Earlier this month in Salt Lake City, Utah, a trio of legends in the alpine racing world were given the honor of induction into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. Bode Miller, Andrew Weibrecht, and longtime U.S Ski & Snowboard VP of Communications, Tom Kelly, were honored at the 2019 induction ceremony on April 6.
A Hall of Fame induction of any sort would be considered a career accomplishment for anyone. The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame is no different.
Miller and Weibrecht, both recently retired from the World Cup ranks, were natural choices on the alpine side for this year’s induction class. Kelly, on the other hand, spent over 30 years behind the scenes telling the stories of the best athletes U.S. Ski & Snowboard had to offer as the organization’s head of communications before his retirement last spring following the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“It’s a little bit awkward, actually, because my whole career has been spent telling the stories of others,” Kelly said at the ceremony. “My role has been that of a storyteller, telling stories of what I consider to be a fantastic family sport and a lifelong activity that takes people outdoors and my role has been to talk about the great athletes that have brought that sport to the forefront of the public and I’ve had a wonderful career doing that. It’s been a very exciting few decades being involved with a sport that I truly love. Skiing has been a passion of mine since I was seven years old and it is an honor to be included in the Hall of Fame.”
Miller was the rebel of the ski racing world during his career that included two overall World Cup crystal globes, six World Cup discipline titles, six Olympic medals, five World Championship medals, and 33 World Cup wins. Known for his go-for-broke style on and — perhaps most notoriously — off the slopes, Miller was a controversial figure at times but nobody could deny his talents on skis. Miller was attending a fundraiser in Southern California and was unable to be present at the induction ceremony.
“I always tried to ski in a way that inspired myself and ski racing fans and I appreciate this support from the industry,” Miller said.
Miller shared two of his six Olympic podiums with Weibrecht, who won bronze in the Vancouver 2010 super-G and silver in the super-G at Sochi 2014. Known to his teammates, coaches, competitors, and fans around the world as “Warhorse,” the Lake Placid native endeared himself through his hard-charging style and impeccable technique that led to some incredible results and a few spectacular crashes throughout his career on the World Cup.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the Ski Hall of Fame,” Weibrecht said. “It’s a tremendous honor and I’m very excited that the voting commission felt my accomplishments worthy of recognition, especially within such an amazing group of ski industry powerhouses. I was always lucky enough to be joined by Bode on my Olympic podiums, so it almost seems fitting that we will be inducted together. I am truly honored to be a part of such a prestigious induction class, across the board.”
Although Weibrecht’s medals came in back-to-back Olympics, the New Yorker struggled with injury after injury between Vancouver and Sochi and had all but accepted that the races in Sochi would be the last of his career before his hair-raising silver medal super-G performance. The years after Sochi ended up being the best of his career on the World Cup before is retirement after the 2018 Games in PyeongChang.
“Coming into Vancouver, I was really on a huge career upswing,” he shared. “I won the bronze medal and then two weeks later I wrecked myself pretty badly and that started a cycle of being hurt for about the next four years. Going into Sochi, I wasn’t sure if I was really going to be on that team. It was my Hail Mary to get back into the Olympics, I just really wanted to make it back there but hadn’t had a lot of success because I was always battling injuries. By the skin of my teeth I made the team and I was there and I was so burnt out and I had this moment where I though to myself, ‘You know what, this is probably going to be my last race, I might as well do it the way I want to.’ I did and it ended up being literally the best skiing I ever had in a race and it reignited my career. Both of those medals are really special to me but there was so much that went into that one race in Sochi, it was definitely the most emotional performance I had.”
Although no Olympic medals were ever draped around Kelly’s neck, the communications legend was present for many of the most inspiring American performances on snow over the past 30 years and was responsible for bringing those stories to life for fans across the country — including those of Miller and Weibrecht.
A cross-country skier during his own competitive days, Kelly cited the team sprint gold medal by Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins at PyeongChang 2018 as the most emotional moment of his career. However, over the years a certain string of alpine moments always stood out to the Midwest native as particularly inspiring in their own right.
“I’ve been in the finish for I think 75 Olympic medals and probably 150 if you add in World Championships,” Kelly explained. “It is really hard to pick the most significant but in alpine, I always tend to harken to Picabo Street and I do that for a number of reasons. Not to take anything away from Lindsey Vonn or Mikaela Shiffrin, but their successes come in a different era.”
The early 1990s were an uncertain time for the U.S. alpine team with big successes at the highest levels of the sport few and far between. In Kelly’s eyes, Street was the ignition the team needed that ushered in a new era for the alpine side and was responsible for inspiring many of today’s stars to pursue the sport — including Vonn.
“When Picabo Street made her move, the team was nowhere,” he continued. “Picabo memories are more poignant to me, the first one was her combined silver at the 1993 World Championships. She was a complete unknown and she won that medal and totally grabbed onto that momentum and went on to win an Olympic medal in Lillehammer. The big one for me though was her winning the Wolrd Cup downhill title in 1995. It hadn’t been done before and between she and Hilary Lindh, I think they won all but two of the downhills that year. Being with her in the plaza in Bormio at World Cup Finals when she hoisted that crystal globe was monumental for the U.S. Ski Team and it signaled a new era and things really did change from that point. The real turning point for the program came in 95 when she won that World Cup downhill globe.”
Although retired from his role at U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Kelly is still involved with the sport through freelance work with Olympic and youth sports organizations across the country.
Hosted annually, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame induction not only honors athletes but industry icons, innovators, storytellers, and inventors with lifelong contributions in all areas of snowsport. Among the eight 2019 inductees were the late Tom Sims, inventor of the “skiboard”, William Jensen, nationally renowned resort operator, the late Don Henderson, a pioneer of ski racing, Kristen Ulmer, known as the first female “extreme skier”, and Hilary Engisch-Klein, a world-dominating freestyle skier.