“Our job is to make people happy…I’m suited for hospitality.” – John Norton
The nominations were submitted and votes were cast by snow sports industry professionals, and the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame is pleased to announce the Class of 2023, an inspiring group of snow sports enthusiasts representing a wide range of people from across Colorado and the industry. Among the five selections is Crested Butte local John Norton, now the executive director of the Gunnison County Tourism and Prosperity Partnership.
“Every class of inductees is different and this year we celebrate individuals who have dedicated their lives to educating, inspiring, and preserving snow sports in Colorado. This class truly represents what the Colorado Snowsports Museum is all about,” said Jennifer Mason, Executive Director of the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame. “We’re proud of the Class of 2023; each person represents a unique area of Colorado and illustrates the fact that Colorado as a whole leads the way in snow sports.”
The Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame Class of 2023:
John Norton – Sport Builder
During John’s career in Crested Butte and Aspen, he made the Colorado ski resorts and communities better. His contributions to marketing programs, special events, community alliance building and the guest experience encouraged other resort leaders to seek out new opportunities and programs to keep pace. Among his many accomplishments are pioneering nonstop airline programs, founding the adaptive program at Crested Butte, introducing “ski-free” programs to attract new customers and convincing the Aspen Ski Corporation to lift the snowboard ban to develop a four-mountain experience to accommodate all demographics, abilities and lifestyles.
Norton told the Crested Butte News this week that he was “humbled” to learn he had been selected to the Hall of Fame. “There are some real giants in the Hall. Some of them I counted as friends and the world’s best story tellers, including Bob Beattie, Dick Durance, and Lou Dawson who has ties to Crested Butte. Also, Sven Wiik who coached at Western. Compared to them I’m not much.”
Norton said he was blessed to have been associated with the ski industry for so many years. He started at Crested Butte in the late 1980s, went to Aspen as an executive and returned to run CBMR. He said the job was fun and the places to live where he worked were gorgeous. “Our principle job is to make people happy,” he said. “We host all these people working 49 or 50 weeks per year, most in urban environments, and they visit here for a break and a smile! That was a fun mission for me.
“We also had a crew of folks come in each year to work the season and many weren’t paid great,” he continued. “It was equally important to show them some fun and appreciation since they were the ones delivering to the visitors. I used to spend a lot of time with the front line. I had a boss once who said, ‘The front line never lies.’ Meaning, a customer can smell the quality of the company by studying the front line. He was right. In any event, I’m suited for hospitality.”
It hasn’t all been easy going for Norton’s decades in Crested Butte and Aspen. He hit a few hurdles in the course of the job. “I had two major flops,” he reminisced. “One was an airport expansion initiative in Aspen that failed. Continental had just departed its Denver hub and that was half our air service. At the same time, United was ditching all those old Convair 580’s that used to fly here, too. That was 100% of our air service and Aspen at that time had 50+ flights per day and was in danger of losing all of it. Happily, new airplane technology caught up with the challenges.
“The second flop was Snodgrass,” Norton continued. “We may never know what happened with that one. What worked was bouncing out of bed early every morning grateful that my family and I got live in these beautiful mountains and raring to get to work and find new ways to put a smile on peoples’ faces.”
Overall, Norton is optimistic but realistic about the health of the ski business. “Vail’s reports say they’re healthy. I’m guessing Alterra is, too. And Monarch, not attached to either, reported record skier days last season,” he relayed. “So, for the time being, everything seems to be working out. Sliding on snow is fun! We will need some of that old school innovation when bad times come, which they will. The nimble will win out.”
The other four selections are from a cross section of Colorado’s ski businesses.
Cheryl Jensen – Inspirational
Cheryl Jensen’s contribution to the snow sports community has been lifesaving. She founded The Vail Veterans Program, which introduces veterans to alpine sports both independently and with loved ones. By keeping veterans active from the beginning of their recovery, their mental and physical health are greatly improved, giving them hope and confidence in their future. Many veterans who have experienced Cheryl’s generosity and kindness have made Colorado their home, becoming leaders in their communities and champions in Paralympic sports and life.
Hilaree Nelson – Athlete | Inspirational
Hilaree Nelson is among the most accomplished ski mountaineers and alpinists on the planet. She is well-known for her “firsts” such as summiting and skiing 8,000-meter peaks around the world, notably becoming the first woman to summit two 8000-meter peaks (Everest and Lhotse) in a 24-hour period. Additionally, Hilaree leveraged her platform to bring attention to pertinent issues such as climate change and to empower young girls and women. She consciously and unconsciously opened doors and changed the rules of equity and access for the next generation.
Sandy Hildner – Sport Builder
Diverse trailblazer extraordinaire, Sandy trained with the University of Colorado Men’s Ski Team before there was a women’s ski team. Inspiring women athletes, she won National Championships, the Roch Cup in 1967, and raced Olympic downhill in 1968. Sandy innovated Lange boots and was one of only two women in the ski hardgoods industry in the 1960s. She was the first female coach of the Winter Park Ski Team, embedding world-class skiing techniques and the mental preparation necessary to excel at the highest levels. Sandy led Copper Mountain’s Over the Hill Gang for 20 seasons and was instrumental in offering women’s clinics.
Seth Masia – Inspirational
Few Colorado-based ski writers are respected as widely as is Seth Masia. He was a key editor and writer for SKI Magazine at the peak of its influence and pioneered online ski journalism. His tenure with SKI Magazine, his presidency of the International Skiing History Association, along with numerous books, articles, and skiing-related internet accomplishments are notable. His leadership has been built on the work of his predecessors to create an unparalleled record of snow sports history.
“We are delighted to announce the class of 2023, which represents a tremendous and diverse group of athletes, sports builders and inspirational individuals from all across the state of Colorado, from Boulder to Crested Butte to Telluride,” said Bill Tomcich, longtime board member of the Colorado Snowsports Museum and chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee. Hall of Fame candidates are nominated under the established criteria of Athlete, Sport Builder, Inspirational, or Pioneer categories, with the Hall of Fame nomination committee evaluating and confirming the nominees to move on to the final ballot.
The 140-member Hall of Fame voting panel is comprised of current Hall of Fame members, key snow sports industry representatives, snow sports resorts, and the Hall’s board of directors.