’84 gold medalists Bill Johnson & Phil Mahre to appear at Ski Sundown on Saturday to raise funds

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on January 22, 2010 1:51 pm

1984 US Olympic Men’s Ski Racing Gold Medalist Bill Johnson (pictured left) and 3 time overall FIS World Cup champion, US Olympic Gold Medalist and US and world skiing legend Phil Mahre will appear January 23, 2010 at Ski Sundown ski area for the first annual “Sam and Mary Humphrey Memorial Vertical Challenge for The Bill Johnson Health Care Trust”.  The purpose of the event is to raise funds for Bill’s ongoing health care needs resulting from his 2001 racing accident suffered while competing for a berth on the US Ski Team headed for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games.

Johnson won America’s first ever US Olympic Gold Medal in men’s alpine racing at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games, days before Mahre won Gold in the Olympic slalom.  Johnson, a downhill specialist renowned for taunting and beating the great Franz Klammer at the 1984 Games, won 3 FIS World Cup downhills in 1983-84, including the first ever by an American man at Wengen, Switzerland before the Olympics.  Mahre, the greatest ski racer in US history, won an unprecedented and unequaled 3 consecutive FIS World Cup overall titles, 3 Olympic medals, and 27 World Cup races in a storied career that will never be matched in skiing.  Mahre is the only racer to have with consistency beaten Swedish icon Ingemar Stenmark, winner of a world record 84 FIS World Cup races, and considered by experts to be the greatest skier in history.  Knowing of Johnson’s needs, Mahre agreed instantly in the true Olympic champion spirit when asked on short notice to travel 3000 miles from his home in Yakima, WA just to support Johnson.

The event is named to honor the late Sam & Mary Humphrey, Canton, CT natives, who helped lead the Ski Sundown Ski Patrol for 40 years.  Their son-in-law, Harold Burbank, a Canton, CT attorney, created the event.  He once trained with Johnson, and currently coaches the Ethel Walker School ski team.  Burbank has volunteered legal and other services for Johnson since his 2001 TBI.

“Billy is the most fearless man I ever knew in sport, but he and his family need the support of our ski communities now.  His right side is failing.  Without a trust fund he will not be able to afford equipment for his disability, such as an indoor electric cart.  I hope more ski resorts, racers and sponsors like we’ve assembled in Connecticut will create events to support Bill’s health care trust fund.  I am sure Phil Mahre will help.  He’s been there for Bill 110%. We all cannot be Gold Medalists, but we can all be Olympians when we help TBI victims in need like Bill, “ Burbank said.

The Vertical Challenge pits teams of 4 skiers and boarders against the mountain and each other to see who can make the most runs in 6 hours.  Entrants are paid by sponsors for each run skied. Funds earned will be placed in Bill’s trust fund.  Prizes will be awarded for most team vertical, most individual vertical, and most funds raised for Bill.  Pre-registration materials are available now at Ski Sundown lodge, or at the event.  Registration opens 7 AM, 1-23-10, Sundown lodge,  and closes at 9 AM.  The Challenge begins at 9 AM sharp.  Phil Mahre will MC the awards ceremony, and Bill Johnson will hand out awards, at 3:30 PM.

Concurrent  with the Challenge, the STRIDE Adaptive Program at Ski Sundown will hold an adaptive ski racing clinic coached by Mahre and Johnson.  STRIDE is renowned for its advocacy and support of disabled athletes in all sports.  Families and friends of disabled athletes should not miss this remarkable event.  STRIDE founders, staff, coaches and athletes from three states promise to attend.  STRIDE underwrote Phil Mahre’s appearance.  Please contact the STRIDE Adaptive Program at Ski Sundown for more race clinic details.

The Ski Sundown Ski Patrol Vertical Challenge Team, led by veteran Ski Sundown Patroller Norman Bird, in memory of Sam and Mary Humphrey, challenges all CT Ski Patrols and ski schools to enter Vertical Challenge teams.  Ski Sundown Ski Patrol generously has offered to volunteer needed labor and safety services for the event as well.  Please contact Norman Bird, Ski Sundown Ski Patrol, for details on the Patrol and Ski School Challenge, or information on how to volunteer Ski Patrol services at the event.

More volunteers are sought.  Sponsorship opportunities exist.

The event is supported by Ski Sundown, STRIDE Adaptive Program at Ski Sundown, STRIDE, Inc., PROSPORT NW; Residence Inn of Avon, CT, Fatty’s Skis and Snowboards,  Bob’s Discount Furniture; Couture Alpine Technologies, and  Attorney Harold Burbank.

Contact Attorney Harold Burbank, Canton, CT, 860-693-2687, for more information.

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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