Annual Ski Snowboard Hall of Fame induction gala Gala is a yearly highlight of ski culture here in Colorado. The roster of HOF inductees is definitely a cross section of Colorado ski industry movers and shakers, some well known and some you’ve never heard of. Yet I’m always wanting to see more depth, e.g., more folks from groups other than racing or ski area operations. Thus, this year’s induction of avalanche expert Knox Williams made the event extra special.
Knox isn’t mainstream famous like Hall of Fame members such as ski racer Billy Kid. He’s not a corporate guru such as Hall member George Gillett. Instead, he felt an early calling to the study of snow avalanches and the sharing of that knowledge, and stuck with his destiny through more than 30 years as he founded and headed up the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Result of Knox’s efforts, though behind the public scene in many ways, has had a large and direct impact on the ski industry as well as backcountry skiers. Not only has CAIC provided avalanche forecasts for years, but equally important, they’ve run a prolific education program that I’m certain has saved dozens of lives — including those of ski industry workers as well as backcountry skiers.
Knox’s acceptance speech didn’t get too deep in details. He did make it obvious his run in the avalanche business could not have happened without the support of his team, as well as his wife of nearly three decades. But an impromptu after-party with Knox and CAIC staff provided pilsner enabled blog fodder.
For example, apparently Knox gave a speech some time ago that included a humorous, self depreciating list of “things your avalanche forecaster will not tell you.”
I like the concept, since many of us backcountry skiers make the public avalanche forecast a far too large part of our hazard assessment, to the point of not making our own “micro” forecast once we reach the trailhead or a good snow study spot on our route.
Thus, to keep from making a god out of the next avalanche forecast you hear, remember these things about the forecaster: He (or she) would probably rather gargle razor blades than teach another snowpit; weasel words are his friend (e.g., pockets, possible, chance of), his personal life might be a mess, his computer possibly crashed that morning, and he could go postal. That’ll help you keep things in perspective.
Congratulations Knox, and congratulations to the other inductees and their families as well!
Hall of Fame induction gala is held at Marriott City Center in downtown Denver, a deluxe venue that provides a virtually flawless production. Festivities begin with a reception centered on poster style displays of the inductee’s lives. Family and friends gather around the posters, frequently multi-generational groups that speak in a touching way to how important skiing is to the fabric of our western mountain states. The vibe is super positive — like being three turns into a pitch of knee deep powder.
The HOF Gala is undersold — every first time attendee I speak with after the event says something like “wow, that was WAY more than I thought it would be.” So, while attending this event is a bit pricey because it’s a fundraiser, I want to make a plea that more of you WildSnow readers from Colorado try to attend. If you have a place in your heart for skiing, that place will be warmed by this happening. Besides, perhaps we’ll get a few more backcountry folks nominated and eventually inducted, so you’ll have to be there for that.
Knox Williams Books from our Backcountry Skiing Book List
Williams, Knox and Betsy Armstrong. The Avalanche Book. Fulcrum Press, 1986.
(Excellent overview, should be in every backcountry skier’s collection.)
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Williams, Knox and Armstrong, Betsy. The Snowy Torrents: Avalanche Accidents , United States, 1972-1979. Teton Bookshop Publishing, 1984.
(This classic of accident reporting changed the way we look at avalanches, includes many of the famous early accidents that helped inform today’s avalanche safety methods.)
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