Have you ever been to Ishpeming, Michigan?
I didn't think so.
Ishpeming is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near Lake Superior. It's the birthplace of organized skiing in the USA and the home of the U.S Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. I've been to the Ish and its worth the loooong ride to get there. It's about 500 miles North of Detroit. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame (Ski Hall) is a fascinating collection of artifacts, photos, films and stories about skiing and riding in the U.S. It's awesome. A visit to the Ski Hall is a must for anyone who is passionate about skiing.
This past weekend the HOF came to Aspen. Every Spring the Ski Hall hosts it's skiing history week and induction ceremonies in a different location. This year the ski community came to Fat City to celebrate their sport, the lifestyle and to facilitate the enshrinement of 7 snow sport legends.
The 7 Inductees for the Class of 2015:
Genia Fuller, David Ingemie, Harry Kaiser, Chris Klug, Jim Martinson, Bob Salerno, Edgar Stern
Their bio's can be found here. 2015 Ski Hall INDUCTEES. Saturday's big gala induction ceremony held about 500 people honoring the inductees at Aspen's posh St Regis Hotel.
CLICK 4 PIX: Bill Johnson Strikes Again / Ski Hall of Fame
As part of the festivities The Ski Hall commissioned video tributes to skiing super-stars STEIN ERIKSEN and BILL JOHNSON. Both recently passed away. But the most moving part of the whole weekend was the tribute and ski lap for Bill Johnson. Wild Bill burst onto the ski racing scene like a bomb. He was the first American male alpine skier to win an Olympic Gold Medal in 1984. He's still the only American to win the Olympic Downhill. Click Bill Johnson to learn more. Johnson had quite a reputation as a non-conformist...but boy could he let his red sleds run. It's been said that he challenged the entire skiing establishment in 1984...and then he backed it up. Bill loved Aspen...and Aspen loved him. Unfortunately he suffered a serious brain injury in a crash during a comeback attempt for the 2002 Olympics. That injury most surely contributed to his death last January at age 55.
On Saturday more than 200 friends and family members of the late, great Bill Johnson gathered at the top of Ruthie's Run, at the start of the race course for America's Downhill on Aspen Mountain. It was the site of Bill's huge World Cup victory in 1984. A few words were shared...and the group...more than 200 strong skied down the race course together. At the top of Aztec...the steepest , most technical part of the track...more honors were shared. Aspen Ski Patrol exploded a 2 pound dynamite charge...BOOM...and the race was on. At the finish line, marked, just as it was in 1984, the posse of friends grew...Bill Johnson's ashes were sprinkled across the finish. Tom Kelly from the U.S.Ski Team shared a short speech that began "We're here to honor Bill Johnson" Ka-BOOM...as if on cue, a giant lightening strike and thunder clap occurred...very close by. The explosion was louder than the avalanche charge. The skies opened up to reveal a serious hail storm. The energy was incredible. It was other-worldly. Everyone felt it... as if Bill Johnson were with us. I'm not one to fully believe in paranormal experiences...but this one was real and palpable and very fitting.
All the lifts on Aspen Mountain were closed for over an hour due to the storm. The mountain was deluged with hail, rain and powder snow. A very unusual weather event even in April. It was a fitting tribute to Bad Billy Johnson. His friends and family (including his Mom and kids) retired to Nello to celebrate and toast the life of Mr. Bill Johnson...Olympic Champion.
The Ski History and Induction weekend was a rousing success in Aspen. The Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame put on a great show. Generations of skiing legends spent the weekend in Aspen charging the steeps and than bragging about it at Apres' As always it was BIG FUN in Fat City.
We'll see everyone from the Ski Hall next year in Stowe. Meanwhile...if you happen to be in Michigan's Upper Peninsula...on the way to...I dunno...Northern Wisconsin...stop into the Hall of Fame. It's a treasure of skiing history. Oh yeah...and don't leave da U.P. eh? without trying the pasties.
CLICK 4 PIX: BILL JOHNSON STRIKES AGAIN / SKI HALL OF FAME