While in Seattle last April to honor K2 Skis' 50th anniversary and their subsequent induction into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, I was, ironically, embarrassed by the sport of skiing. Blue hairs--some humble and insightful, most not so much--patted each other on the back and glad-handed one another as if they were at a political party fundraiser. I sat in the cold, dark parking garage that was supposed to serve as a banquet hall for the 2012 induction ceremony, musing to myself what a joke it all was. Distinguished ski writer Dick Dorworth accepted his induction, and he was barely audible due to the acoustics, or lack thereof. It seemed as if inductees were either a former U.S. Ski Teamer or someone too old to even accept their induction. What sport were we supposedly honoring? Because it sure as hell didn't reflect the one I revere.
Aside from reading about Glen Plake's induction in 2010, I had hardly heard of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, save for a failed attempt to visit the Hall in Ishpeming, Michigan. Yes, rather than Little Cottonwood Canyon or Jackson Hole or even Summit County, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame exists on the skiing hotbed of the Upper Peninsula (eh!).
Fuming that this hall of fame "represents" our sport, I did some research and discovered these sad facts:
• Of the 382 members, 269, or 70 percent, are deceased.
• Shane McConkey and Glen Plake are the only non-U.S. Ski Team members that have been inducted for their ski accomplishments from the last 25 years. (Sorry, Daron Rahlves, you don't count in this case.) Non-U.S. Ski Teamers like Monty Atwater, Stein Eriksen, Dick Barrymore, and Warren Miller are members, but not Wong, Schmidt, Stump, Hattrup, Fisher, Morrison, Kreitler, or Pollard. They've excluded a majority of the most influential skiers to ever buckle their boots and, arguably, kept the sport relevant and cool.
• Despite being the Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, there are only two snowboarders--namely, Jake and Donna Burton Carpenter. And they count as one member. When I called to inquire, a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame official told me Craig Kelly is being considered.
Fortunately, a more contemporary hall of fame was about to launch shortly after the event in Seattle. When I received an e-mail from Matt Savage, founder of The Action Sports Hall of Fame, I wanted to learn more.
After two years in development, The Action Sports Hall of Fame opened online on May 1, 2012. At Xhall.org, you can view, nominate, and vote for surfers, skaters, snowboarders, moto and bike riders, and, of course, skiers.
"There really is no action sports hall of fame," says Savage, who snowboarded in between classes at CU Boulder in the late '80s and has lived and surfed in North County San Diego for the last 20 years. "There's a skateboarding hall of fame run out of skate shop and a surfing hall of fame out of Huntington Surf & Sport, which are really just a way to promote the shops. I wanted to pay homage to the older guys, put a little bit more emphasis to what's happened the last 25 years."
Once Savage found that others in the action sports community reaffirmed his feelings, he got to work. One of the initial points of emphasis was the induction process. "It's really hard with action sports since most of the bigger names don't compete," says Savage. "There's no way to quantify their stats, whereas if you look at other halls of fame, it's all stat driven." Rather than forming a committee, Savage decided to have the public nominate and then vote for athletes. On the first few pages alone, skiers can vote for Andrew McLean, Anselme Baud, Arne Backstrom, Bill Briggs, Bode Miller, Brad Holmes, and Candide Thovex--quite the age, ski discipline, and nationality range. Since the launch, athletes in the XHall have received thousands of votes across the board.
If the new Hall continues on its path toward legitimacy, it will require a physical space. Savage has been in talks with San Diego's Hall of Champions located in the storied Balboa Park. Coincidentally, a collection of sport-associated non-profit organizations was looking to honor action sports athletes, as well. Their combined momentum has allowed for an official green light of an action sports center in the Hall of Champions. Plans call for interactive exhibits, like a device that would allow skiers to feel the thrill of tossing a cork 720.
"It's gonna be a really cool place that's a lot more relevant for today," says Savage. "It’s been my intention all along that when we went live, it would be a groundbreaking hall of fame and something that hasn’t been done before, as it's time to permanently recognize the insane progression that's happened since Greg Stump basically turned the skiing world on its head."
What's rational about Savage's new hall is the appreciation of all ski disciplines. Whether or not skiing, or other action sports, even need a hall of fame is debatable. But if one is going to exist, skiers should hope that it's at least authentic and progressive, unlike the sorry excuse of the one located in Michigan's U.P. Notwithstanding, it will be interesting to see if The Action Sports Hall of Fame evolves enough to honor influencers like Dorworth or Atwater, instead of just athletes. If they do honor the wide spectrum of characters, hopefully they'll be young enough to express their gratitude and convey inimitable stories about our sport.