Phil Gravink inducted into U.S. Ski Hall of Fame

Congratulations to Phil and Tyler. Phil daughters, Brenda and Jill were on the UNH Ski Team and Phil also was instrumental in developing the Friends of UNH Skiing which now supports the team. Tyler daughter Taryn was also a member of the UNH Ski Team. Congrats to them both!

ISHPEMING, Mich. — Phil Gravink and Tyler Palmer joined some select company this month.

Gravink, former Attitash general manager and president, and a resident of Jackson, and Palmer, a former Olympian, World Cup racer and past Men’s Pro Tour racer, of Kearsarge, are among this year’s inductees into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, both men learned earlier this month.

“I am honored, and, of course, humbled,” said Gravink to a reporter, just before speaking at the annual BEWI Awards luncheon at the Boston Globe/BEWI Snowsports Expo in Boston Nov. 11.

Palmer was equally modest.

“[Former U.S. Ski Team coach] Bob Beattie once told me not to worry about money or winning and losing, that if you had your friends and family, that’s what counted; that you were all set and everything would work out. So, for me to get this honor, which I never would have dreamed of, I thank all my friends, because they are getting this with me — I would never have made it without their friendship and support over the years,” said Palmer in a telephone interview from his Kearsarge home upon receiving the news.

He had just bagged a five-point buck, taken within the same hour that son-in-law Tim Roden and friend Jackie Butler had also gotten their deer. Earlier in the fall, Palmer — an avid sportsman — had gotten a doe during archery season.

“So, yeah, getting my deer, and those guys getting theirs, all in the same week of my getting into the Hall of Fame is quite a week,” laughed Palmer, who, despite battling both Type 1, insulin-dependent diabetes and more recently being diagnosed with Addison’s disease, was energetic and in his usual good humor.

TYLER PALMER

Palmer was a dominant racer on the newly formed World Cup tour in the 1970s. In 1971, he was the first American male to crack the top three in overall points in the slalom.

He won the Junior Nationals in 1969 and with his brother Terry and fellow Mount Washington Valley resident David Currier of Madison was on the Olympic Team at Sapporo in 1972, where he finished ninth in slalom.

During his career he won two World Cup races, reached the podium four times and had nine top 10 World Cup results. Later he raced on Bob Beattie’s World Professional Ski Tour where he won five races. A National Masters Champion several times, Palmer was a coach for junior racers at Sun Valley until his retirement in 2010.

He won Men’s Pro Ski Racing’s Spider Sabich Trophy in 1978, and upon his retirement from the pro tour in 1980 won the Mountain Ear’ “Ear of the Year” award.

He has been a mentor to current Mount Washington Valley Olympian Leanne Smith.

“I never had any inkling throughout my career, ski racing or coaching, or growing up, that I would get anything in this direction. For me, this means a lot,” said Palmer, 61. “Again, I thank my friends — because friends and family are really what is so important in life. I have lived off that mother’s milk for 61 years.”

In interviews with Ann Bennett, Karen Cummings and other reporters over the years, he has always been passionate about what skiing did for him.

The 1972 Olympics were the culmination of Tyler’s amateur racing career
that began when he was 5 years old.

“We skied at Cranmore, and in those days, there were a lot of European instructors, although when it came to racing, my brother and I were our own best teachers,” he related.

He said he, brother Terry and fellow ’72 Olympic teammate David Currier of Madison were always in friendly competition.

“We never let it rest,” Tyler told Cummings.

Known as the original New Hampshire “Bad Boy” on the American team, long before Bode Miller came around, Tyler’s reputation preceded him when he went to Japan.

“Staying out to 4 a.m. his first night at the Olympic site,” Cummings wrote, “did not please the team coaches. Tyler was put on curfew and confined to the Olympic Village for his entire stay.”

“I was required to train hard every single day for 28 days,” he said, as opposed to his own training regimen.

All work and no play wasn’t Tyler’s style.

“In Sapporo,” he told Cummings, “I was totally concerned with skiing and didn’t get to savor the Olympics, but I guess I felt a little stale by the time I raced.”

Other events also may have played a factor. The day before his Olympic slalom run, Tyler’s competition skis were stolen, forcing him to race on his practice skis. In addition, while riding an empty lift servicing the practice hill, he and Terry had jumped off to ski a closed ski trail — causing the chair to bang into the tower, shearing the gears.

“We were told we had to to pay $10,000 to fix it,” Tyler told Cummings. “I reminded them that I once went to Europe with only $20 in my pocket.”

To avoid prosecution, Tyler continued to keep a low profile throughout the Games, even leaving Japan “with the New Zealand team, wearing one of their team jackets,” wrote Cummings.

Interviewed this week, Palmer said he was not a “bad boy.” Like Miller, he was a New Hampshire skier with a strong will.

“They all know now that this is the New Hampshire way, whether with me or Bode. We do it our way, and we try to do it with some fun, too,” said Palmer. “It wasn’t that I didn’t like the coaching — I was just running in different miles than what they were doing and they didn’t understand it.”

PHIL GRAVINK

Gravink was a key player for 35 years at the national level in ski area management.
After graduating from college he started out helping run his family’s farm in New York State before founding an area known as Peek N Peak.

Such was his success that the state appointed him as general manager of Gore Mountain and later he held the same post at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire from 1977 to 1991 where, under his leadership, he developed Loon into a leading modern resort.

He was also a key player in influencing the policies of the U.S. Forest Service. He was director of skiing for the state-owned Cannon Mountain and Sunapee in 1991-92, and became president and general manager of Attitash Mountain Resort in 1992.

At Attitash, he worked for a board of directors that included the late Bob Morrell, Sandy McCulloch and Thad Thorne. After Sunday River’s Les Otten purchased the area, he oversaw the layout of Bear Peak in 1994-1995. He retired in 1999.

“Even though all of my ski career stops were enjoyable,” said Gravink this week, “because of the great board and staff I worked with I would consider the most rewarding my time at Attitash. The Nancy Clarks, Tom Chasses and John Urdis — it doesn’t get any better than that.”

He said he is proud to have overseen the layout of Bear Peak, which has wide meandering western-styled resort trails, contrasted with Attitash’s classic New England narrow trails that were laid out by Thad Thorne in 1965.

“I loved to build ski areas — I added it up not too long ago, and as CEO I oversaw the building of six base lodges, 26 lifts of various shapes and sizes and three hotels, including the Grand Summit at Attitash. All the monument I would want is the Bear Peak trail system and the North Peak trail system at Loon,” said Gravink.

He learned from many mentors, including the late Otto Schniebs, former Dartmouth ski coach, who stayed with the Gravinks when he was well into his 80s, helping to lay out the design for Peek N Peak.

“I had the fun of going into the woods before they were built on snowshoes and ribbons to set the first parameters,” he said.

Gravink was on several key committees of the National Ski Areas Association, serving as a director for 18 years and then as its chairman in 1979-1980.

In 1993, the NSAA presented him with its Sherman Adams Award for his contributions. Other honors have included the NSAA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and the BEWI Award in 2006. He contributed significantly to several skiing safety innovations.

For many years he was a senior associate with Sno-Engineering and continues to this day as a ski area consultant.

Then U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., had this to say about Gravink in 1999, read into the Congressional Record:

“Phil Gravink is one of the industry’s most respected and experienced leaders. Phil is a resident of Jackson, and has devoted 36 years to operating ski resorts, 22 of which have been in New Hampshire. Phil Gravink has had a truly successful and distinguished career. Phil Gravink has been an integral part of New Hampshire’s ski industry. I commend Phil for his critical role and unwavering dedication to the success and progression of the New Hampshire ski industry.”

After his retirement from Attitash, he and wife Shirley embarked on a world cycling trip to raise funds for the New England Ski Museum and Northeast Passage, a disabled sports program that his daughter Jill has worked to develop. The Northeast Passage began as a way for post-trauma patients to become re-involved in skiing and has since expanded to involve other sports.

He served as interim director of the Mount Washington Observatory, and remains active with the New England Ski Museum, the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council and several other organizations.

2011 CLASS OF 8

Gravink and Palmer are among the Class of 2011. All eight are to be formally inducted in April 2012 in Seattle, Wash., with an enshrinement ceremony at the Hall of Fame in Ishpeming later in the year.

Others to be inducted are: late Park City and Alpine Meadows ski business executive Nick Badami; late businessman and ski history enthusiast Mason Beekley, founder in 1991 of the International Skiing History Association; former ski racer, world speed record holder, coach, ski school director and journalist Dick Dorworth (a coach of Palmer’s on the USST during the 1970-71 season); Harry Leonard, skiing’s impresario, visionary and cheerleader during the 1960s and ’70s; freestyle Olympic silver medalist Joe Pack, one of the stars of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics; and former World Cup racer and two-time Olympian Eva Twardokens, who in 1996 won the World Championship for technical skiing, a judged event.

The selection of the Class of 2011 was conducted by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame’s National Selection Committee followed by a vote of over 100 skiing experts and enthusiasts who make up its national voting panel.

According to the website, www.skihall.com, the members of the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame “represent the highest level of national achievement in America, featuring prominent athletes and snow sport builders whose accomplishments showcase American skiing and snowboarding.”

PAST VALLEY INDUCTEES

Gravink and Palmer join a distinguished list of fellow inductees who have had connections to Mount Washington Valley.

Other inductees from the valley include:

* Late 1939 American Inferno winner Toni Matt (1920-1989).

* Late ski school and ski shop founder Carroll P. Reed (1905-1995).

* Late first Eastern Slope Ski School director Benno Rybizka (1904-1992) of Austria.

* Late Austrian skimeister Hannes Schneider (1890-1955), founder of the Arlberg technique, ahis son, Herbert Schneider, 91, of Cranmore Mountain Resort.

For more information, visit www.skihall.com.