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November 1, 2012
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'Snowball' to honor local Grand Mesa skiing legends

The Snowball is a "pre-season ski party" which includes a rustic Italian meal and a chance to meet locals who pioneered skiing on the Grand Mesa - all while raising money for the Powderhorn Racing Club, a nonprofit whose mission is to develop junior ski racers ages 5-14. And, it's a night of storytelling."It's a must-do event for those who ski, or have kids in the Buddy Werner (youth ski racing) program," Snowball founder Ron Wilson said. Olympian and world champion skiing champion Wendy Fisher will be the featured guest speaker of the evening. Fisher has won competitions for more than a decade. She spent seven years with the U.S. Ski Team, earning a spot on the Winter Olympic team in 1992.The Snowball each year honors locals for their contribution in promoting the sport on Grand Mesa. Two of this year's honorees are brothers Jim and Ken Johnson, both of whom volunteered as ski patrollers at the old Mesa Creek Ski Area (often mistakenly referred to as "old Powderhorn," although Powderhorn was never its name).Powderhorn Ski Area later opened in 1966. Back in the 1950s, there was no ski patrol at Mesa Creek to help keep the slopes safe for families and individuals."Some of us with a little bit of ski skills used to volunteer," Jim Johnson said. The Johnson brothers were among the first to join an organized ski patrol on Grand Mesa. The Johnsons were also part of a group who installed the first lift at Mesa Creek to carry skiers 3,000 feet up the hill (a 1,000 feet elevation gain). "It wasn't a commercial operation," Johnson said. "It was all volunteer labor."Jim Johnson volunteered 46 years as a ski patroller, and later became a national avalanche advisor, who taught other ski patrollers about avalanches.Ken Johnson served many years on Powderhorn's board of directors, taught First Aid and led the new junior patrol team.The Coleman family will also be recognized for their contributions to skiing, Wilson said. "The (late) parents and their four kids (Rick, Scott, Dean and Joni) were a fixture at Powderhorn," Wilson said. "The kids still are."Grand Junction architect Jack Porter is another honoree who served on Powderhorn's board of directors, and designed the original Powderhorn ski lodge. Bill Bruchak of Mesa, who retired this year as director of Powderhorn Ski Patrol, will also be recognized."Bill has done everything from snow-making, cab driving, teaching, ski patrol. He's a jack of all trades," Wilson said. Each of this year's honorees were nominated by previous award winners, including Bill Foster, Shirley Woodard, Dort Spooner, Larry Klumb, Bob Beverly, Bob Sisac, Kent Foster, Tom Garner, Steve and Stephanie Reynolds, Gene Taylor, Harold Harvey, and Don Vest.The evening includes a plated dinner, with a cocktail hour before and following the meal. Locally crafted beers and wines, as well as cocktails will be available via a cash bar. There will also be music and a silent auction.Tickets to Snowball 2012 are available at Board and Buckle Ski, 2822 North Ave.; Gene Taylor's Sporting Goods, 445 W. Gunnison Ave.; all City Market stores; or by phone at 970-243-8497."It'll be a great night of hearing stories of how skiing was during the golden era, as well as the modern era - with stories from Wendy Fisher," Wilson said.

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 1, 2012 07:13PM Published Nov 1, 2012 05:57PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.