Steamboat Springs The idea alone swells Park Smalley with pride and pushes the legendary freestyle skiing pioneer to the edge of tears.
Steamboat’s Kris “Fuzz” Feddersen will be inducted into the Ishpeming, Mich., U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in April, and Smalley, Feddersen’s longtime coach, said it will be a special moment.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am,” he said. “There are tears in my eyes.”
Smalley said the wild-haired boy he met in his first year of freestyle coaching in Steamboat Springs in 1976 didn’t seem destined for skiing immortality. Feddersen was more hard worker than natural talent, and it was that characteristic that paved the way on a journey that took one young Steamboat boy from Howelsen Hill through the early stages of competitive freestyle skiing and to the Hall of Fame.
“I’m only surprised it didn’t happen sooner,” Smalley said.
Feddersen was 10 years old when he moved to Steamboat Springs with his family from Ohio. The young boy with the hair and the braces found himself in the middle of a skiing revolution and joined up in Steamboat with Smalley, then one of the beating hearts of freestyle skiing.
Feddersen was there every step of the way as the sport grew to be included in the Olympics, earning starts in the aerials competition twice when it was a demonstration sport — in 1988 in Calgary, Alberta, and in 1992 in Albertville, France — before aerials became a medal sport, and he competed in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway.
“Nothing can describe it,” he said, trying to explain his Olympic starts, which he labeled a career highlight. “It’s a phenomenal feeling for any athlete. There’s no better feeling in amateur sports than going and representing your country. To walk out in the opening ceremonies with the U.S. team, that was pretty damn cool.”
He placed fourth in Calgary and was fifth in Albertville, then 11th in Lillehammer.
He also piled up well more than 100 World Cup starts and three wins on that circuit and 20 other podium finishes in 14 years on the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team.
In 1998, he was a coach at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan, as the U.S. team took gold in three of the four freestyle events.
It was those results and that longevity on the leading edge of the sport that got him in the hall, but when Feddersen looks back now, the story is as much about the time between the competitions. He was among the group of pioneers there when the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team was formed — Smalley was the first coach. It then was a far cry from the well-funded, frequently sponsored and impeccably equipped team the U.S. fields now.
“We were not funded at all,” Feddersen said. “We had one coach for 30 athletes, and it was just a ragtag, 'Bad News Bears' type of situation, traveling across Europe to World Cups trying to figure out how to get from one ski resort to the next.”
He recalled one time the team arrived at its destination and was ushered to its lodging only to find it had booked an abandoned youth hostel.
“We were asking if it even had heat,” he said.
It was the best and worst of life as a competitive skier.
“All of the people from that era, we always talk about how we have to get together and tell those stories,” Feddersen said. “A movie screenplay about those days would be absolutely hilarious. People wouldn’t believe all the stupid things that went on.”
Feddersen retired to Steamboat in 1998, then moved to Denver and eventually to Park City, Utah, where he now owns Flying Ace Productions, a company that puts on freestyle skiing demonstration events around the world.
He first was nominated for the Hall in 2010 and fell just short of induction last year. He found out he’d made the cut this year in late October — Fuzz with the wild hair completing his trip from learning the sport on trampolines in Steamboat Springs all the way to the Hall of Fame.
“I had my fingers crossed that I’d eventually get in, and it happened,” Feddersen said. “It’s really cool to be acknowledged like that. The people who are in the Hall of Fame are my heroes, so it’s really cool to be recognized for my career in skiing.”
He was joined in this year’s class by big mountain skier Scot Schmidt, freestyle pioneer John Clendenin, 2006 Olympics moguls bronze medalist Toby Dawson, film producer Joe Jay Jalbert and ski show pioneer Jerry Simon.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9
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