Foundation celebrates skiers

Former Nordic Coach Brent Brown and Dr. Kim Furry celebrate their induction into the Durango Winter Sports Hall of Fame on Dec. 1 at the Fort Lewis College Ballroom. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Jamie Wienk

Former Nordic Coach Brent Brown and Dr. Kim Furry celebrate their induction into the Durango Winter Sports Hall of Fame on Dec. 1 at the Fort Lewis College Ballroom.

While having a bit of an aging crisis as people younger than I are being fêted for what they’ve contributed to our skiing heritage, I am nonetheless happy to give a shout out to this year’s inductees into the Winter Sports Hall of Fame.

Coach Brent Brown and Dr. Kim Furry were honored Dec. 1 at the Winter Sports Foundation’s annual Gala, which was held in the Ballroom at the Student Union Building at Fort Lewis College. (Wouldn’t you know it, they moved it into town in part so attendees wouldn’t have to drive into back and forth to Durango Mountain Resort on snowy roads, as has happened in previous years, and then we’re completely dry.)

Jamie Wienk, director of development and marketing for the foundation, served as mistress of ceremonies. (As a former skier for the Nordic Team in the 1980s and 1990s, she’s perfectly suited to the task.)

Janet Wiley, a longtime friend and teammate of Furry’s, introduced her, using Furry’s autobiography as a source. Furry’s career as a competitor reads like many skiers’ does, I’d imagine. She was 20 months old when she received her first pair of skis, and her mom, Nancy Furry, said her daughter started Snow Burners essentially when it started, before she was in kindergarten.

Then her life is marked by one injury after another – bruised kidneys, both anterior cruciate ligaments torn, broken shoulder, concussion, torn meniscus, surgery, recovery, surgery, recovery ...

In between, she won the Governor’s Cup by winning all three races, downhill, slalom and giant slalom, two years in a row when she was 14 and 15. She trained in Alagna, Italy, in 1979 and 1980 with Rudie and Leith Bear. To get some idea for how motivated she was, Furry got the lesson plans from her ninth- and 10th-grade teachers at the end of the previous grades and worked all summer so she wouldn’t fall behind her classmates, and did well enough to eventually get into medical school.

Furry competed in the Junior Olympics and Nationals and was fitted for the U.S. Olympic Development Team before the injuries – and her desire to focus on her education – led to her resign from the University of Colorado Ski Team.

That was a good call. She followed her father, Dr. Dean Furry, into the family business as an orthopedic surgeon, where she has built quite a reputation for herself. But she was one of the few Durango kids who played on the national skiing stage before stepping down.

Furry has many stories of those skiing days, and perhaps the craziest was when she was 15, and her parents sent her off with Chester “Chet” Anderson and Greg Bardin to the Wild West Series of downhill races on the West Coast. (Looking back, she still can’t believe they did that.)

Among the adventures were them getting her to try Copenhagen chewing tobacco, leaving her behind at a Wendy’s when she was eating too slowly and tying her up with duct tape and leaving her out on the balcony of their hotel room. Yikes, you guys!

Jim Morehart and Dave Smith, the parents of kids the second honoree, Brown, coached, presented him with his award. Brown was a slow starter – at least compared to Furry – and didn’t begin skiing until he was 5. He moved to Durango in 1978 to be a social studies teacher and coach for Durango School District 9-R. He taught history, geography, art and gifted and talented education until his retirement in 2001.

But it was for his coaching that he was honored at the gala – and not for the girls high school swim team or junior track and field, which he also coached, but his impact on Nordic skiing. He coached it from 1979 to 1989 and again from 1998 until retiring in 2011.

When 9-R dropped its ski program in 1980, Brown organized the Durango Nordic Ski Club, which endures to this day. With the assistance of Mike Elliott and Dolph Kuss, both former inductees into the Hall of Fame, Brown started both a club program for Nordic skiing and the nonprofit Nordic Ski Center at Purgatory Ski Area.

“The club started out small, with a ragtag group of kids ranging in age from 8 to 18,” Brown wrote in his autobiography for the event. “Due to Durango’s rich skiing tradition with so many amazing role models, experienced coaches and athletes, the program rose from its humble beginning to what it is today, one of the best Junior Nordic Programs in North America.”

The club boasts multiple Colorado Cup championships, several individual national titles and past and present members of prestigious college and university ski teams. And before I forget, some Olympians and U.S. Ski and Biathlon team members. Do the names Tad Elliott and Lanny and Tracy Barnes ring a bell?

Brown did some coaching on the home front as well. He and wife, Lynn, raised two sons, Rogan, 21, who’s a junior at the University of Vermont and is a member of its Mens Nordic Team; and Cully, 16, who is attending the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and is a member of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.

The event was more than an induction, it was a party and fundraiser. The 250 or so guests arrived to find the ballroom decorated on the theme of black and white – oh, if only Mother Nature had cooperated by adding some white outside – with giant snowflakes and candles as centerpieces and sparkling white lights illuminating the silent auction tables.

The silent auction was huge and benefitted the foundation’s programs in both downhill skiing and snowboarding and Nordic skiing. All told, the evening raised about $20,000.

The 250 or so guests enjoyed a dinner, catered by Sodexo, of bacon-wrapped scallops, spanakopita, grilled vegetables, fruit skewers, chicken skewers, a prime rib carving station and pork potstickers. And let’s not forget the white and dark chocolate petit cakes for dessert.

They went home with Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory goodies honoring the blac- and-white theme as party favors.

Kudos to event Chairwoman Kathy Wilson, Co-Chairwoman Wiley and volunteer coordinator Donna Chase, as well as the scads of volunteers it takes to pull off something like this.

And congratulations to Furry and Brown, for enriching the skiing heritage of our corner of the Rockies.

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Celebrating their birthdays with Christmas carols instead of – or maybe in addition to – “Happy Birthday to You,” are Emily Schaldach (17!), Nick Branson, Doug Wolfe, Jimmy Robinett, John Benner, Samantha Caldwell, Fred Ellis, Daphne D’Agostino, Kaitlyn Gibbons, Zeke Baumgardner, Dale Lyon, Shirley Spangsberg, John Condie and Ian Ellingson-Condie.

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For those who generously contributed to the Diapering Durango’s Tiny Heinies campaign created by Chris Warren and Karen Thompson three years ago, with Moni Grushkin jumping on board last year, the final tally is in.

Warren tells me they collected 10,462 diapers, 2,500 wipes and 30 cans of formula. The final day was Monday, and the women delivered the goods to Manna Soup Kitchen; the Volunteers of America, which manages the Community Shelter and the Southwest Safehouse; and the Durango Food Bank.

This is one of those drives that has zero administrative costs, so 100 percent of everything donated goes straight to our tiniest neighbors in need.

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Holes in the schedule next week mean the Salvation Army needs bell ringers to volunteer. This is one of my favorite parts of the season, so give Sharon Wiebel a call at 247-4763 to give a couple of hours of your time.

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For the past six years, Farmingtonians have enjoyed a concert featuring “The Best Brass of Christmas,” and this year, the musicians took their show on the road and brought it to Durango. They donated the proceeds to Music in the Mountains educational programs.

About 150 people gathered in a new venue for Music in the Mountains, the First Baptist Church of Durango, the neo-Gothic beauty on the corner of East Third Avenue and 11th Street.

The interior was decorated in a serenely elegant green, white and silver, and the staggered seating gave everyone a view of the 11-musician ensemble that hailed from Denver (actually Weld County) to Albuquerque and everywhere in between.

The musicians were trumpeters Mick Hesse from Farmington, Don Williams from Broomfield, Chris Nierman from Santa Fe and Marc Reed from Durango; horn players Nathan Ukens and Mel Freeman from Albuquerque, trombonists (is that a word?) Paul Bara from Aztec and John Leisenring from Santa Fe; bass trombonist (I like it, and I’m sticking with it) Don Allen from Farmington; Connie Schultz from Farmington on the euphonium, which my Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music describes as a member of the tuba family, but it’s much more delicate; and tuba player Charles Ortega from Frederick, which is near Greeley.

There’s a reason Webster’s defines the adjective brassy as cheap and showy or loud and blaring (I spent a lot of time looking stuff up for this item), but none of those definitions describe the delicacy of the group’s introductory “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” with several musicians in the back of the sanctuary playing us into the concert.

While my colleague Judith Reynolds did a great job previewing the most majestic piece on the program, Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnus Mysterium,” or “Oh, Great Mystery,” which sounds more mysterious in Latin, hearing it was utterly lovely.

But my personal favorites were the playful “I Saw Three Ships,” the two marches, one from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” and “Babes in Toyland,” and “In dulci jubilo,” or “In Sweet Joy.” It’s not that I’m a sucker for a Latin title, but this 14th century German song morphed into the circa 1540 English “Good Christian Men, Rejoice,” which is a personal favorite. (Yes, I consulted Mr. Oxford again.)

After we gave “Dona Nobis Pacem” or “Give Us Peace,” a vocal shot – that’s the fourth time this year the audience was asked to sing it at an event I have attended, so it’s quite in vogue, but then, we’re all in the mood for some peace – we went happily into the night to the refrain of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

New Music in the Mountains Executive Director Angie Beach and the merry elves of the staff sent everyone off with a bag of homemade cookies. (I was able to resist everything but the gingerbread man.)

I will probably always prefer strings and percussion, but this was a bright and cheerful way to get into the spirit of the season. So add that to your dictionary as a definition for brassy, Mr. Webster!

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Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

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