U.S. Ski & Snowboard wrapped up its 2020 awards, with gold and silver level recognition for a variety of officials for service and support of events, athletes and programs. Heading the list was alpine technical delegate Bill Hicks (Sandy, Utah), who received the gold-level Westhaven Award for lifetime service as a TD. Cindy Wright Berlack (Franconia, N.H.) of the BRASS Avalanche Safety Foundation received the silver-level Russell Wilder Award for contribution to you. Former U.S. Ski Team coach and longtime event leader Herwig Demschar (Park City, Utah) was recognized with the silver-level Bud & Mary Little Award for his lifetime service to the International Ski Federation on behalf of the USA.
WESTHAVEN AWARD (FIS TD)
Bill Hicks, Sandy, Utah
Technical delegates play one of the most important roles in ski and snowboard competition, overseeing events to ensure they are conducted safely and by the rules.Over three decades, Hicks has volunteered his time, energy and expertise in support of alpine competition. He is one of just 50 certified FIS alpine technical delegates in America. Beyond his role as a TD, Hicks has served in virtually every competition official’s role and has always been willing to help in any way he can. He also plays a vital role as the liaison between U.S. Ski & Snowboard, FIS and Intermountain Division coordinating with event organizers. Hick was recognized for his longtime commitment to alpine ski racing – not because he had a child in the sport, but because of his true passion.
Hicks was a racer for Dartmouth College who moved to Utah after graduation to ski. He became a ski racing official to help the Snowbird Ski Team. He takes great pride in being nominated as a technical delegate in 1986 by Fraser West, for whom the award is named. At the time, he was the youngest TD in America.
“I have met so many wonderful people in my tenure of being a TD,” said Hicks. “This ‘hobby’ has defined me as a person. I have been so fortunate to be able to be a part of the FIS family. It is a true honor to receive the Westhaven Award.”
The Westhaven Award is the highest honor for a competition official. It was originated by longtime TD Fraser West in 1991.
RUSSELL WILDER AWARD (Contribution to youth)
Cindy Wright Berlack, Franconia N.H., Burke Mountain Academy/Franconia Ski Club
Berlack, whose son Ronnie was one of two U.S. Ski Team athletes killed in an avalanche five years ago, was honored by U.S. Ski & Snowboard with the Russell Wilder Award for service to youth for her work in avalanche education. The BRASS 101 programs she has spearheaded have reached thousands with the message on avalanche safety.
Berlack is passionate about helping youth. Her efforts to bring avalanche safety education to clubs around New England is making a difference. In the memory of Ronnie and his friend Bryce Astle, the BRASS Foundation was formed to help educate athletes and coaches about the danger of avalanches.
A certified level 200 alpine coach, Berlack has been the pied piper of the BRASS 101 program. Through her initiatives across New England, the free program has been delivered to over 2,000 youth and young adults at clubs, academies and other public presentations. She helped architect the program and its content, find presenters and schedule workshops.
The program was designed to highlight the basics of avalanche education, with a turnkey curriculum that can be delivered by local presenters. It’s most impactful component is the 13-minute film, Off Piste, which features a poignant re-creation of the accident.
Together, the Berlack and Astle families have grown BRASS to be a highly respected advocacy organization with its work impacting the entire ski and snowboard industry nationwide. Berlack has appeared at avalanche workshops around the world and at national conferences around the country, redirecting her life from mother, teacher and coach to be a tireless proponent of snow safety on behalf of the organization that was so much a part of Ronnie’s life.
“What’s been most gratifying to me is that, across the board, coaches and administrators have been extremely appreciative and the young people have been so enthusiastic,” said Berlack. “Ronnie knew nothing about avalanches. I’m so thankful for the opportunity through BRASS to draw in an audience. People feel we can be trusted. And I accept this award on behalf of BRASS.”
BUD & MARY LITTLE AWARD (Service to FIS or USOPC)
Herwig Demschar, Park City UT
Demschar, one of the most highly respected coaches and leaders over the last quarter century in America, was honored with the Bud & Mary Little Award. An Austrian native, Demschar came to the USA in 1994 as a women’s alpine coach for the U.S. Ski Team. He has had a profound impact on sport through his work on a national and international basis, including his influence on behalf of U.S. Ski & Snowboard in the International Ski Federation community. In recent years, he was the pivotal figure at Killington for the development of what is now regarded as one of the most notable events on the FIS Ski World Cup tour.
During his tenure as a World Cup coach and program director for both Austria and the U.S. Ski Team from 1985 to 1998, he became one of the most highly-respected leaders in alpine sport within FIS. His influence continued in his roles with the 2002 Salt Lake City, 2006 Torino and 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. He went on to represent the USA as a member of the FIS Alpine Committee, sitting on its Alpine Executive board. Since 2007 he has worked with POWDR, serving in an executive role with the resort and adventure company.
His vision for the Killington World Cup was three fold. First, by bringing the world’s best ski racers to New England, it would generate tremendous enthusiasm amongst the many clubs and academies nearby. Secondly, it would be a way of promoting POWDR’s resort, Killington. Finally, it would serve as a catalyst for the sales of ski equipment in the early season. With the largest crowds on the women’s tour, over 30,000 each year, the event was a huge success.
As a coach, program leader, businessman and FIS leader, Demschar has brought great influence for U.S. Ski & Snowboard within the FIS community worldwide.
““Why do I do this?” said Demschar. “It’s simple – it’s for the athletes. There’s really nothing more. Whatever I focused on was for the kids. It was fun to see them succeed. That’s what motivated me.”
Named in honor of the longtime FIS Vice President Bud Little, the award honors lifetime service to the International Ski Federation or U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee on behalf of U.S. interests.
PAUL BACON AWARD (Service to events)
John Munger/Loppet Foundation
Despite losing its event to the pandemic, visionary cross country skiing leader John Munger and The Loppet Foundation in Minneapolis received the Paul Bacon Award for contribution to competition organization. Munger, his staff, and hundreds of volunteers worked for nearly two years leading up to the March 17 event, only to cancel just five days out as a part of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite that, the cross country community saw immense benefit from the effort, as Munger and his team dramatically lifted the profile of cross country skiing.
“What we realize in times like this is that hope and anticipation are much more important than we ordinarily give them credit for,” said Munger. “Looking back, what we did was provide hope and anticipation for people all across the country (and the world) every day for the past two years. Every day, kids and athletes and skiers and fans would wake up and think to themselves how excited they were for the World Cup day to come. The fact that the day never actually came does not take away from that very real sense of hope and anticipation that the world had. We are really proud of that. The event itself would have been icing on the cake – but the cake itself was really about hope.”
JOHN CLAIR AWARD (Service to team)
Mike Mallon, USASA
Over the past two decades, United States of American Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) Executive Director Mike Mallon has served in a wide range of roles that have had direct impact on the success of freeski and snowboard athletes. Mallon was honored by U.S. Ski & Snowboard with its John Clair Award Award for service to the national team.
Mallon honed his craft for 15 years as a FIS snowboard technical delegate. In 20 years as a coach, he had over 15 athletes make it to the U.S. national team. He also coached 10 Junior World Championship teams. In his role with USASA, he now works with over 600 coaches and 5,000 athletes.
“I am constantly amazed by the progression of winter sport, the happiness it instills in others, and the ability to sort out some of life’s biggest problems in a seven minute chairlift ride,” said Mallon. “These are the joys of being a coach. Nothing is more fulfilling than watching an athlete succeed at a task, or reach a lifetime goal. I am honored to be considered in this class of greats, many who have mentored me along the way, and I will continue to try to bring up the next batch of athletes for years to come.”
WEST FAMILY CUP (Competition official)
Paul Jastrow, Eau Claire, Wis./Flying Eagles Ski Club
Longtime ski jumping official Paul Jastrow (Eau Claire, Wis./Flying Eagles Ski Club) was honored with the West Family Cup, recognizing a certified official for his or her contributions over their career.Jastrow is engaged in ski jumping at every level and the main driver behind the Flying Eagle Ski Club’s huge annual Silver Mine tournament in Eau Claire every January. His influence extends across the division as president of Central Ski Jumping where he manages a wide range of meetings, camps and workshops to benefit Central Division clubs.
“It’s hard to put in words what it means to be an official. I do it because I enjoy the sport. I do it because I enjoy the family atmosphere that is part of the ski jumping/nordic combined community and most of all, the biggest thrill for me, is to watch these young kids grow up both in age and experience as an athlete, to reach their personal goals, whether that is competing at their own tournament, obtaining a personal record on their favorite hill or reaching the pinnacle of the sport and competing in the Olympics. To see a U6 athlete jump in their first tournament and see the huge smile on their face is priceless.”
J. LELAND ‘DOC’ AWARD (Service to physician’s pool)
Dr. Jonathan Finnoff
Dr. Jonathan Finnoff (Edina, Minn.), a highly respected team physician who has worked with the nordic combined team since 2002, was recognized by U.S. Ski & Snowboard with its J. Leland Sosman Award. The award recognizes contributions as a volunteer member of the team’s physician’s pool.
As the head team physician for nordic combined, Finnoff has served at countless Olympics, World Cups and two Olympic Winter Games including the stunning four-medal performance of the team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Finnoff has served as an invaluable member and leader of U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Medical Committee, helping drive its Medical Policy and Procedure, as well as assisting with redesign of our medications bags and trauma kits. He was also known for his leadership in athlete medical education. Dr. Finnoff was known for his engagement with athletes across all teams. He was also a leader in advocating for world-leading strategies for non-surgical management of injuries.
He recently left his practice at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to become chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Prior to his departure from his role with U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s volunteer physician’s pool, he took a proactive role in recruiting new candidates. He also supported USA Nordic in obtaining a sponsorship with the Mayo Clinic.