Midway, UT -- Soldier Hollow Legacy Foundation has announced the retirement of Howard Peterson, who has served as executive director of the foundation since shortly after he helped create it with other community leaders in 1999.
An original advocate for Salt Lake City hosting the 2002 Olympic & Paralympic Games, Peterson pushed for the cross-country skiing and biathlon venue that would become Soldier Hollow to be made a permanent one with lasting legacy. After the flame was extinguished, Peterson helped transfer the venue's operation to the foundation and, over the past 14 years, his creative vision has led Soldier Hollow to become what it is today: a community and recreational fixture in the Heber Valley, and premier training and competition destination for Nordic skiers of all ages and abilities.
A Maine native, Peterson retires after a long history of service to the ski community. His career began in 1974 as ski director of the fabled Bretton Woods resort in New Hampshire. He moved west in 1978 to work for the U.S. Ski Association, and soon became its executive director. Over his 13-year tenure, among other accomplishments, Peterson reunited the organization with the U.S. Ski Team in Park City and helped elevate freestyle skiing to Olympic medals status. As chair of the FIS Advertising Committee for 22 years, Peterson contributed to the dramatic growth of the sport, including the incorporation of snowboarding.
Tom Kelly, vice president of communications for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, gives Peterson credit for convincing the U.S. Olympic Committee to choose American Olympic bid cities based in part on their ability to create "legacy" athletic venues.
"In 1988 he went to the U.S. Olympic Committee with the concept that was, 'Don't pick a bid city for the Olympics that's just going to do a good job with the Olympics. Pick someone who's willing to give back to the community long term by developing venues whether they get the Olympics or not, and then managing those venues in perpetuity, because that's where you're going to really build legacy.' And he took that to the USOC in 1988 and they bought into that. And they changed the direction of their U.S. bid process because of what he had brought them," Kelly said.
Under Peterson's leadership, Soldier Hollow has made good on its legacy mission. More than 91,000 Utah youth have tried skiing through the organization's programming. The Soldier Hollow Charter School, located in the timing building from the Olympics, incorporates skiing into the school's curriculum. At the elite level, Soldier Hollow's ski trails and shooting range continue to attract racers from across North America each year for training camps and competitions.
Peterson diversified the events found at Soldier Hollow beyond hosting international, collegiate, and local ski races. He established the first full-service tubing hill in the valley, a creative way to build the venue's revenue and customer base. It has served more than 420,000 tubers. Peterson's vision also brought new attractions to Soldier Hollow, including the Dirty Dash, Spartan Race, Heber Valley Pow Wow, and Sheepdog Championships. The latter event has become the largest of its kind in the world, attracting 28,100 spectators last September.
"How he has impacted the entire region with that tourist attraction is remarkable," Kelly said. "And when you look at the numbers of kids that he has introduced to cross-country skiing, it's huge. And those two pieces, to me, are the biggest contributions that he's made. And I think to a great extent he's a real unsung hero."