Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame

TOM BRANCH, 1930 -
Inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame 1996
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Tom grew up as a flatlander in Omaha, Nebraska, and got his first taste of skiing while attending the University of Denver, majoring in business, and skiing on their ski team. According to Tom, however, "I could only turn in one direction, so I had to stop at every other gate." He met his wife, Katie, in a singles line at Loveland Ski Basin and for a while he sold chair lifts.

In 1959, Tom became Director of the Eskimo Ski Club. The Eskimo program has introduced more children to skiing than any other program in Colorado and probably more than any other in the country. They average 800 to 1,000 children every year, and estimate over 50,000 youngsters have gotten their start with the program. They used the Winter Park ski train for many years, transporting the group every Saturday to the area.

Tom heads up one hundred volunteer instructors, utilizing about fifty every weekend. As Director, he assigns the kids to groups, oversees their progress, and follows up on their needs, as well as overseeing the racing program and the summer activities of the group. Tom has an outgoing personality and "emcees" the operation, and is extremely popular with "his kids". According to co-workers, when the going gets tough or a problem arises, Tom's always the first one to be there to help.

Tom feels his greatest success was " ...being at least partly responsible for recruiting, training and motivating the Eskimo instructors; and moving them from just teaching for free, to excitement about sharing their skills and love of the sport with the children; always recognizing that this should be done while having fun. It's hard to say who benefited the most from the Eskimo Club experience - the children, who through the progress they made in the sport developed a sense of independence, a love of the outdoors and increased self-esteem; or the instructors who had the raw pleasure of observing this multi-faceted progress knowing they had a hand in providing the tools for some of the 'breakthroughs'."

A Skiing Limerick
by Tom Branch

Tom first heard of skiing as a sport,
At U.P.'s Sun Valley Resort;
Where he bus-boyed big trays
With occasional forays
To the golf course, I'm glad to report.

The mountains had caused him to drool,
So going to D.U. was the rule;
Out here was where he
First learned how to ski,
Thus giving new meaning to school.

Intramural G/S was a fight,
Since he only could turn to the right.
Of turns to the left,
He was totally bereft;
That first race must have been quite a sight!

He was hooked on the sport, and yet
Left Denver to become a Cadet;
Qualified on the carrier
(Stayed clear of the barrier)
Then got to fly his first jet.

Flew photo for years in the Corps
Then decided he wanted no more;
Just couldn't wait
To return to this State
Where there was more skiing in store.

Started working with the Eskimos
(Late 50s) then everyone knows;
Early 60s ignited
A career with United
Training some real flying pros.

Then scheduled most Saturdays off,
When the weather turned too cold for golf;
Time once again
To crank up the train,
Where the snack car resembled a trough.

Teaching kids takes a strong constitution,
But we get to leave flatland pollution;
And though sometimes frozen,
We're glad we were chosen,
As part of Eskimo's institution.

To the Railroad Frank Bulkley tried to explain,
Busses founder in snow, mud and rain;
For us to succeed,
We quite simply need,
To go to Winter Park by train.

The sales effort soon took it's toll,
And a ski train then powered by coal,
Produced many ashes,
And sooty eye-lashes,
But Frank had accomplished his goal.

Lots of kids rank beginners have been,
And I suppose that we've never seen;
A funnier sight,
Or more helpless plight,
Than a tear-stained, two left-footed Green.

By the score kids moved into Yellow,
And in subsequent weekends did mellow;
So that many a hack,
Advanced to Top Black
And said "This beats playing the Cello!".

Some of us can recall without malice,
Maneuvers that brought hands to callous;
We didn't need reminding,
To check every binding,
In the days pre-dating the "Palace".

That's the Eskimo Shack, how about it!
Amongst us there's surely no doubt it
Could not be removed,
Mike D. had it "grooved",
Can't see how we managed without it!

There are so many things to remember,
Like having no snow in December;
And with the train frozen
The kids would have chosen,
Each one of us to dismember.

Parka colors we had to endure,
So that each one of us could be sure;
That, dressed like a freak,
We'd be so unique,
That the kids would know who we were.

Giving prizes for 1st to 6th places,
Drew lots to Eskimo races;
And a day full of sun,
Always made it more fun,
To put the kids through their paces.

On costume day many Dads and Mothers,
Sent us kids who were dressed up as others,
>From Nursery Rhymes,
To old vaudeville times,
You couldn't tell sisters from brothers!

We're sure, without wanting to boast,
Our Alums now range coast to coast;
But all can remember,
To Spring thaw from December,
Winter park was their favorite host!

So - Bob Balch, George Engel and Larry,
Steve Bradley, Butch, Thor and Gerry;
our thanks to you all,
It's been a real ball,
Being part of your sanctuary.

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