Tom Ross: Now that’s a family reunion |

Tom Ross: Now that’s a family reunion

The Schnackenberg clan, which counts Rudolf "Rudi" Ernst Schnackenberg — who earned a special place in the history of skiing in Steamboat and is memorialized with the naming of one of Steamboat Ski Area's most heavily skied trails — among its ancestors, will have its family reunion Sunday in Old Town Steamboat.

— Everyone looks forward to having the relatives over for a barbecue on a hot summer day. But 80 relatives?

That's how many cousins, aunts and uncles Ruth (Schnackenberg) McClelland and her husband, Pat McClelland, are hosting during the Schnackenberg family reunion in Old Town Steamboat on Sunday.

Everyone who didn't marry into the clan is a descendant of German emigrants Johannes and Elisabeth (Dietrich) Schnackenberg, who were born in the late 19th century, Johannes in 1881 in Hamburg and Elisabeth in 1893 in Luneburg.

It was their second of four sons, Rudolf "Rudi" Ernst Schnackenberg, who earned a special place in the history of skiing in Steamboat and is memorialized with the naming of one of Steamboat Ski Area's most heavily skied trails.

You guessed it: Rudi's Run. And you might be a Steamboat local if you know the name that trail outside the front door of the Thunderhead lodge formerly was known by. Here's a clue: think Manhattan.

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Anyway, Rudi was a helluva skier, a ski soldier and a ski instructor as well as a darn fine house painter, and I'm pleased to say I knew him just a little bit.

Rudi came to America in 1927 at age 6 with his grandparents Carl and Dorothea Dietrich and caught up with the rest of his family, who had immigrated here in 1925. They reunited in a home on Galapago Street in Denver.

The youngster learned to ski at age 17 on Berthoud Pass and went on to compete in the U.S. Nationals from 1939 to 1942.

It also was in 1942 that he was drafted into the U.S. Army and became a member of the famed Tenth Mountain Division. In fall 1943, he taught ice climbing and glacier work to a detachment of Camp Hale soldiers on Mount Rainier.

He served in World War II as a combat medic in Italy until the war ended. Along the way, Rudi picked up a little hardware: the Combat Medic Badge, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster. I guess you could say he was a decorated soldier.

He married Dorothy Dottie Alexander, whom many longtime Steamboat residents will recall fondly, on Aug. 27, 1944. They moved in 1955 to Steamboat, where Rudi had been asked by the late, great Gordy Wren to accept a job as ski coach and manager at Howelsen Hill.

Later, he became a ski school instructor at Mount Werner and moved up to become a supervisor, which required him to wear a cowboy hat at all times while skiing.

Rudi, who was a founding member of the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association, was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1982, three years before his death in 1985.

Many of the Schnackenbergs had distinguished careers in the sciences and other fields, and of course, this weekend's gathering includes many cherished relatives who aren't named Schnackenberg but Groeger, Braxton, Brook, Mukhopadhyaya and more.

Welcome to all of you, and a special hello to Scott, Heidi, Ron, Eric and Lance as well as any other Schnackenberg descendants whose high school athletic careers I may have covered in what seems like another lifetime.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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