Hall of Famers on Snowsport History Week

Hall of Famers on Snowsport History Week

Published by Brion O'Connor

Interviews and Ski Hall Event Info.

It is the pinnacle of any sports profession – the Hall of Fame. But when a Hall of Fame includes a sport with a tradition as deep and long-lasting as skiing – both Nordic and Alpine – and another sport as new and refreshing as snowboarding, the entity takes on an even greater meaning.

The beauty of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in Ishpeming, Michigan, is that it encompasses all facets of the two sports, from resort visionaries and electrifying personalities to peerless competitors and groundbreaking instructors.

"I am both humbled and honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame," said John Egan, a legendary "extreme skiing" pioneer who is being inducted along with his brother Dan Egan, (pictured above). "So many of my childhood heroes are in there, so it blows my mind.

"I'm not sure it's really hit home yet. I'm sure it will set in at the induction," said Egan, 58, who starred in a number of Warren Miller ski films and is now a vice president and "Chief Recreating Officer" at Sugarbush in Vermont. "There are so many who shared their secrets about this sport with me that it feels like the definition of 'It takes a village."

Early next month, members of that "village" will gather for the 2017 Snowsport History Summit at the quintessential ski village of Stowe, Vermont. The Hall's annual Snowsport History Week (April 5-9) will celebrate the lives and contributions of the 10 Class of 2016 inductees – three women and seven men – who helped redefine the skiing and snowboarding landscape.

"With the Hall's dedication to preserve skiing's heritage and promote the sport, we found it a natural fit with our mission to provide ski-centric solutions to get skiers and riders on the snow," said Steven Abramowitz, founder and CMO for Kulkea, an event sponsor. "For more than 60 years, the Hall has recognized great athletes and ambassadors of the sport we all love. We congratulate the class of 2016."

In addition to the Egan brothers, the Class of 2016 includes Michael Berry, executive director of the National Ski Areas Association, world-class freestyle skier Ellen Post Foster, four-time US National ski jumping champ Jeff Hastings, world freestyle champion Marion Post Caldwell, ski patroller and historian Gretchen Rous Besser, industry advocate and event promoter Bernie Weichsel, snowboarding impresario Shaun Palmer, and the late Vail Associates executive Charles "Chuck" Lewis.

Dr. Besser, a native of Brooklyn now living in Vermont, said the induction was the zenith of a lengthy career. Now 88, Dr. Besser is a retired French professor as well as a former ski patroller and First Aid instructor. For more than three decades, she has been the historian for the National Ski Patrol, writing and publishing two editions of The National Ski Patrol: Samaritans of the Snow (1983 and 2012).

"As a (Hall of Fame) board member for 14 years, I had met many previous inductees," she said. "In Sun Valley in 2011, I had the privilege of hanging the Hall of Fame medal around Bobby Cochran's neck. This time, I'll bend my head in gratitude for the same honor. Being enshrined in the Hall is a dream come true."

According to the Hall's web site, the late Mason Beekley founded the non-profit International Skiing History Association (ISHA) in the spring of 1991 "initially as a way to encourage more research on the subject." By late summer, the new organization had roughly 150 charter members, who decided it was time for a national "convention."

Doug Pfeiffer organized the inaugural ISHA Gathering at Whistler, British Columbia, in April 1992. A year later, ISHA's 2nd annual gathering at Sugarbush, Vermont, saw the presentation of the inaugural ISHA Awards to the late Sir Arnold Lunn and John Henry Auran, for lifetime achievement in ski journalism. The gathering was a three-day affair, with an awards banquet, a "Movers and Shakers" party to celebrate the history of skiing, and plenty of skiing by participants.

The "Movers and Shakers" description still holds true, considering the scope of the accomplishments of the inductees, and how they serve as role models. For example, the diminutive Marion Post Caldwell dominated world freestyle skiing competition in the 1970s, capturing the 1974 Women's World Ballet title and winning the Women's Overall Championship in 1976 and 1977.

"Induction to the Ski Hall of Fame means the contributions I made to the sport and art of skiing will be remembered and perhaps inspire others," said Caldwell, 62, an East Coast native now residing in Colorado. "For me, personally, I appreciate the opportunity to express my gratitude to the many people who inspired me and my passion for skiing."

In 2011, during the Skiing Heritage Week in Sun Valley, Idaho, Weichsel, then board chairman of the Hall of Fame, led a collaborative effort with ISHA to add the induction ceremony to the line-up as the featured event. The following five years saw stops in Seattle, Vail, Park City, Steamboat Springs and Aspen, with each successive event bringing more attendees and a more robust schedule. In 2013, Skiing Heritage magazine was renamed Skiing History, and the event changed to Skiing History Week. The ceremony in Stowe will mark the 26th annual gathering.

"I view being inducted into the Hall of Fame as a great honor," said Weichsel, a New York native now living in Massachusetts. "(It's) a gift from the sport and lifestyle that I love and has bestowed on me many great experiences and, more importantly, many friends.

Asked what he considered the highlights of his career, the 68-year-old Weichsel said: "Working with, and getting to know, many of the sports visionaries and amazing athletes, (and) taking the message of how great skiing is in the United States to the world, through the SKIUSA international marketing program I created."

Ellen Post Foster has also taken the message of skiing to others through her work as a ski instructor and author. Currently the staff trainer at the Beaver Creek Ski & Snowboard School, Foster wrote "Skiing and the Art of Carving," an instructional book and video aimed at educating skiers during the transition time between straight and shaped skis, and co-authored the PSIA Alpine Technical Manual (2014). Another New York native now living in ski country (Edwards, Colorado), Foster said her selection was more than an individual reward, but a reflection of the sport's great tradition of education.

"It's such an incredible honor to be recognized for my educational contributions as an author, clinician, and coach," said Foster, 62. "I believe the instructional aspect of our sport is extremely important, and my selection is a win for all instructors and coaches who are out on the slopes everyday sharing their expertise and passion for skiing."

Former Olympic jumper Jeff Hastings (4th on the large hill at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo) has also been the face of the sport as a television commentator through eight Olympics, 1988 -2014, and his work with USA Nordic.

"It's a sport I love and one that has played an enormous role in my life, so any deepening of connection through recognition like this is very meaningful," said Hastings, 57. "I really appreciate all the hard work that goes into pulling the event together."

Dan Egan, much like his older brother John, said his career had too many highlights to count, a reflection of a lifetime spent in the sport. He had particularly fond words for Hall of Fame filmmaker Warren Miller ("He taught me the art of story-telling and creating inspirational and educational content that entertains and informs audiences about people, places and things."). But the bottom line, said the Boston native, was that his induction brings him back to his roots, and the roots of the sport.

"My induction to the Hall of Fame along with my brother John highlights skiing as a family sport," said Dan Egan, 53. "My entire family skis, as kids it was the main activity for all seven of us in the winter along with my parents. John and I were able to take a family activity, and a passion we learned from our parents, into a career and a lifelong adventure that has taken us around the globe.

"It's been a great journey, and for the two of us to land in the Hall of Fame drives home that sometimes in life your best moments are when you're able to complement and enhance another's talent," he said. "It took two of us to get here, each of us drawing from the energy of the other, and that's something that doesn't happen all the time. It's a special and humbling experience."

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is set for April 8 at Stowe.

Photo: Dan and John Egan,

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