Alf Engen Museum to induct two Parkites into Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame
Each year, staff with the Alf Engen Ski Museum pore over documents, review testimony, and confer among themselves about who is who in the ski world. Who has contributed “exemplary achievements” to the sport, and how? Who is worthy of being enshrined at one of the nation’s most-visited, and well-heeled winter sports museums?
This year, the staff selected Barbara Yamada, Mel Fletcher and Gary DeSeelhorst, and on Sept. 20, the three will join the ranks of Joseph Quinney and Engen himself as inductees into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame.
Yamada, a Parkite, was selected for multiple reasons, including the decades she spent as an instructor, coach, referee, director and official, working at the highest level of the sport.
She was also on the advisory board for the Alf Engen Ski Museum and one of the first to join the museum foundation when it was started in the late 1980s.
Connie Nelson, executive director of the foundation, said Yamada is a “volunteer extraordinaire.”
“If you need anything to get done, you just go to Barbara,” Nelson said.
Yamada has also been the chair of the University of Utah J. Willard Ski Archive since 2000. The historic library stores one- and two-dimensional historical ski artifacts, including photographs, video footage (which the university digitizes) and documents.
“We are honored to induct Barbara Yamada, as someone who gives tirelessly to the ski and snowsport industry throughout the Intermountain West,” Nelson said.
Fletcher, who died in 2010, was heavily involved in Park City’s early ski scene.
Nelson said Fletcher’s father was the town’s barber when Park City was a mining town, and Fletcher became one of the area’s first ski jumpers. The museum still holds a pair of skis Fletcher fashioned from the stays of a whiskey barrel.
His passion for skiing extended long after his use for the whiskey barrel skis. In 1946, Fletcher opened Summit County’s first ski school — at Snowpark, which is now Deer Valley Resort — and was the park’s first ski school director. Then he spent 13 years as the ski patrol director at the newly-opened Treasure Mountain, which is now Park City Mountain Resort. Between 1979 and 1981, he was the patrol director at Parley’s Summit, which is now Gorgoza Park.
“I just think, ‘What a character,’” Nelson said. “The first ski school director, then the first ski patrol director. Lots of firsts for Mel Fletcher.”
Out of the three inductees, DeSeelhorst is the only non-Parkite. DeSeelhorst is a Solitude resident and, in many ways, the embodiment of the resort. He saw an ad soliciting the sale of the resort in 1977, while he and his wife Betsy were still living Phoenix, and purchased it in search for a quieter lifestyle. DeSeelhorst and his family grew the resort for close to 40 years until it was purchased by Deer Valley in 2014.
“He also spearheaded the effort to create a sewer district that now serves most of Big Cottonwood Canyon,” the press release states.
While being known for a 17-mile sewer system might not sound notable, Nelson said it was a massive undertaking that allowed the resort to flourish.
“The infrastructure behind any development is a lot of negotiations, and a lot of persistence and probably badgering and dogging people, then all of that came together,” Nelson said.
DeSeelhorst, Yamada and Fletcher will be inducted into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame on Thursday, Sept. 20, starting at 6 p.m. at the Alf Engen Ski Museum.
“Each honoree receives a framed glass plaque bearing their likeness and synopsis of their accomplishments, and contributions that merit Hall of Fame status,” a press release from the museum states. “A duplicate plaque is enshrined in the Will and Jean Pickett Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame at the Alf Engen Ski Museum.”
The Park City High School track team concluded its season on May 17 and 18 at the Class 4A state championship meet at Brigham Young University.