PCMR’s Korfanta receives top honor at 2008 Ski Affair
October 17, 2008
Karen Korfanta has been the head of the race department at the Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) for 22 years, but she has been a part of Alpine ski racing for as long as she can remember. It’s her lifelong commitment to the sport that earned Korfanta the 2008 S.J. Quinney Award at the annual University of Utah J. Willard Marriot Library Ski Affair, which inducts history-making skiers into the Utah Ski Archives.
"I’m appreciative of the honor and the Quinney family," said Korfanta before the award ceremony held at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake Thursday night. "I’m very humbled by the company of the past recipients.
Those past recipients include Park City history makers Nick Badami and Edgar Stern, who both passed away this year.
"It’s apropos that Nick Badami and Edgar Stern just passed away," Korfanta said. "They were the pioneers of ski racing and their support of U.S. ski racing lit the fire."
A native of Pinedale, Wyo., Korfanta grew up skiing and racing at her parent’s ski resort, Surveyor Park Ski Area (now called White Pine Ski Area). As a child she would race with her sisters all over the Intermountain West and by the 1960s she had made herself into a junior champion in slalom, downhill and giant slalom. After graduation, she headed to Utah to join the University of Utah Ski Team. There she represented the Utes in the World University Games and even made it onto the U.S. Olympic team in 1968. Even with all of those honors, Korfanta is humble about her racing career.
"I wasn’t a world beater," she said. "But I enjoyed the racing."
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After retiring from racing in 1971, she landed the job that brought her to Park City. She worked for the U.S. Ski Team in the Alpine department, first as a program director in the newly created U.S. Ski Team National Training Center in Park City. From there she moved into the assistant Alpine director position. It was at the U.S. Ski Team that Korfanta with mentors and friends, Willy Schaeffler and Hank Tauber.
When PCMR hired her in 1986 the resort had just begun hosting Alpine World Cup events. Her time spent there over the last two decades allowed her to make racing history as the department hosted numerous national and international ski and snowboarding races, including America’s Opening World Cups and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Korfanta calls her role as sport manager at the Olympic Games the "crown jewel" of her highlight-filled career.
"After a few years of America’s Opening, we knew it [the Olympics] was in the future," she said."
But Korfanta wasn’t just part of the elite events. She made a difference at all levels. When she wasn’t organizing marquee events, she was running hundreds of masters and junior ski events. She figured that over the years she had averaged a huge number of "hip, hip hoorays" and "way to goes."
Karen isn’t the only Korfanta to be inducted into a hall of fame for contributions to skiing in the Intermountain West. Her father, Albert or "Sunny," now 93, was inducted into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame at Utah Olympic Park’s Alf Engen Ski Museum just last month. As she accepted the award, she thanked her parents, both of whom are still living, for giving her the love of the sport of Alpine ski racing.
Korfanta said this honor is recognition not only of her accomplishments, but the support of father and the rest of her family and numerous friends and colleagues.
"There are so many people along the way," she said. "You can’t do it by yourself."
Korfanta was actually doubly inducted on Tuesday.
The University of Utah Ski Team, which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, was also honored by the Utah Ski Archives with the History-Maker Award. The Utes were chosen based on their long-standing history as one of the foremost college ski teams in the country. Over 60 years, the team has had 10 national championships, plus one women’s championship before it became a part of the NCAA, many individual national titles, All-American honors and countless other accomplishments.
Besides Korfanta, dozens of past and present Alpine and Nordic skiers gathered at the Ski Affair to be recognized for the Utes’ top-ranked program. Among those that attending were members of the current Utah Ski Team and head coach Eli Brown, skiers from various decades, and legendary coaches Marv Melville, Pat Miller — who won nine national championships during his tenure — and Kevin Sweeney. Locals, such as U.S. Ski Team Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner, an individual national champion in the 1990s, were among the group as well as current Alpine skier, senior Chelsea Laswell, who grew up in Park City and skied for the Park City Ski Team.
"I think it’s a really big honor," Laswell said. "Our team works really hard. It’s a recognition they deserve."
She said that the Ute skiers past and present are a big family and that the team is gets inspiration from their storied past.
"Our team has a long-standing heritage," she said. "It’s a big deal to remember your past."