ISHPEMING, MI (Nov. 6) – Paralympic champions Chris Waddell and Sarah Will highlight a group of eight athletes and sport builders named for induction to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. They are joined by adaptive skiing pioneer Jack Benedick, legendary big mountain skier Doug Coombs, noted industry writer and instructor Stu Campbell, veteran ski jumping champion Ansten Samuelstuen, the father of southern skiing Sepp Kober and longtime U.S. Ski Team press officer and journalist Paul Robbins.
The adaptive skiing champions are the first to be named to the Hall of Fame since the late Diana Golden Brosnihan was named in 1997. It’s the largest class of inductees since 1984 for the Hall of Fame, which is located Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – the birthplace of organized ski competition in 1905.
Chris Waddell (Park City, UT) recently made international headlines for his successful climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in September, a first for a paraplegic. Paralyzed from the waist down after a skiing accident in 1988, he took up adaptive skiing and won twelve medals at four Paralympic Games including a sweep of the gold medals in 1994 at Lillehammer. He also competed at three Summer Paralympic Games winning silver in Sydney in 2000 in the 200 meter wheelchair event. The Massachusetts native has been a charismatic promoter for adaptive skiing and was a prominent ambassador for the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.
Sarah Will (Edwards, CO) was also paralyzed in a skiing accident in 1988 and also won 12 medals competing at four Paralympic Games. Like Waddell, she too swept the gold medals, this time at Salt Lake City in 2002. Shortly after her accident she read Hall of Famer Hal O’Leary’s book on adaptive skiing and started to train at Winter Park in Colorado. Within three years she won gold medals in the downhill and super G at the 1992 Paralympic Games. With Waddell, she started an adaptive skiing program at Vail and was recently recognized by the United States Olympic Hall of Fame to go along with honors accorded her in 2004 by the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
“Chris Waddell and Sarah Will were model athletes,” said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt. “Not only did they have the perseverance and drive to accomplish great athletic goals, but both have given back to their sport their entire careers. It was an honor to work with them as members of the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team.”
Jack Benedick (Golden, CO) brought passion and innovation to adaptive skiing that has left a lasting legacy. Benedick, a double leg amputee from the Vietnam War, took up adaptive skiing for rehabilitation when the sport was still in its infancy. He worked hard with the USSA to create a U.S. Adaptive Ski Team and lobbied the International Ski Federation to accept adaptive skiing. A holder of the Paralympic Order for his contributions, he was a silver medal winner in the combined at the 1984 Paralympic Games.
“Jack Benedick was an amazing pioneer and really singelhandedly helped build the adaptive skiing program,” said Marolt. “His early efforts were a big part of the strength of the Paralympics today.”
The late Stu Campbell lived in Stowe, VT and was a writer, instructor and resort executive who impacted millions of American skiers over a career that spanned five decades. He was the author of six books on ski instruction, served as an equipment consultant to several manufacturers, raced and coached racers and provided television commentary. For thirty years he was the instructional editor for SKI Magazine and was recognized, prior to his death in 2008, by the Vermont Ski Museum with its Paul Robbins Award for ski journalism.
The late Doug Coombs may be the most recognizable skier in this year’s class for his appearances in many ski films in the 1990’s. A former ski racer from Montana State University, he is regarded by many as the most important skier of his generation in popularizing adventure skiing. He and his wife, Emily, started the first heliskiing operation in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains. He held steep skiing camps in Switzerland, France and Greenland. The complete expert skier, he won the first two World Extreme Skiing Championships. Although his skills far surpassed those of most of the people he guided, he had a capacity to make every skier who came into contact with him believe they could try bigger challenges. He died while attempting to rescue a friend in a skiing accident in 2006.
The late Paul Robbins spent three decades as a ski journalist and a U.S. Ski Team press officer. He possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of skiing and ski racers of every discipline that he willingly shared with anyone who asked. Ski jumper Jeff Hastings wrote: “His breath filled the sails of the athletes he covered.” Remembered by all who knew him as the man with the Scottish tam, Robbins died suddenly in 2008. The Paul Robbins Award for ski journalism is presented annually by the Vermont Ski Museum, as well as the Paul Robbins Outstanding Athlete Award by the North American Snowsport Journalists Association.
“Paul Robbins left a lasting impact on ski racing,” said Marolt. “His wit, charm and beret were Paul’s trademark. But his vast knowledge and tireless work ethic were instrumental in telling our U.S. Ski Team story for three decades.”
Sepp Kober (Hot Springs, VA) is known as the “Father of Southern Skiing.” After immigrating to the United States and instructing at Stowe, he was the first ski instructor at the first southern ski area to open a rope tow, Weiss Knob, in 1958. From then he worked to prove that skiing could exist south of the Mason Dixon Line. Today the Southeastern Ski Areas Association, which he founded, consists of 20 ski areas serving four to five million skiers annually and is considered the largest feeder of skiers to the mountain resorts in the west. He led the Southeast in as a charter member of the National Ski Areas Association.
Ansten Samuelstuen (Louisville, CO) first arrived in the United States in 1951 and set a hill record for distance of 316 feet at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs that stood for 12 years. After immigrating to the U.S. in 1954 he successfully won three national titles in ski jumping, (1957, 1961 and 1962) and held four North American titles (1954, 1955,1957 and 1964). He competed for the United States on two Olympic teams and was the top U.S. jumper with a seventh place finish at the 1960 Olympic Games in Squaw Valley.
The induction of the Class of 2009 will take place in Colorado on April 9, 2010. They will also be honored in September by ceremonies in Ishpeming, the home of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
Nominations for Honored Membership in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame are received throughout the year from across the country. A Selection Committee under the chairmanship of Paul Bousquet (Woodstock, VT) reviews all nominations. Successful nominations are placed on a ballot that in 2009 was voted on by a panel of 100 electors. This year’s class brings the number of Honored Members to 368.
Since 1956, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame has provided highly respected, national and perpetual recognition of athletes competing in skiing and snowboarding and of the builders of those sports who have made the highest level of national and/or international achievement and contribution to those sports.