Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Honor and thanks to the champions

The area is honored this week to host the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame ceremonies to recognize two of Sun Valley's own.

Muffy Davis, a fearless Paralympics champion, and Sun Valley Resort owner Earl Holding are on the roster of greats to be recognized for their achievements and contributions to the sports of skiing and snowboarding.

They will join U.S. Ski Team racers Daron Rahlves and Bobby Cochran, and big mountain skiers Glen Plake and the late Shane McConkey on an elite list.

Rahlves is the most successful male downhiller ever to represent the U.S., with 12 World Cup wins, 28 times on the podium and the winner of the hair-raising Hahnenkamm Downhill in 2003. He epitomizes the downhill racers' death-defying need for speed and awesome athletic prowess.

Cochran was the first American male to win the World Cup giant slalom title in 1973 and placed in two other races. The same year, he won the coveted Hahnenkamm combined. At 16, he was one of the youngest racers ever selected for the U.S. Ski Team. He won seven national titles between 1969 and 1973, plus an NCAA downhill championship and the Roch Cup Downhill in 1971. Quite a ride.

Glen Plake put freestyle skiing on the map by winning three World Hot Dog skiing championships and by drawing attention to the sport with his 15-inch-high, multi-colored mohawk and no-holds-barred style. He pioneered extreme skiing with heart-stopping jumps off cliffs that appealed to the risk-taker in everyone.

Shane McConkey died two years ago in the Italian Dolomites after his skis failed to release after he skied off a cliff, performed a double backflip and intended to stay airborne in a wingsuit. McConkey won competitions in moguls, big mountain skiing, big air and skiercross races, redefining skiing in all of its aspects.

Davis, who was injured as a teenager in a training run on Baldy, won more than 25 World Cup titles, two Overall World Cup titles, and four Paralympic medals. She is, for our money, the most inspirational skier in many generations, overcoming obstacles unimaginable to ordinary athletes let alone to world champions.

Holding championed skiing by putting luxury back into Sun Valley Resort, where alpine skiing began in America. He took the aging resort and poured millions into state-of-the-art ski lifts, snowmaking, grooming, and massive stone and log lodges to make Baldy arguably the best non-stop vertical mountain for skiing and boarding in the U.S. What's not to love?

We applaud these champions for all they've given and the glory they've brought to the sport. As a valley of people who love winter sports, we thank them.

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