As the Bull Wheel Turns |
Special to the Tribune
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Sun Valley, Idaho, to attend the International Skiing Heritage Association and United Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, combined meeting where they inducted this year’s Hall of Fame recipients.
Sun Valley is the “Grand Dame” of all destination resorts, being the first ski resort in the U.S., celebrating 75 years of operation, and it was befitting to have the resort host this event.
The highlight of the event for me was the gathering of the Pioneers of Freestyle, those who competed in “Hot Dog” skiing events from the early 70s. My brother from another mother, Wayne Wong, along with Bob Salerno, Bobbie Burns, John Clendenin, Airborn Eddie Ferguson, Wild Bill O’Leary and more, including Gerry Goodman & Chris Thorne from South Tahoe were there as well. Many others traveled from all over the country and the world to attend this epic, once-in-a-lifetime event.
Inductees included Earl Holding, owner of Sun Valley Resort; Muffy Davis, Olympic medalist from the US Disabled Ski Team; Bobby Cochran, former US Olympic Ski Team Member; and, from our area, Glen Plake, Daron Rahlves and Shane McConkey.
It was great to ski with these pioneers and legends of freestyle, and the camaraderie of these old friends and competitors made for an incredibly fun experience for all who attended.
I originally aspired to compete in freestyle skiing back in the early 70s but went the gate-racing path until I realized that I was not able to dedicate the time for training and be competitive; bottom line, I wasn’t fast enough … but, took the path of becoming a freelance photographer and opened the first photo concession at Kirkwood in the early 70s just after the resort opened its slopes.
I met most of these pioneers shooting such legendary events as Kirkwood’s Boogie ‘n the Bumps. The J.C. (John Clendenin) Mogul Enduro and the Pro Freestyle Skiing Tour hosted by Heavenly. I was reacquainted with these legends in the early 90s when I was the course announcer for the annual Top Gun on Gunbarrel Mogul Competition that was hosted at Heavenly. And, again as an event announcer for the Wayne Wong World Hot Dog Freestyle Skiing Championship in the late 90s to early 2000s at Alpine Meadows.
Wayne Wong, John Clendenin, Bobby Burns, Bob Salerno, Scott Brooksbank, Troy Caldwell, Glen Plake and even younger bump skiers such as Travis Cabral attended and joined in the fun with high flying jumps, required Slow Dog noodles and Ballet Ski antics before crossing the finish line.
The event hosted the Inaugural Edition of the new Ski & Snowboard Film Institute Film Festival, with daily showing of vintage ski films such as “der Weisse Rausch” (White Ecstasy) from 1931; “The Best of John Jay” (1938-76); Ski the Outer Limits (1967), produced by Roger Brown & Barry Corbet’s Summit Films; Dick Barrymore’s “The Last of the Ski Bums!” (1969) and “The Performers” (1971); “Legends of American Skiing” (1983), produced by Rick Moulton; and Greg Stump’s “The Blizzard of Aahhh’s.” Plus a special showing of “Winter Equinox,” a 65-minute documentary film on the 1974 Freestyle Skiing Pro Tour to which just about all who were featured in the documentary were in attendance.
So much fun to see skiing hippies with long-hair, mustaches, side burns and beards and ski clothing from the 70s in these films and we all had a great time reminiscing the era.
Other fun activities included a K2 Cheese Burger Eating Contest and, in 70’s Hot Dog Skiing tradition, a K2 Wet T-shirt Contest. Other female freestyle skiers who attended, but did not enter the wet T-shirt contest, included the likes of Suzy “Chapstick” Chaffee, Genia Fuller Crews, Penelope Street, Colleen Stewart and both Ellen & Marion Post, who were known as the Post Toasty Twins in the day.
The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame induction dinner was packed with nearly 600 in attendance for the dinner and standing room only for the presentation. Daron Rahlves accepted his induction and talked about his involvement with the U.S. Ski Team and breaking through with podium finishes in World Cup competition and identifying himself as a skier; Sherry Smulders McConkey accepted the award for her late husband and innovated extreme skier, Shane McConkey; and last but not least, Glen Plake accepted his award with the support of his family that were all in attendance.
The final presentation brought all the former Freestyle Hot Dog Skiers up on the stage, including the God Father of Freestyle, Doug Pfeiffer, with a tribute to receive “Pioneer of Freestyle Skiing” medals. I was also honored to receive one from event director, Bernie Weichsel, which was the icing on the cake and made this event one of most fun and memorial events that I have ever attended in the ski industry. You can view my photos on my Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=1367168967&aid=114630.
The International Skiing Heritage Association and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame have joined together to continue to document, archive and honor those who have made our sport what it is. Go to http://www.skiingheritage.org or http://www.skihall.org to view photos of the event and become a member by joining these organizations.