A New Ski Hall of Fame

The new Action Sports Hall of Fame looks to be the first legit venue to honor all types of skiers

PHOTO: COURTESY ACTION SPORTS HALL OF FAME

While in Seattle last April to honor K2 Skis’ 50th anniversary and their subsequent induction into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, I was, ironically, embarrassed by the sport of skiing. Blue hairs—some humble and insightful, most not so much—patted each other on the back and glad-handed one another as if they were at a political party fundraiser. I sat in the cold, dark parking garage that was supposed to serve as a banquet hall for the 2012 induction ceremony, musing to myself what a joke it all was. Distinguished ski writer Dick Dorworth accepted his induction, and he was barely audible due to the acoustics, or lack thereof. It seemed as if inductees were either a former U.S. Ski Teamer or someone too old to even accept their induction. What sport were we supposedly honoring? Because it sure as hell didn’t reflect the one I revere.

Aside from reading about Glen Plake’s induction in 2010, I had hardly heard of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, save for a failed attempt to visit the Hall in Ishpeming, Michigan. Yes, rather than Little Cottonwood Canyon or Jackson Hole or even Summit County, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame exists on the skiing hotbed of the Upper Peninsula (eh!).

Fuming that this hall of fame “represents” our sport, I did some research and discovered these sad facts:
• Of the 382 members, 269, or 70 percent, are deceased.
• Shane McConkey and Glen Plake are the only non-U.S. Ski Team members that have been inducted for their ski accomplishments from the last 25 years. (Sorry, Daron Rahlves, you don’t count in this case.) Non-U.S. Ski Teamers like Monty Atwater, Stein Eriksen, Dick Barrymore, and Warren Miller are members, but not Wong, Schmidt, Stump, Hattrup, Fisher, Morrison, Kreitler, or Pollard. They’ve excluded a majority of the most influential skiers to ever buckle their boots and, arguably, kept the sport relevant and cool.
• Despite being the Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, there are only two snowboarders—namely, Jake and Donna Burton Carpenter. And they count as one member. When I called to inquire, a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame official told me Craig Kelly is being considered.

Fortunately, a more contemporary hall of fame was about to launch shortly after the event in Seattle. When I received an e-mail from Matt Savage, founder of The Action Sports Hall of Fame, I wanted to learn more.

After two years in development, The Action Sports Hall of Fame opened online on May 1, 2012. At Xhall.org, you can view, nominate, and vote for surfers, skaters, snowboarders, moto and bike riders, and, of course, skiers.

“There really is no action sports hall of fame,” says Savage, who snowboarded in between classes at CU Boulder in the late ’80s and has lived and surfed in North County San Diego for the last 20 years. “There’s a skateboarding hall of fame run out of skate shop and a surfing hall of fame out of Huntington Surf & Sport, which are really just a way to promote the shops. I wanted to pay homage to the older guys, put a little bit more emphasis to what’s happened the last 25 years.”

Once Savage found that others in the action sports community reaffirmed his feelings, he got to work. One of the initial points of emphasis was the induction process. “It’s really hard with action sports since most of the bigger names don’t compete,” says Savage. “There’s no way to quantify their stats, whereas if you look at other halls of fame, it’s all stat driven.” Rather than forming a committee, Savage decided to have the public nominate and then vote for athletes. On the first few pages alone, skiers can vote for Andrew McLean, Anselme Baud, Arne Backstrom, Bill Briggs, Bode Miller, Brad Holmes, and Candide Thovex—quite the age, ski discipline, and nationality range. Since the launch, athletes in the XHall have received thousands of votes across the board.

If the new Hall continues on its path toward legitimacy, it will require a physical space. Savage has been in talks with San Diego’s Hall of Champions located in the storied Balboa Park. Coincidentally, a collection of sport-associated non-profit organizations was looking to honor action sports athletes, as well. Their combined momentum has allowed for an official green light of an action sports center in the Hall of Champions. Plans call for interactive exhibits, like a device that would allow skiers to feel the thrill of tossing a cork 720.

What the Hall will look like. PHOTO: COURTESY ACTION SPORTS HALL OF FAME

“It’s gonna be a really cool place that’s a lot more relevant for today,” says Savage. “It’s been my intention all along that when we went live, it would be a groundbreaking hall of fame and something that hasn’t been done before, as it’s time to permanently recognize the insane progression that’s happened since Greg Stump basically turned the skiing world on its head.”

What’s rational about Savage’s new hall is the appreciation of all ski disciplines. Whether or not skiing, or other action sports, even need a hall of fame is debatable. But if one is going to exist, skiers should hope that it’s at least authentic and progressive, unlike the sorry excuse of the one located in Michigan’s U.P. Notwithstanding, it will be interesting to see if The Action Sports Hall of Fame evolves enough to honor influencers like Dorworth or Atwater, instead of just athletes. If they do honor the wide spectrum of characters, hopefully they’ll be young enough to express their gratitude and convey inimitable stories about our sport.

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  • Jason Levinthal

    John, Big props for stating the way you really felt about our sport’s lack of relevance in some areas, I would have felt the same if I was sitting there.

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  • Ian Bresnahan

    Good words John.

    I’d love to check out an EMP-like museum dedicated to sharing skiing’s diverse history. Interactive exhibits would be sweet.

    Trying to rank (or vote on) the careers’ of all it’s unique characters misses the point, however. Skiers like Pollard, Auclair, or Morrison don’t appear to be trying to win championships or earn MVPs; their excellence is evident in their craft. Comparing them to an X Games (or Olympic) medalist makes little logical sense and seems gimmicky. Honoring skiing’s forebears doesn’t mean we need another Cooperstown.

  • http://www.skihall.org Tom West

    John, contrary to your comments your national hall of fame, the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, does provide recognition to the broad spectrum of ski sports including snowboarding.

    It is located in Ishpeming Michigan because it is the historic center for our sport with a connection to its roots that goes beyond all of the major ski areas in our country. It was the center of skiing in the late 19th century when ski jumping was king. It was here that the National Ski Association was founded in 1905, a critical moment essential for the development and growth of ski sports in the United States. It is organized skiing’s birthplace and this fact was in the print program you received at the induction in Seattle. Most of the major ski centers that we now enjoy did not develop until after the Second World War.

    Regarding your critique concerning the high percentage of deceased individuals named on the Honor Roll – the Hall of Fame was established in 1956 and has been providing respected national recognition for over 50 years. Therefore it should not be surprising that many of the Honorees have passed on. The same could be said for any of our sports halls of fame that have operated for this length of time. It is appropriate to wait until a skier or snowboarder has completed most of his or her career before honoring them this way. Of course one of those deceased skiers is one we mutally admired, Shane McConkey.

    In doing your research I wish you had taken the time to look over the rules for nominating and selecting people to the Hall of Fame. These are posted on its website. There you would see that the door is open wide for those skiers you revere.. Besides Glen Plake and Shane McConkey the Hall of Fame has recently recognized Bill Briggs and Doug Coombs. Yes, in the past there was a focus on former ski team members because they had a measurable record of performance. Still, we have made changes to reflect the broadening of our sport to include consideration of many of the people you mentioned. The nomination process is open to anyone and I would encourage you and your readers to take the time to participate instead of sitting back and complaining about who has not been recognized.

    The information on the Action Sports Hall of Fame was interesting but do you honestly think our top athletes will get more and better recognition there when competing against , for example, the stars of NASCAR?

    I do enjoy reading your magazine when I get a chance to see it. We did ask, but got no response, that issues be sent to us for preservation in our library which contains the largest collection of books and journals on skiing in the country.

    I hope you will visit us someday. Avid skiers enjoy seeing this place and its collections.

    Tom West, President/CEO
    US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame

  • Frank Louis

    Total ignorance and arrogance. It would be much more benifical for the editor of a “ski magazine” to show some respect for the history of skiing and promote the new concept of an Action Sports Hall of Fame with a little humility. I like the concept of the “new” HOF, but Mr. Stifter comes off like a whiny little park rat who lost his turn dropping into the halfpipe.

    I feel a public apology is in order.

  • John Stifter

    On the contrary, Mr. Louis, I suck at park skiing. However, I ski raced and competed in big mountain contests throughout my youth, and appreciate all genres of skiing.
    As noted in my story, one of the elements I like, thus far, about The Action Sports HOF is the breadth and diversity of skiers—Bode, Baud, and Candide nominated on the same page? How cool is that? I love reading and hearing stories of ski history and honoring those who have made massive sacrifices and efforts to impact us all. Undoubtedly, I’m cognizant of their contributions as both a skier and someone who works in the ski industry.
    My issue with the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame is that it’s a completely unbalanced representation of our sport. (Plus, despite its nordic roots, I wish it was located somewhere more accessible.) I have no problem with ski racers or older influencers being inducted. But why only US Ski Teamers and old people? A player or coach can be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, after only five years once finished competitively playing. Same with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
    So although you feel I have the shortsighted, ego-filled qualities (or lack thereof) of a young punk, I embrace the entire sport and its history. I wish the US Ski and Snowboard HOF would act in a more contemporaneous fashion and acknowledge a massive aspect of our sport that is largely ignored. And you don’t have to look far—those same young punks that spoke out against “ignorance” of those blue hairs, started snowboarding. And now, a new crop of young punks, arguably, saved our sport by evolving it with cooler and more fun technology and energy. I think Schmidt, Wong, Morrison, Pollard, Fisher, and many others (photographers, cinematographers) have earned the right to be honored. They’ve all stood on the shoulders of a few of those honored, but those sweet skis you’re sliding on are a product of their collective influence.

  • Josh M

    I’m with the Editor. The new Action Sports Hall is a cool idea and I’ll believe it when I see it but to speak about the current skiing HOF, I always thought it was in Vail for some reason and the K2 event was the first I’d ever heard of the one in Michigan. As a non-profit I see the problems with awareness having not many resources but as a steward of the sport they should be paying closer attention to all aspects of skiing and rethink the nomination & selection process, it’s 2012, not 1905.

  • Frank Louis

    Pish posh Mr. Stifter, I can’t believe you’re the Editor of Powder. I’m soooo much better than you!

  • Bob Hendrickson

    Pay no attention to Frank, he’s just a disgruntled Midwest skier with three seasons of bad snow behind him and looking to score pre-season GNAR points (which may or may not be legal, need a ruling from Judge Gaffney on that).

    I feel the issue for me is that Powder Magazine should be championing the support of the industry to stand behind the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and not bash it just because it’s old school. I’m asking that Powder be a steward and help bring the Hall to the next level you envision, not cast it to the side.

    What really needs to happen is that all of us, as skier and snowboarders, rally together and not divide the plate. Our culture has enough of that going on in politics.

    Go to skihall.com, scroll down the menu bar and click the How to Nominate. It’s an open process and takes a little more work than clicking a few web page tabs, but anything worth while should take some effort and thought.

  • Jason Levinthal

    Having an action sports hall of fame shouldn’t take anything away from the existing skiing hall of fame if it’s already doing it’s job of staying relevant, respected, and most importantly inspiring & memorable to drive others to view it.
    I’ve been in the ski industry for 18 years, skied my whole life, followed every pro since a kid and this is the first time I’ve heard of the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

    I’m not saying it’s bad, but it should be at least as known as the people & sport it recognizes. I’m definitely stoping by next time I’m in the midwest, just wish it was because of it’s own positive hype.

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