Aspen’s Chris Klug named to Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame |

Aspen’s Chris Klug named to Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado
After receiving his bronze medal in a ceremony Friday night, Feb. 15, at the Olympic Medals Plaza in Salt Lake City, Aspen's Chris Klug waves a bouquet of flowers acknowledging the celebratory hometown fans. Tim Mutrie photo.

ASPEN – Chris Klug still reminisces about those early days.Those days spent negotiating the slopes of Mount Bachelor on a Burton Backhill – a wooden board with bungee straps for bindings and moon boots secured with layers of duct tape. Those days spent piling into the back of his father’s Jeep Wagoneer and heading off to Northwest Series races, or sleeping in the back of his mom’s station wagon at Mount Bachelor, near Bend, Ore.”I remember seeing that first snowboard come out and thinking, ‘I’ve got to try that,'” Klug said Tuesday. “I was instantly hooked. Every single day off school, on the weekend or during holidays, all I wanted to do was be on the mountain and improve and explore. Some things haven’t changed. … I fell in love.”That love affair has endured for nearly three decades. It has included a decorated competitive career replete with 11 U.S. National titles, World Cup triumphs, three Olympic appearances and a bronze medal in parallel giant slalom (PGS) at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games – a feat the now 38-year-old attained just 18 months after receiving a life-saving liver transplant.Klug has become a champion both in sport and of helping promote organ donation. Now, he also can be called a hall of famer.The Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame recently named Klug one of its five 2011 inductees. The news was first publicized at Tuesday’s Aspen Chamber Resort Association meeting at The Gant. The group will officially be enshrined at a Nov. 4 gala.Klug joins a distinguished list of Aspenites in the Hall of Fame, including Max and Bill Marolt, Fred and Elli Iselin, Walter Paepcke, Friedl Pfeifer, Andy Mill, Klaus Obermeyer and Pat O’Donnell.”It’s a real honor. I’m proud to be part of a great group of people that has contributed so much to skiing and snowboarding in this state, and to the sport in general,” Klug said. “I never envisioned when I stepped on that Burton Backhill where it would take me.”One of the things I’m most proud of is being part of the early spirit and early culture of the sport. To participate in the sport’s evolution has been pretty cool.”By his own admission, Klug did not harbor competitive aspirations when he first started snowboarding. As the sport developed and competitions began sprouting up, however, he figured “I got into it as early as anybody, so let’s go test my skills and see how I do.”He acquitted himself quite well, working his way through the junior and amateur ranks, securing a spot on the pro tour and ultimately making it to the World Cup circuit.In 1998, Klug became the first male to be named to the U.S. Snowboarding Team. He competed in snowboarding’s Olympic debut in Nagano, Japan, winding up sixth. Klug had reached the top of his sport while battling a rare liver disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis, which he contracted in the early 1990s. Not long after Nagano, as his condition worsened, it looked as though everything would come crashing down.His fortunes changed on July 27, 2000, however, when Klug received word his hopes of receiving a new liver had been answered. He went under the knife one day later.Little more than 18 months later – with the family of the 13-year-old Denver boy, killed by a gunshot wound, who donated the liver that saved Klug’s life in attendance – the snowboarder stood on the podium at the 2002 Winter Games with a bronze medal draped around his neck.”After going through the transplant and getting a second chance at life, it provided an amazing platform through snowboarding to promote something important – my foundation and the donor awareness message,” Klug said. “I’m so grateful.”In addition to his work with the foundation, speaking engagements and authoring the book, “To The Edge And Back,” Klug competed on the World Cup circuit for much of the last decade. His perseverance paid off with a seventh-place PGS finish in his third trip to the Winter Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The 2009-2010 season culminated with Klug winning his 11th U.S. National title in Steamboat Springs. He has competed just once since – in a World Cup PGS in Telluride in December 2010. While his International Ski Federation status still says “active,” Klug says his competitive days are behind him.”[The win in Steamboat] was kind of sad, but I wanted to end on top,” he said. “I kind of knew I was going to retire from competing then. … I never announced it or had a fun little retirement celebration.”That moment likely will come later this year at the gala, where Klug will be joined by friends and family – including his wife, Missy, and their two-week old daughter, Bali.”I’ve been putting a little thought into what I’m going to say. I’m going to recognize a lot of the friends and family and coaches and people that were influential in my career,” Klug said. “It has been an incredible ride.”