TRUE SKI PIONEERS

Legends of Grand Mesa Skiing to be honored at Snowball

Humility and wonderment are common threads among this year’s honorees for the Pioneers of Grand Mesa Skiing awards.

But as much as they believe there had to be other people more deserving of the honor this year, the Powderhorn Racing Club will bestow the 2012 honors upon:

■ Brothers Jim Johnson and Ken Johnson, who were central figures in the early days of the ski patrol.

■ Bill Bruchak, who retired in June after 34 years of working at Powderhorn, including the past two decades as the Pro Patrol director.

■ Jack Porter, the architect who designed the original Powderhorn ski lodge and helped develop the base area as a member of the original board of directors.

■ The Coleman family: parents Dick and Louise, who are deceased, and their children — Rick, Scott, Dean and Joni.

The group will be recognized Saturday night at Snowball 2012, a fundraiser put on by the Powderhorn Racing Club to raise money for the club.

Olympian and World Extreme Skiing champion Wendy Fisher will be the special guest speaker for the event, which is being hosted at the Colorado Mesa University Ballroom and will start at 5:30 p.m.

This is the third year of the fundraiser and the third year of honoring Pioneers of Grand Mesa Skiing.

One of the event coordinators, Ron Wilson, said this year’s honorees were chosen based on recommendations from the honorees of the first two classes of pioneers.

“The core of it was to start this thing where we recognized local legends who got skiing going in the area,” Wilson said of the fundraiser, adding the first two years were well-attended, “about 300 people the first year and 350 to 400 last year.”

Honoring the pioneers, Wilson said, has been a huge hit.

The Coleman family

Speaking on behalf of his siblings, Rick Coleman said they’re flattered to be recognized and surprised. He said he’ll look at the other honorees Saturday and understand why they were chosen.

But for his family, he said, “All we did was go up there and have fun.

“We haven’t helped anyone else, haven’t kept the place open or built anything or worked there or invested. ... When we see the other people there being honored, we’re going to be overwhelmed, just amazed we’re included.”

But the Colemans were at Powderhorn as often as they could be, as Dick and Louise Coleman got their kids on skis as toddlers and gave them season ski passes every year.

Rick recalls the family tradition beginning in 1957, when he was 6.

He’s now 61, while Scott is 59, Dean is 55, and Joni is 54. And they all still ski at Powderhorn when they can, although Dean and Joni still work and can’t go as often as Rick and Scott, who recently joined Rick among the ranks of the retired.

The family became known for skiing Powder Keg, their signature run.

JIm and Ken Johnson

Jim Johnson estimates he was a ski patrol member for 45 or 46 years, dating back to the days of Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s forerunner, the Mesa Creek Ski Area, and at age 80 he still skis at Powderhorn.

He said the pioneer award is comical to him because “I used to pick on the racers,” and his initial reaction when informed he was being honored was: “Why the hell me?”

Jim said he needs to thank Ken for his long tenure on the ski patrol. When Jim was in Europe for a few years, Ken kept Jim’s competencies up to date, so when he returned he could step right back into the ski patrol.

Ken Johnson, 79, said he remained with the ski patrol for about a dozen years and became an investor in Powderhorn.

He said he’s pleased to be recognized, and he joined his brother in finding some humor in it.

“It’s obvious they’re running out of people to honor,” Ken said. “It’s equally obvious they will not be running out of people to honor.”

Bill Bruchak

Despite his many years at Powderhorn — “He did everything there at some time,” Wilson said — Bruchak said the pioneer recognition comes as a surprise.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” he said.

That he stayed there for more than three decades was a simple matter of loving Powderhorn.

“You start working at a ski resort because you love skiing,” Bruchak said. “I’ve always been in love with the place from the first time I saw it. I’ve been blessed. We’re fortunate to have a place like this.”

Bruchak said he wanted to be on the ski patrol — “I wanted to help people,” he said — but it’s not a job you just step into. He had to earn it, which he did, starting out in snowmaking, then working as a lift operator, plus other jobs.

Then, he became a member of the ski patrol and eventually the person in charge of it.

Jack Porter

Porter’s work as an architect is amply displayed around Grand Junction. The downtown building that now houses Alpine Bank was his creation, as was the airport terminal, Saunders Fieldhouse at Colorado Mesa University, and a host of City Market stores and area schools, just to name a few.

His handiwork at Powderhorn isn’t as evident as it once was, but it’s there if you look for it.

He said he was surprised to find out the new lodge incorporated the old lodge that he had designed. He thought it would get torn down. Instead, they built around it.

His reaction to being honored by the Powderhorn Racing Club?

“Yeah, I’m an old guy,” the 83-year-old said.

For his part in helping develop the ski area at Powderhorn, Porter added, “It’s a beautiful mountain, and we didn’t screw it up too badly.”


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