Vanatta inducted into Snowsports Hall of Fame
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was a night that Steamboat Springs native and former top American professional ski racer Lonny Vanatta has been looking forward to for some time.
“It was a great honor, and it was a great closing to a wonderful career that I had,” Vanatta said of his induction into Colorado’s Snowsports Hall of Fame.“It was a long time coming and, I think, well deserved.”
Vanatta, who was one of the biggest names on the World Pro Ski Tour in the early 1980s, was inducted into the Class of 2018 on Oct. 6 at the Marriott Mountain Resort in Vail, where the Colorado Snowsports Museum is located.
This year’s class also includes: Chris Anthony, a film icon who was a member of Warren Miller’s team and is also a youth outreach leader; the late Bob Dart, the long-time director of mountain maintenance and competition director at Winter Park; Brad Ghent, a coach with the U.S. Ski Team as well as several Colorado ski clubs; and Bob Mosley, co-founder of the Over the Hill Gang senior ski club.
“Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest Colorado snow sports honor that can be bestowed on an individual,” said Susie Tjossem, executive director of the Colorado Snowsports Museum. “This evening is always a very special occasion for all of our inductees, as well as everyone that loves skiing and snowboarding.”
Vanatta’s contributions to the sport span a lifetime.
Born in Steamboat, Vanatta got his start on skis at Howelsen Hill as part of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Little Toots program. His racing abilities and success on skis made him a rising star at the club as a junior and helped him climb through the ranks of the U.S. Ski Team.
But he was caught off-guard when he was not invited back to the U.S. Ski Team for the 1978 season, effectively ending his quest for the Olympics. Vanatta contemplated retirement or attending college on a scholarship, but he was not done ski racing.
So, when Bob Beattie, the man who coached Billy Kidd and Jimmy Heuga to Olympic medals at the 1964 Olympics, started the World Pro Ski Tour, it opened a door for Vanatta to find success as a racer, and it left many in the sport wondering why he was left off the U.S. Ski Team.
In the years that followed, Vanatta found a new competitive venue where his talents allowed him to shine. The format, where racers went head to head on a dual slalom and giant slalom courses, was a perfect fit for the technically-minded Vanatta. The competitions drew in television audiences with a fresh and exciting perspective on ski racing.
Vanatta quickly emerged as the top American on the tour. He won six races during the 1980-81 season, placing third overall.
The disappointment of not being named to the U.S. Olympic Team was replaced by the opportunity to collect prize purses in the five-figure range and to sign endorsements.
During a career that stretched from 1978 to 1984, Vanatta won 20 professional races, captured the World Pro Slalom title in 1981 and was the top American skier four times.
After he retired from professional ski racing, he went on to coach with the Winter Sports Club for 17 years, and pursued his other love — hunting.
Vanatta is an accomplished hunter who has taken more than 100 animals with a bow, including 17 that qualified for Pope & Young record books. In 1989, he took a world-record stone sheep. Vanatta completed his “grand slam” of sheep in 2013.
His passion for the outdoors and hunting is reflected in Vanatta Outfitters, a business that he sold last year.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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