Mikaela Shiffrin joins crowd in celebrating 2022 Snowsports hall of fame inductees

Mikaela Shiffrin speaks at the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame celebration on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022, in Vail. Shiffrin received the snowsports museum's competitor of the year award.
Rex Keep/Colorado Snowsports Museum

VAIL — Hundreds of attendees enjoyed a surprise appearance Sunday from skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin at the Colorado Snowsports Museum’s 2022 hall of fame celebration at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail.

Shiffrin accepted the Competitor of the Year award which she received from the Colorado Snowsports Museum for 2022 as well as 2021 and 2020.

She said it was an honor to be able to spend the evening with such a star-studded list of people who have impacted snowsports, including 29 hall of fame members who gathered on stage during the opening ceremonies.

Shiffrin thanked the Colorado Snowsports Museum for “honoring snowsports, and all of the people within snowsports that makes this community so special, and that have an impact — a lifelong or an eternity-long impact.”

Shiffrin also thanked the snowsports community.

“The most important thing I want to say is thank you to this community for acting and supporting and just existing in a way that makes evenings like this so special to be part of, and so special to travel around the world ski racing, always thinking that I’m representing this community, and it’s just something special, and that’s what tonight is all about,” she said.

Several new Colorado Snowsports hall of fame nominees were inducted in person during the evening, including Peter Rietz, Jeannie Thoren and John Dakin. Aspen snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, who wasn’t able to make the ceremony in person in 2019 when she was inducted, also attended and was honored. Author Ron LeMaster and Loveland Ski Area founder Chester “Chet” Upham were posthumously inducted into the hall of fame, as well.

Sim Thomas accepted the award on behalf of LeMaster, who died in November. Thomas said LeMaster will live on through his books on ski technique, which the next generation of young ski coaches ski enjoy today.

“How great that Ron’s work continues to inspire,” Thomas said. “And better yet, that it can inspire a whole new generation of skiing enthusiasts.”

Chet Upham’s three children — Barbara, Kathleen and Chester — accepted the award on behalf of Upham, who died 2008. The Upham family was honored as one of the few remaining families to own ski facilities in the United States.

“He wanted the employees to call him Chet, he wanted to know their names, he wanted to know about their lives,” Barbara said.

Chan and Melitta Bergen, who set up an endowment for the museum in 2021, also received posthumous awards for the lifetime achievement in helping the museum develop meaningful exhibits and preserve its collection.

“They were an incredible pair,” said Patti Cogswell in accepting the award on the Bergens’ behalf. “They lived a life of adventure together, it is their story of the mountains and skiing that inspired this wonderful gift.”

The National Brotherhood of Skiers received the museum’s Top of the Hill award in recognition of the decades of effort the group has put forth in bringing together and empowering thousands of Black snowsports enthusiasts across the country.

National Brotherhood of Skiers President Henri Rivers accepted the award in person, saying the organization was appreciative of the snowsports museum for recognizing and respecting the contribution the Black skier/snowboarder organization has made to snowsports over the past five decades.

“As you are aware, over the last couple of years America has awoken and seen that there is a need for inclusion,” Rivers said.

Rivers thanked those in attendance for their support, guidance, help and most of all, acknowledgment.

“That means a lot to our organization, that you acknowledge what we’ve done,” Rivers said.

The group was founded in 1973 as Black skiers faced challenges in being alone on the mountain and found strength in numbers by coming together to ski. The group’s first annual summit was in Aspen, and today, that summit brings together thousands of skiers from 54 ski clubs around the nation.

“We have been skiing in the state of Colorado for over 50 years,” Rivers said.

Adaptive snowsports athlete Thomas Walsh also thanked the snowsports museum for its dedication to inclusion.

Walsh had a tough act to follow, addressing the crowd after Shiffrin spoke, but was able to get just as thunderous of applause with what he brought to the event.

“This past season was full of many different challenges, however I was lucky to overcome and earn one of only two of Team USA Alpine medals in Beijing,” Walsh said, holding the medal over his head in triumph. “I’m proud to bring home this medal for all of Vail, and all of Colorado.”