Lodwick, Dunn-Downing highlight class of 2016 at Colorado Ski & Snowboard celebration
Steamboat Springs — When the class of 2016 takes its place in the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Saturday, there will be no question that two athletes with ties to Steamboat Springs — Shannon Dunn-Downing and Todd Lodwick — as well as the coach, left a lasting impression.
As a child Dunn-Downing dreamed about going to the Olympics as a figure skater or a gymnast.
But even then, she never dreamed she would become the first American woman to win a medal in the sport of halfpipe. Before she moved to Steamboat from the suburbs of Chicago at the age of 9, her dreams were to slide across the ice as a figure skater or maybe tumble her way to a medal as a gymnast.
“When I went to the Olympics for snowboarding in 1998, my dreams came true,” Dunn-Downing said from her home in California Thursday. “When we moved to Steamboat, I had no idea that I could win a medal in snowboarding — I didn’t even know what snowboarding was.”
Who knows what would have happened had Steamboat had a serious gymnastics program at the time or if the covered ice rink, now found in the shadow of Howelsen Hill, had always been there.
“My dad decided to switch careers, and the family moved to Steamboat,” Dunn-Downing said. “They didn’t have a gymnastics program, and the ice rink was outside when we got there.”
Dunn-Downing, however, was an active youngster and soon found her way to the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area. When the ski area opened its slopes to snowboarding in 1987, she discovered the then relatively new sport of snowboarding. It wasn’t her dream, but without knowing it, Dunn-Downing would become an early pioneer of the sport.
“I didn’t realize it at the time,” Dunn-Downing said of becoming a role model. “It all happens so fast, and I was just kind of living it and enjoying it. I guess when I look back on my accomplishments, I can see it, but it didn’t feel like I was breaking new ground at the time.”
In addition to her bronze medal performance at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Dunn-Downing’s list of accomplishments includes winning the gold in the halfpipe at the inaugural Winter X Games in 1997 and repeating the feat in 2001 in the super pipe. She also earned silver medals at the X Games in the halfpipe in 1999 and in slope style in 2001.
Dunn-Downing broke new ground in the sport throughout her career and was the first woman to land several difficult halfpipe tricks in competition, including a frontside 540 in 1991, backside 540 in 1994, Mctwist in 1994, frontside 720 in 1995 and frontside rodeo 720 in 2001
She also made an appearance in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics and finished fifth in the women’s halfpipe, which was won by Kelly Clark — one of the many young riders inspired by Dunn-Downing — a few years earlier.
Dunn-Downing retired from the sport a few years later but left a lasting mark on the sport, not only in the competitive events, but in her efforts to drive manufacturers to make boards, equipment and clothing designed for women.
She helped design and put her name on the first women’s snowboard offered by Simms and the first women’s model offered by Burton. She was also involved with Prom Snowboarding Outerwear and women’s specific goggles created by Velvet.
On Saturday, the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame will induct Dunn-Downing during the class of 2016 Hall of Fame Induction Gala at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort Spa.
She will be inducted along with Nordic Combined legend and Steamboat Springs native Todd Lodwick and Aldo Radamus, who worked as the Alpine director at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club before moving to Vail, where he eventually became the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail executive director. He left that position in spring 2016 but is still involved with the club at a different level.
Setting the bar
Like Dunn-Downing, Lodwick grew up in Steamboat Springs dreaming of his chance to make an appearance at the Olympic Games, and like Dunn-Downing, his contributions went well beyond the scope of the Olympics.
During an international career that ran from 1993 until 2014, the Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier set the standard on he World Cup and raised the bar for American athletes in his sport.
He competed in six Olympic Games, including the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Canada, where he landed a silver medal as part of the American Nordic combined team. His personal career highlights include being named to the U.S. Nordic combined team and the pride he felt when he was wearing the jacket awarded to the members of the U.S. Team.
“I was a special jumper, and one day, Tom (Steitz) comes up to me and asked if I wanted to give cross-country skiing a try. I said, ‘Sure,’ and six months later, I was a member of the national team,” Lodwick said. “I can’t thank him enough for giving me that opportunity.”
Lodwick made the most of it in 1996, when he raced to his first World Cup victory in a World Cup event right in Steamboat. It was a great year for the young skier, and a few months later, he became the first American to win gold at the Junior World Championships.
He went on to compete in six Olympic Games and, in 2014, capped off a tremendous career that included 19 national titles, gold medals in the sprint and mass start events at the 2009 World Championships and a victory in the sprint event at the 1998 Holmenkollen Festival.
The list of Lodwick’s accomplishments stretches pages, but other highlights include a gold medal at the 1996 Junior World Championships, a top-10 place in World Cup standings for eight consecutive seasons and competition in 162 World Cup events, of which he won six.
“A huge highlight was my first World Cup victory at home in Steamboat. I will never forget that and the effort of the people who helped bring those events to Steamboat Springs for all those years,” Lodwick said. “I would like to thank the community, my friends and the loved one in my life for all their support. This never would have been possible without them.”
Lodwick currently lives in South Carolina.
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Steamboat Free Summer Concerts announced Friday that it will return live music to the Yampa Valley this summer in the form of two concerts scheduled for August and September.