BRETTON WOODS, N.H. — After a picture-perfect day in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a gathering of ski and snowboard community members and industry insiders took place at the Mount Washington Resort to celebrate the 2019 and 2020 inductees into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
It was the kind of event where no one blamed you for showing up late because you stayed out skiing until almost last chair. It was that kind of ski day, and many of those gathered had spent their Saturday on the slopes at Bretton Woods, at other events around the resort or the region, such as the Hannes Schneider Meister Cup at nearby Cranmore, or in some other way enjoying themselves.
When it got dark and everyone filtered toward the Presidential Ballroom, there was networking, reunions, and thirst-quenching before sitting down to dinner and an evening of honoring six people who have played a wide range of important roles in the world of skiing and snowboarding. The New Hampshire inductees (a second induction event is being held later this month in Idaho) were Sherman Poppen, the inventor of the precursor to the snowboard, the “Snurfer;” Jiminy Peak and Cranmore owner Brian Fairbank; former U.S. Ski Team racer Holly Flanders; Olympic snowboarder Seth Wescott; ski fashion industry expert and promoter Barbara Alley Simon; and the late U.S. Ski Team leader Howard Peterson.
Here are a few takeaways from the induction ceremony, which was hosted by Dan Egan, who is a friend of pretty much everyone who attended.
– Julie Poppen, one of Sherman’s daughters, explained why we have Olympic snowboarding rather than Olympic snurfing. According to Julie, the late Jake Burton Carpenter once asked Sherman Poppen if the Burton snowboards he was making could also be called a “Snurfer” since they were a progression from what Poppen started when he lashed two skis together and attached a rope as a way to get his children outdoors to play in the snow.
But when Sherm said that would be fine as long as he was paid royalties, Burton balked and went with snowboard as the name of his creation. Still, it’s fun to imagine Mike Tirico hosting NBC’s Olympics coverage and saying something like “OK now we’ll take you back out to the snurfing big air competition …”
– Apparently yodeling is a Poppen family tradition, and Julie proved it.
– Seth Wescott, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in snowboardcross who was raised in Maine, gave a moving tribute to his friend and wax technician Curtis Bacca and the crucial role he played in Wescott’s success. Of course it’s nothing new for an athlete to heap praise on those who support him or her, but Wescott’s words were genuine and sincere, and it was fitting that Bacca was the one who placed the Hall of Fame medal of honor around Wescott’s neck.
– The signature move of Holly Flanders, a New England native who learned to ski race at Mount Sunapee and Burke Mountain Academy and was a two-time Olympian, was the ability to glide really well. That helped her to three World Cup victories, but the way she explained it, her connection to family was also central to her success. She praised her sister, Deb, for providing “shoulders to stand on” as she learned the sport, and said she tried to do the same for her own son, X Games gold medalist Alex Schlopy. Skiing tends to be a family affair, and Flanders clearly appreciated that.
– I’ve been to countless awards dinners and programs, and a well-crafted booklet with stories of those being honored is always a mark of the best of them. In this case, the souvenir program is a treasure trove of concise, yet informative profiles that put a face on key aspects of skiing history. Kudos to Mike Bigford, whom Egan told me wrote all the articles for the Hall of Fame.
– There’s a tendency to laugh at old-time photos of skiers because of the attire the subjects are wearing, especially in the ’80s, but fashion is an evolutionary process, and Barbara Alley Simon was on the front lines when it came to winter clothing. At the induction, the 86-year-old Simon was among the most stylish of the guests. The next time I am in Park City, Utah, checking out the ski fashion exhibit at the Alf Engen ski history museum that bears her name is pretty high on my to-do list.
Matt Pepin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.