The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame hasn’t had an official induction ceremony since 2019 in Salt Lake City. Next month, it will host two of them.
The pandemic might have helped to postpone ceremonies planned for two straight years in Sun Valley, Idaho, but that didn’t mean that the Hall of Fame, based in what is claimed to be the birthplace of organized skiing, Ishpeming, Michigan, put a similar halt on nominations. Thus, 18 new members have made the cut over the past three years. That’s far too many to honor over the course of only one night.
So the Hall of Fame decided to make this year’s return to the in-person inductions a two-night affair. Twelve members, including Greg Stump, Kit Deslauriers and Scott Brooksbank, will be inducted at Sun Valley during the last weekend in March. The other six will be induced March 5 at Omni Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire.
According to Brian Fairbank, a member of the Class of 2020 who will be inducted at Bretton Woods, the wait has been anything but a downer.
“COVID has itself been enough of a challenge that my induction took second fiddle to everything else we’ve been challenged with,” Fairbank said. “I’m not at all downed by it. It’s probably been an extra year of reflection and saying, ‘Holy cow, this is really going to happen.’ ”
Fairbank, who took over operations at Massachusetts’ Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in 1969 at the age of 23 and bought the mountain with partner Joe O’Donnell in 1985, is chairman of the Fairbank Group, which also operates Cranmore Mountain Resort in New Hampshire and Bromley Mountain in Vermont. He is widely recognized as a pioneer in green energy and sustainability.
“You’re being recognized for your contributions to the industry,” Fairbank said. “Yes, my career and what I’ve done in the ski resort development business is important, but what I was able to contribute along the way is more valuable from a ski industry standpoint. To be inducted into that realm of people is remarkable. It really is. It’s a lifelong accomplishment that I can never say I was striving for this my whole life.”
There’s a laundry list of accomplishments that Fairbank can point to over the 70 years that encompass his love for skiing. He was instrumental in helping parabolic skis find their way to the forefront of the industry, convinced at how the shaped skis would help beginners in the sport after testing a pair of Hart parabolic skis at a mid-winter National Ski Areas Association conference at Stratton Mountain Resort in the mid-1990s. He wound up purchasing 10 more pairs for his ski instructors at Jiminy Peak to test. The rest is ski history.
But Fairbank figures his most memorable achievement would be his legacy of environmental sustainability. In 2007, Jiminy Peak installed a wind turbine. In 2016, the Fairbank Group added a 2.3MW solar facility, making Jiminy the first resort in America powered by 100 percent local renewable energy.
In 2008, the National Ski Areas Association recognized the effort with the Golden Eagle Award, the highest honor bestowed on a resort for its environmental performance.
“We were the first ones to take such a quantum leap in North America,” Fairbank said. “And that’s no josh. We stuck our necks out for $4 million to say, ‘OK, we want to try and be more self-sufficient in terms of the energy we use, primarily to make snow.’ ”
Those decisions helped thrust the ski industry into a whole other realm of possibility. And now, Fairbank into the Hall of Fame.
“Having it happen in New England is probably more important than having it on a national scene,” Fairbank said. “It would have been great to be at Sun Valley, but there was no way we could do so many people at one event.
“I’ve been at this love of skiing for 70 years and it’s kind of like, ‘Wow, it’s been a long journey.’ It’s great to be recognized.”
Others who will be inducted in the ceremony at the Mount Washington Hotel include:
Seth Wescott, a legendary snowboarder who attended Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine and was a two-time Olympic gold medalist in snowboardcross, including one in the sport’s debut at the 2006 Winter Games. He won four X Games medals over his career, including a gold, and four World Championship medals, one gold. He also co-owns the popular burger spot The Rack near Sugarloaf Mountain Resort.
Sherman Poppen, a Michigan native who died in 2019 at the age of 89, is the “Grandfather of Snowboarding,” a man who invented the Snurfer (snow surfboard) for low-cost, easy-access riding. Poppen would sell more than 800,000 Snurfer units at less than $7 each and helped blaze a trail that would lead to the late Jake Burton becoming known as the “Father of Snowboarding.”
Holly Flanders, a native of Arlington, Mass., was the first American to have a major impact on the World Cup downhill tour. In 1982, she was second in the women’s World Cup downhill standings. That was the highest placement in downhill for any woman from the U.S. for more than a decade. Twenty-nine-year-old freestyle skier Alex Schlopy is her son.
The late Howard Peterson, who died in 2020, was one of the most impactful individuals in competitive snowsports. He was an influential leader with the U.S. Ski Association and played a role in International Ski Federation evolving competitive skiing and snowboarding. In 1986, he moved the headquarters of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association to Utah, putting athletes close to major training and competitive venues. He also helped put Utah on the map for elite ski racing, proving that the state was highly capable of staging world-class competitions. That was an important criteria that helped Salt Lake land the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Barbara Alley Simon has been a fashion icon of the ski industry for nearly 50 years. Simon was chosen through a special election of the hall’s board of directors for her groundbreaking efforts and unwavering commitment to showcasing ski fashion to millions around the world, creating new skiers by bringing style to the slopes. Simon was fashion editor for Skiing Magazine (1975-80) and Snow Country (1988-92), and she produced fashion show elements for consumer ski shows across the country, working for show leaders Harry Leonard and Bernie Weichsel. She was the first recipient of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame’s Women in Industry Award. For 11 years (1980-90), her self-produced TV talk show and 16-city tours brought ski fashion to the public. She is married to Hall of Famer Jerry Simon, perhaps best-known as Harry Leonard’s director of executive sales. Simon was inducted in 2013.
Tickets for the March 5 induction at Bretton Woods can be purchased at skihall.com/induction.
Eric Wilbur can be reached at email@example.com.