Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame inducts Parkites native and adopted
The Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame inducted three new members on Thursday evening in a ceremony at the Alf Engen Ski Museum.
The honorees included Gary DeSeelhorst, a leader in the development of Solitude Mountain Resort, and two Parkites: Barbara Yamada, an Idaho native who has spent much of her time in Park City volunteering, and the late Mel Fletcher, a fourth-generation Parkite who was one of the area’s first ski instructors.
DeSeelhorst, according to a release from the Alf Engen Ski Museum, ran Solitude for 38 years and turned a struggling ski area into a “world-class destination.” Also recognized were David Vandehei, a museum volunteer since 2002 who rose to chair the organization from 2009 to 2017, and Ann Miller, a volunteer who educates through the Educational Field Trip Program. The pair received the museum foundation’s Crystal Award for their support.
More than a coach
Dori Pratt was 5 years old when she met Mel Fletcher. It was her first day skiing at Snow Park Resort, where Fletcher had taken the reins of the ski school in 1946, and Pratt said he made an immediate impact.
“He really was an infectious character and he loved it,” said Pratt, who nominated Fletcher for induction into the hall of fame. “He walked the walk and he talked the talk.”
Fletcher died in 2010 at the age of 92. Today, Pratt embodies Fletcher’s legacy as she teaches beginners how to hit the slopes of Deer Valley, the present-day resort where Snow Park used to stand.
“This person influenced me from when I was 5 years old, and 58 years later I was able to do this,” Pratt said. “That’s an amazing thing.”
Fletcher’s surviving family, including Peggy Fletcher, his widow; Rex Fletcher, his son; and Jilbette Gordon, his daughter, accepted the award on his behalf. The family, all of whom except Peggy were born in and reside in Summit County, agreed that Mel’s induction was, as Gordon put it, “a big deal for ‘old’ Park City.”
Mel Fletcher, the grandson of a Park City barber, was described as a “human ski lift,” ski patrol and instruction pioneer, and a lot more.
“He was involved in a lot of the development of Park City itself because he was a volunteer fireman before they had paid firemen,” Peggy said. “He was with the American Legion, he was with the Elks Lodge.”
Rex Fletcher agreed, saying his impact on the latter era of Park City’s history went beyond the slopes.
“He was involved in everything,” Rex said. “It was a small town back then and everybody had the drive to make the community better and keep the community as one.”
Peggy Fletcher’s reaction to participating in the ceremony was simple.
“(It’s) wonderful,” she said after a pause. “Well-deserved.”
Living the dream
Barbara Yamada, another longtime Parkite inducted into the hall of fame, is a native of Pocatello, Idaho, who came for the powder and stayed for the people.
“I just love the area,” she said. “Park City is an amazing place to be, and there is a lot of volunteer work to be done as well.”
It’d be easier to list out the Utah ski events and programs to which Yamada hasn’t contributed. She’s worked with the organizers of countless races, handled media relations at Soldier Hollow during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and has been considered the “team mom” of the University of Utah ski team.
Contributing to the running of the Olympics made a particular impression on the lifetime skier. In 1995, she was present in downtown Salt Lake City when the International Olympic Committee announced Utah would host the games.
“It was something I’ve always wanted to do was be involved with the Olympics and here we had it in our own backyard,” Yamada said. “It was amazing to walk through the venue at 6 o’ clock in the morning with the sun coming up.
“It’s one of those dreams that you have and then all of a sudden it’s here.”