John F. Russell: Pioneers make Hall of Fame one cool journey

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— It’s official.

Last weekend, at the Marriott Vail Resort in Vail, the Class of 2013 was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, bringing attention to some of the biggest pioneers in the sport of skiing and snowboarding.

The class included Steamboat’s Hans Geier, who took his place among a strong class of pioneers that included freestyle legends like Jeremy Bloom and Wayne Wong, snowboarder Craig Kelly, Alpine skier Kirsten Clark and Horst Abraham, who rewrote the script for American ski instruction.

The next time somebody walks through the doors of the Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, which is in Ishpeming, Mich., they will be introduced to the stories of the men and women who were honored April 13. The stories will live forever in the Hall and should inspire us all.

I have been lucky enough to meet Geier and Bloom during my career as a sports writer. I don’t know them well, but from my experience, they both seem like great ambassadors for the sport of skiing.

Geier and Bloom seem like odd classmates at first glance. The two are separated by generations, and their roles in promoting skiing are very different. But their love of skiing, and the impact they made during their careers, forever will tie the two together.

Geier’s contributions came as a ski school instructor, a ski school director and the developer and manager of several ski areas. He also helped skiers get up the mountain as an executive for Doppelmayr, one of the largest lift manufacturers and installers in the world.

Geier, who lives in Steamboat, is best remembered in these parts as the president and CEO of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., where he helped our local mountain grow from 160,000 skier visits annually to more than 1 million.

Bloom’s journey to the Hall of Fame was slightly different, but it also was born on the slopes of ski areas in Colorado.

Bloom grew up skiing the bumps at Keystone, where his mother worked as a ski instructor. The one-time Alpine ski racing prospect moved to freestyle at age 10 and began a career that included three World Cup titles, 26 World Cup podiums and 12 World Cup wins.

It might seem like the two come from different worlds, but both helped pioneer the sport in their own ways. Without men like Geier, skiers like Bloom never would have had the chance to shine on the slopes, and without skiers like Bloom, the athletes who rule the slopes would never shine.

Without the Hall of Fame, these men’s efforts might have been lost in the sands of time. We never might have known about Geier’s efforts to bring the sport of skiing to the masses as a business man or Bloom’s efforts to bring American pride to the sport of freestyle as a star on the U.S. Ski Team.

The Hall brings attention to these pioneers, who forever will be connected by a love for skiing. It’s a love that is shared by enthusiasts of all ages as well as by athletes and business executives. Each of these men broke ground in skiing in his own way and moved the sport forward with his effort.

That’s what the Hall of Fame is all about, and the residents of Colorado should be proud that our state has been home for both of these men. The sport of skiing is richer because of them, and I’m happy their stories will live on thanks to the Hall of Fame.

Bloom’s journey to the Hall of Fame was slightly different, but it also was born on the slopes of ski areas in Colorado.

Bloom grew up skiing the bumps at Keystone, where his mother worked as a ski instructor. The one-time Alpine ski racing prospect moved to freestyle at age 10 and began a career that included three World Cup titles, 26 World Cup podiums and 12 World Cup wins.

It might seem like the two come from different worlds, but both helped pioneer the sport in their own ways. Without men like Geier, skiers like Bloom never would have had the chance to shine on the slopes, and without skiers like Bloom, the athletes who rule the slopes would never shine.

Without the Hall of Fame, these men’s efforts might have been lost in the sands of time. We might never know about Geier’s efforts to bring the sport of skiing to the masses as a business man or Bloom’s efforts to bring American pride to the sport of freestyle as a star on the U.S. Ski Team.

The Hall brings attention to these pioneers, who forever will be connected by a love for skiing. It’s a love that is shared by enthusiasts of all ages as well as by athletes and business executives. Each of these men broke ground in skiing in their own ways and moved the sport forward with their efforts.

That’s what the Hall of Fame is all about, and the residents of Colorado should be proud that our state has been home for both of these men. The sport of skiing is richer because of them, and I'm happy their stories will live on thanks to the Hall of Fame.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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