AVSC this week: Hall of Fame inductees announced | AspenTimes.com

AVSC this week: Hall of Fame inductees announced

AVSC Staff report

Two individuals and one "legacy" family will be inducted into the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club Hall of Fame this week at the T-Lazy-7 Ranch.

Jack Brendlinger, Craig Ward and the Hoff Family will be honored in the fun and informal ceremony Thursday.

The party runs 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday.

There also will be a silent auction offering goodies including a parking space near Lift 1A, a private airbag session and a wine cellar, among other items.

For more information on the party, transportation or to purchase tickets, go to teamavsc.org.

Craig Ward

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Whether it was his father's leading by example or Craig Ward's long tenure on the national team, contributing to the community is second nature.

"Volunteerism stems from having been in the sport a long time," said Ward, whose work began immediately upon his retirement after eight years on the U.S. Cross Country Team.

"Seeing how much time, effort and money it takes to put a race on, and the tireless effort of coaches to work with kids, you want to give back," said the former captain of the Middlebury ski team.

Coming home to Aspen following a career that included two World Championships and the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, Ward helped form the Aspen/Snowmass Nordic Council with the intention of creating an interconnected trail system modeled after one he'd skied in Davos, Switzerland.

"The idea was to connect the trails and build them so that they are infinitely accessible, which necessitated that they be free," Ward said. The venue could also be used for town-to-town races like the Engadin in Switzerland or the Birkebeiner from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin.

With a single leased snowcat and another contracted with Toby Morse and the Snowmass Club, the trails traversed over public lands and those of 27 additional landowners.

Using volunteer energy from Raoul Wille, Bob Wade, Mark Joseph, Ruth Brown, Skip Hamilton, Dick Jackson, George Madsen, Dick Knect, Jeff Tippett, Al Burnham, Michael Gassman and others, Aspen's "Fifth Mountain," now encompassing more than 100 kilometers, was born.

In short order, the Owl Creek Chase point-to-point race made its debut and has now become one of the classic events for junior and established racers.

As the Nordic council's executive director, Ward raised $350,000 in three years for the trail system's operation.

Concurrent with his communitywide activities were Ward's contributions to AVSC.

"I've been told, 'You're not just a skier.' You ring the bell for it,'" said Craig Ward.

Jack Brendlinger

In a home surrounded by his own artwork, Jack Brendlinger can reflect on a life enriched by family and skiing.

A mountainous landscape greets visitors to his Carbondale home. Inside, Brendlinger's introspective of a face, originally painted to "fill an empty white wall," is a respectable piece of contemporary artwork.

While Jack considers himself more of a sculptor than a painter, throughout an ever-evolving career he has worked well in many different mediums. That's true whether he was promoting Aspen Skiing Co. events or creating a race series designed to reduce the hours athletes spend on the road.

Now, at a time when others are content on the golf course or with fly rod in hand, Brendlinger, who came to Aspen in 1964 and opened the Applejack Inn with Marsha, continues to harness his creative energy.

Marsha finds hers in the kitchen, where she always seems to be baking up something fresh and delicious to send home with a visitor.

The couple, who have now been married 54 years, are lovingly referred to as "George and Gracie" by their Rotary Club colleagues.

During Jack's tenure on the board, which included two years as president of the Aspen Ski Club, he even signed up national sponsor Buster Brown Shoes for a locally based competitive race series.

"I didn't want 9-year-olds traveling," so along with Marsha's help the Aspen Cup series for 9- to-12-year-olds was born. It was part of Brendlinger's overall philosophy to broaden the club's base.

"We thought if we could create a really good series of races here, the Steamboats, Vails and the Winter Parks would come here. And they did," he said.

Brendlinger worked at Aspen Skiing Co. as its public relations director when the Aspenauts program — which today is run through AVSC and based at Snowmass for three years to kindergarten — was instituted.

After retiring from the Skico in 1985, Brendlinger moved into another realm of expression, working for Freewheelin' Films to produce films and videos for the likes of Budweiser, Paul Newman and Nissan. "We had a good niche in the industry," he said simply.

Today he finds his niche in the light and art-filled house, which has tremendous views of Mount Sopris and is overflowing with sculptures that are as nuanced as their creator.

Hoff Family — Legacy

Skiing and AVSC have been a big part of the Hoff family's life since Dave and Ruth arrived here more than a half-century ago.

The legacy continues with the next generation of family members whose no-holds barred support of the club was recognized last spring when Aspen Rent-All was chosen as AVSC's Community Partner for 2014.

Beth Hoff Blackmer, who in 2000 purchased the family business, doesn't think twice about providing generators, a forklift, trucks and other equipment needs for AVSC.

He also has been instrumental to AVSC's capital campaign, working in the community to raise awareness and funds for the Aspen Highlands venue project and the club's scholarship endowment.

Beth and brothers Ted and Harve were raised during what their parents like to refer to as "the golden age of skiing in Aspen," when many young families had kids who were similar in age.

"We were all junior racers," said Beth. "We were not a household watching cartoons on a Saturday morning."

The Hoff home was a beehive of ski activity during the season, whether it was hosting visiting racers, including world champion Steve Podborski, helping organize Aspen Ski Club events like Las Vegas night, or just making sure the kids arrived on time for ski jumping or gate training.

Dave Hoff laughed when he spoke of what could be considered a more quaint era of the ski club, back when parents ferried their kids to the races in station wagons, event fees were paid in cash by then-head coach Ted Armstrong and "everything else was done by volunteers."

That wouldn't be possible today, as AVSC now boasts a membership of more than 2,300 athletes in its team and recreational programs.

The Hoff family has expanded too and includes seven grandchildren, several of whom were involved in AVSC.

"The club has evolved and professional managers have come in," Dave said. "It's now a very sophisticated organization, but it's never lost its focus. It's still all about the kids."

Just like the Hoff family has always been all about skiing.

Learn more about the 2014 AVSC Hall of Fame inductees on "Weekly with Walt," which airs beginning today (Dec. 30 on GrassRoots TV, channel 12 upvalley and channel 82 below Catherine's Store.

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