Ridgelines: Chasing our dreams on skis

'What we do in skiing is important.'

Tom Kelly
Park City Ridge Pano 16x9 | David Jackson/Park Record
| David Jackson/Park Record
| David Jackson/Park Record

My longtime friend Peter Graves and I first encountered each other in the mid-70s. A love of skiing brought us together. He was a cross country skier from Vermont. I was a sports journalist from Wisconsin. Somehow our mutual storytelling of people who slide on snow connected us as friends for life.

This past weekend, Peter was inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Big Sky, Montana. When we began our careers over 40 years ago, neither of us gave the Hall of Fame a thought. It wasn’t a goal. It wasn’t even a dream. But we both loved telling stories. And along the way, we found plenty of people who wanted to listen.

While I spent my career with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team, Peter regaled finish-line audiences from Beaver Creek to Oslo to Sochi. He provided informative commentary from ABC to ESPN to live-streaming networks. His words echoed through Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2002 as the Twin Towers’ flag made its way into the Olympic stadium. Over that time, he became the voice of our sport. His friendly smile, distinctive voice and outgoing personality made him a magnet for athletes and fans as he walked through resorts or airport concourses. Some my fondest memories are sitting next to him in production booths as together we told the story of our sport.

I hung onto every word of the induction speeches from some of the biggest names in our sport from Bode Miller to snowboarding legend Terry Kidwell, former Park City Ski Team coach Phil McNichol to ski ballet legend Alan Schoenberger. Through it all, it opened my eyes and my heart to what skiing has meant to my life.

Schoenberger, who still runs Ski Studio Park City, combined his love for dance and skiing into artful ballet on snow. “I discovered true magic through skiing.”

In the 1980s, adventurer Jan Reynolds went places no woman, or man, had ever gone. Her expeditions introduced her to civilizations around the world, telling their stories in the words and pictures of her journeys. “Skiing gave me the gift of learning how I can serve,” she told the audience as she was welcomed into the Hall of Fame.

Renie Gorsuch, together with her late husband Dave, became the most noted ski retailers in America, with shops in the Clocktower in Vail and on Park City’s Main Street, plus tens of millions of catalog readers worldwide. They met in the ‘50s, skied at the 1960 Olympics and together built a global brand. In talking about their success, she summed it up simply: “We never lost our love for skiing.”

“What we do in skiing is important,” said Mike Hattrup, a star of the seminal 1989 film “Blizzard of Ahhhs.” “It’s about the connectivity to each other and to our planet.”

“Everyone who skis makes a contribution,” said Miller, who now lives in Big Sky. “There’s value to everyone’s participation.” 

As skiers, we all have memories of how it all began for us. Long before Hall of Famer Dan Egan was hucking himself off cliffs for Warren Miller’s cameras, he was one of eight kids that dad would load into the car every Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m. Each would pack a sandwich alongside the dreams of how much fun they would have on the slopes in New England that day.

James Bond stuntman John Eaves (“For Your Eyes Only”) quoted Hall of Famer Hans Gmoser: “A man should have wings to carry him where his dreams go. But sometimes a pair of skis makes a good substitute.”

I harkened back to my own first time over Thanksgiving at Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley ski area in 1970. I must have had fun as I came back a month later for more. And I’ve never stopped.

Today, we all live in a modern day ski town here in Park City. Amidst our bustling day-to-day lives, it’s sometimes nice to step back and think about the opportunity we have here and what it means in our hearts to be skiers living in a mountain town like Park City.

“Mountains transform us,” said Hall of Fame honoree Rusty Gregory, the longtime Mammoth Mountain and Alterra Mountain Company leader. “Everyone thinks theirs is the best. Mountains inspire and transform us. But what’s really inspiring and transformational are the people finding the best version of themselves.”


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