the Valley pulled out all the stops for the week-long series of events celebrating the 2011 Hall of Fame inductees and Ski Heritage Week.
The energy level started high Sunday March 27 with the International Skiing Historical Association’s Welcome Reception and only continued to grow as the week on. Whether it was a night at the Ishpeming Film Festival when Glen Plake hijacked the mic and gave surprise awards to some of the “founding fathers” of freestyle, or at the Movers and Shakers Party at The Community Library when Nelson Bennett, the original director of the Sun Valley Ski Patrol, told tales of hand-cutting trees to build the run we now know as Canyon, the motley crew of more than 100 skiers and ski industry players was having a blast. Three days in, I was feeling exhausted and somehow they continued to up the ante night after night.
For those who couldn’t attend some of sold out events or just didn’t make it, here are some highlights from the week:
Ishpeming Film Festival “Jerry” Awards—Tuesday, March 29
Along with showing free ski films all week, Sun Valley’s Opera House hosted the “Jerry” awards. The “Jerry” awards are named after Jerry Simon, who (among a long list of things) started the International Ski Film Festival. The awards were presented Tuesday night to 10 films:
1) “Der Weisse Rausch” A 1931 German film that is considered a massive feat in film and skiing given the technology available when it was made.
2) “The Best if John Jay” A compilation film of John Jay’s work. Jay is credited as being one of the most influential people in the ski film industry.
3) “Sun Valley Serenade” Released in 1941, “Sun Valley Serenade” is credited with capturing the skier lifestyle of an era.
4) “Ski Time” A classic Warren Miller film that depicts the free spirit of skiing paired with flashy 80s snowsuits, synthesizer music and wailing guitars.
5) “Ski The Outer Limits” A 1967 film that many freestyle skiers, including Plake, site as a film that made them want to be in ski films. The film features slow motion shots that still awe audiences 40 years later.
6) “The Last of the Ski Bums!” A Dick Barrymore film that romanticizes the lifestyle of the ski bum while showcasing the skills of a star-studded cast.
7) “Ski Racer” Made in 1969, Paul Ryan’s “Ski Racer” is known for its stunning cinematography that captures the essence of the ski racer.
8) “The Performers” A well-loved Barrymore short that features Sun Valley’s K2 team of the early 70s.
9) “Legends of American Skiing” The 1983 historic look at the development of skiing until that point.
10) “Blizzard of Aahhh’s” The 1988 Greg Stump classic takes a team to Europe and showcases the raw lifestyle of the freestyle skiers of the 80s.
Many of the film’s directors, producers and stars where present to accept the awards that signify the large impact their films have had on the industry.
Movers and Shakers Party—Wednesday, March 30
The Community Library hosted the Movers and Shakers Party, which was one of the more intimate events of the week. The Party began with a short ski instructional video made in Sun Valley in the 1930s called “Skillfully Yours.” The audience, many of whom have seen first hand the changes in skiing techniques and ski equipment over the past few decades, were often chuckling so loud it was hard to hear the film’s instructions on how to load Baldy’s old single-person chair (one tower of which still greets visitors outside of the Lift Tower Lodge in Ketchum) or how to perform a kick-turn on skis without ending up in a pretzel.
After the film, various speakers including Doug Pfeiffer, who is best known for his contributions to Skiing Magazine in the 70s; Suzy Chaffee, Olympic downhill skier who is credited with popularizing ski ballet; Nelson Bennett, who during his 20 years directing the local ski patrol designed the first rescue toboggans with tracking fins on the bottom; and the father of Glen Plake, the unforgettable freestyle skier of the 80s; told stories of how Sun Valley came to be, their memories of it and their own personal journeys as skiers. Despite the room being so packed that people lined the walls, the evening seemed like a small group of friends chatting over drinks, remembering the good old times.
K2 Barrymore Freedogger Party—Thursday, March 31
A late-night hamburger eating contest, beer pong championship and wet t-shirt competition judged by four of the five K2 “Performers,” took the entire crowd in the at-capacity Whiskey Jacques and transported it back to the wild scenes of the 70s. Although a no nudity rule tried to keep the evening tamer than those of the disco age, rules seemed to lose meaning as the night wore on. All in all, the contestants in each competition kept their behavior in check, but every now and then one too many burgers or one item of clothing too few would stun the audience, making them wonder if they should turn away or continue to watch. Quality prizes, including K2 skis and a trip for two to Mexico, we given away throughout the night to costume contest and raffle winners.
U.S. Ski Hall of Fame Inductions—Saturday, April 2
The headlining event of the week was everything it was rumored to be. The sold out dinner held close to 500 attendees in the Limelight Room in Sun Valley. Nearly every table was graced with the presence of someone who has had a significant effect on the ski industry. The six inductees each accepted their awards humbly but with a little individual flare.
Earl Holding, owner of Sun Valley and Snowbasin, was the first inductee to take the stage, with his wife Carol speaking on his behalf. Carol teased that he wouldn’t be getting the induction if she hadn’t been by his side to help along the way, which made everyone in the room, especially Earl, smile.
Muffy Davis, Paralympian medalist and local athlete, was the second inductee. Davis fought tears while thanking her family and coaches from over the years. “I speak for a living, and I am speechless,” Davis said. She also thanked her skiing idol, Gretchen Faser, saying “You taught me that more important than being a world class athlete is to be a world class person.”
Bobby Cochran, the third inductee, holds a long list of titles including being the youngest person to ever join the U.S. Ski Team when he first joined at age 16. Cochran was also recognized for his family’s impact on skiing and dedication to the sport. His speech held a light-hearted tone as he thanked his family, ski representatives, good friends and former teammates. “I’m incredibly humbled to be in the presence of Glen, Muffy, Shane, Daron and Earl,” Cochran said.
Daron Rahlves, the most decorated downhill ski racer in the country, stepped up to the plate next. Rahlves joked with his good friend and childhood competitor Zach Crist, who sat at a table in the front of the room. He told stories of how he got into skiing and about why he loves it, but also cautioned the audience not to think his career has already peaked. “Like Glen said to me when we found out we were getting inducted, ‘I don’t know if we should accept it—we’re not done yet’,” Rahlves joked.
Sherry McConkey spoke for the late Shane McConkey, who is frequently called the most influential man freestyle skiing has seen. The entire room seemed to take a deep breath as the video introducing who Shane was played. Sherry kept her speech brief but reminisced about Shane and how he always aimed to make people laugh. “Shane would be so honored to receive this award,” Sherry said. A lengthy applause showed the mark Shane made on a community that misses him.
Glen Plake was the final and most colorful inductee. He began his speech describing a “pee tube,” saying it’s a device used on long car trips to discretely go to the bathroom without having to stop. He then transitioned saying, “I wish there was a pee tube for my tear ducts, because they’re going to flow.” Plake’s speech included both tears and his distinct laugh—a staccato chuckle that always seems to trigger accompanying laughter. His trademark Mohawk towered above the podium as he thanked his family, his friends and the original “hotdog” skiers.
The night continued with awards given to an endless list of skiers who were deemed the “Founding Fathers of Freestyle.” After the induction, the week had officially come to an end.
Over the seven days I spent listening to the skiers reminisce and catch up and after watching the films that shared their talents with the world, I learned a lot about where skiing has come from and where it is headed. But more important than learning the technical history involved of who did what first and how they did, I saw the freestyle community that has been created over the years and the mutual respect the skiers have for each other. On the slopes, it’s about going big, which is often perceived as skiers trying to one-up each other. But after seeing so many “big name” skiers all hanging out in one place, I got the impression that they all do what they do in the interest of seeing how big the sport as a whole can go and simply because they love it.
For more information on the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame visit www.skihall.org/.