U.S. Ski and Snowboard recognizes Bruce Crane, former alpine director, for lifelong service to sport
U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s annual Chairman’s Awards Dinner — celebrated Thursday in Park City — was created to recognize the organization’s staff and partners — from athletes and coaches to clubs. But part of its goal is to shine a light on those who don’t often get a moment in the sun, which made it a perfect venue to celebrate Bruce Crane, a former U.S. Ski and Snowboard Alpine director and an International Ski Federation delegate who died of cancer last year. According to friends and family, Crane thrived behind the scenes.
His wife, Anita, described Crane as “dedicated, intense, an amazing volunteer,” and “a walking rulebook.”
Crane grew up in Plymouth, New Hampshire, in a family of ski enthusiasts. His mother was a dedicated race secretary at several clubs and his father helped create the first World Cup events in the state. Two of Crane’s five sisters — Joan Crane (Barthold) and Maggie Crane (Mumford) — earned places on the U.S. Ski Team at one point or another.
Crane himself was an occasional skier, trying his hand at ski jumping at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
“But that wasn’t where he needed to be,” Anita said.
He needed to be behind the scenes, his nose in a rulebook, or splicing together wires to make a timing or public address system run.
“He would always work it out so that everybody would be like, ‘Well, things just work out,’” said his son, Jeremy. “He was the one who was actually making things work out.”
This was particularly true of his time as a technical delegate for the International Ski Federation. In that role, he made sure each course was up to FIS standard in difficulty and in safety.
Jeremy and Anita both remembered walking resort runs with Crane — sometimes under the auspice of a recreational hike — looking at the slope or searching for damaged cables.
In 1988 he served as the head referee in Alpine skiing at the Calgary Winter Olympics, and in 2002 he inspected the downhill run at Snowbasin. He also served as the assistant manager for ski jumping and Nordic combined during the 2002 Winter Games and served as the Alpine director for U.S. Ski and Snowboard for 16 years. After ski racing, he joined Mountainlands Community Housing and Destination VIP in Park City, where he championed affordable housing — “It turned more to a social focus but (ski racing) was his passion that he would never let go,” Jeremy said.
“He never stopped volunteering, right up until his death,” said Tom Kelly, vice president of communication at U.S. Ski and Snowboard and the night’s emcee.
Gathered before the awards ceremony, Anita, Jeremy and Crane’s sister, Charlotte, discussed what Crane would have thought of receiving the Julius Blegen Award — essentially U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s lifetime achievement award and its highest honor.
Anita said it probably would have meant a great deal to him.
“I think he worked really hard,” she said. “Knowing Bruce, he was a really humble person, I think he would be slightly embarrassed.”
Charlotte said his speech would have been spent recognizing his peers.
Jeremy said he would probably spend most of his speech talking about things that needed to change and ways of getting the ski racing world to follow suit.
When it came time for Anita and Jeremy to accept the award — the last of the night — their words were heartfelt, and hilariously honest.
Jeremy introduced his father, his father’s ski racing upbringing, and how his father helped instill that passion in him. Then he cut to the heart of the matter: Why Bruce Crane was worthy of the award.
“It wasn’t until after college that my father discovered the truly inspiring magic and wonder that is the rules and regulations of ski racing,” he said.
He added that, for many who follow their passion into a professional career, the love of what draws them in wilts under the fluorescent lights of their offices.
“The administrivia of it all starts to cloud what was once such a joy,” Jeremy said. “My father was not one of these people. The deeper he went into the back office of the sport, the more his passion grew. He found his calling with some of the most boring, albeit necessary aspects of the sport.”
He said sometimes his father’s relentless attention to detail wasn’t always comfortable to be around, but no one questioned that it came from a love for the sport and its athletes.
The crowd on Thursday loved it. Tables of grown men and women in button-up shirts laughed aloud, shaking their head with recognition at the descriptions of their former colleague.
“The presentation by Bruce Crane’s son, Jeremy, was just a perfect characterization of his father and what he meant to this organization,” Kelly said.
“He worked in an area that a lot of people kind of stay away from. It’s an area that requires a lot of knowledge of detail and mathematics, and understanding how the ranking systems work and the algorithms that go behind those ranking systems to evaluate athletic performance. He was a whiz at that stuff and made a real impact internationally.”
Jeremy said those that knew his father well knew he would never have shown what the award meant to him. But Crane would have been very proud.
Anita felt the same way.
“I was married to him for almost 40 years,” she said before taking the stage. “And I went to a lot of ski races with him, spent a lot of time waiting for the race to be over. But I was always proud of him. He was always the last person to leave, always carried briefcases full of paper. If he had a meeting he prepared for it well in advance.”
She described him as “a man of great integrity.”
“You could always trust him,” she added. “If he said he was going to do something he would do it. Always followed through.”
Kelly said there has remained a cadre of people on staff that share Crane’s affinity for the nitty-gritty.
“We’ve honored a number of them with this award over the years, but there are very few quite like Bruce with his depth of knowledge,” Kelly said. “We do have a number of them coming up through the ranks right now, but he was really one of a kind.”
After the ceremony, the crowd disbanded. The athletes, trainers and coaches went back to the their training centers, weights, and statistics. And the Bruce Cranes of the world went back to their administrative warrens, where the good stuff was waiting in fine print and hidden figures — waiting to be extrapolated and put to use so that the rest of the world could go on turning with the understanding that somehow, it all works out.
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