Back in the day, Jan Peterson was a darn good ski racer. When his eldest daughter, Andrea, followed in his footsteps, Jan had the realization that ski racing could be cost prohibitive to young kids who want to give it a try, so he took it upon himself to help young racers in the Park City community have affordable access to ski equipment. Together with some friends, Jan created an annual event known as the Jans Winter Welcome to raise money for junior athletes on the Park City Ski Team. That was over three decades ago. Every single year since then the founder of the Jans family of retail stores has remained steadfast in his mission.
A few weeks ago, Jan was recognized for these efforts when he was inducted into the Park City Ski Team Hall of Fame. According to Bob Marsh, Former Director of the Park City Ski Team and current Board member, “Ski racing has such a long, rich history in this community. So it’s really important that we don’t forget our roots and how far the Park City Ski Team has come by recognizing the people that helped us get to where we are today.”
Read on to learn more about this honor and the serendipitous chain of events which brought Jan and one of his beneficiaries back together.
How It All Began
The kernel of the idea to support ski racing in Park City started with two nine year old girls. A friend of Jan’s daughter really wanted to ski race, but couldn’t afford the necessary equipment. So Jan scrounged around for a ski jacket, pants and gloves and then cobbled together an assortment of skis, poles, boots and bindings. That little girl was Tori Pillinger (Robinson), who went on to become a member of the Park City Ski Team, the U.S. Ski Team and a very successful World Cup ski racer. Jan Peterson followed her racing career and remains one of her biggest fans.
After getting Tori started in the sport, Jan noticed that many more potential athletes couldn’t afford ski equipment, so he went to the manufacturers and got them to offer reduced prices to hopeful young racers. According to Jan’s wife, Amanda, “the idea was to really create a win-win situation; free or low cost products to those athletes who deserved it, in exchange for great product exposure.”
This became the starting point of the Jans Winter Welcome, an annual fundraiser created by Jan and Bob Marsh, who at the time was the head of the Park City Ski Team. Jan had the idea to create a silent auction, using donations from ski companies, and the event quickly became Park City’s prelude to the ski season as a way to welcome winter. “It was pretty obvious that Jan led the charge within the industry,” recalls Bob. “I was in the quarterback position to pull together the event and Jan was the coach. He is just a wonderful man with fatherly-like character that is hard not to love.”
Fast forward 34 years. The Jans Winter Welcome now raises around $400,000 annually for winter sports in Park City. Attendees include current and past Olympians who have personally reaped the benefits of Jan’s initial goal – to make winter sports affordable to all kids. And while the Park City Ski Team was the original recipient, the 2012 Winter Olympics heralded a new era in which all Park City winter sports, from alpine skiing to Nordic skiing, bobsled to luge, and everything in between benefit from Jan Peterson’s original vision.
The Honor Itself
Selecting Jan as one of this year’s inductees into the Park City Ski Team Hall of Fame was an easy choice. Deciding the category in which to award him the honor was a more difficult decision. According to Jesse Hunt, current Director of the Park City Ski Team, inductees are typically honored in one of three categories: as an athlete, a leader in the community or a contributor to the Park City Ski Team. Jan actually fit into multiple categories – as a leader in the community and also as a contributor. In the end, he was selected based on his leadership to provide support to up-and-coming members of the Park City Ski Team. “The most astounding thing that Jan has done is the continued support, year in and year out, for over 40 years,” says Jesse.
for over 40 years…”
Other honorees included John G. McMillian in the contributor category and none other than Tori Robinson, as the athlete inductee. Tori was completely surprised to receive the honor. Since Jan started her ski racing career by donating equipment and John McMillian sponsored her once she became a member of the U.S. Ski Team, it was very fitting that Tori and her two benefactors be inducted into the Park City Ski Team Hall of Fame at the same time.
In one of the most poignant moments of the evening, Tori gave the induction speech for Jan, citing how he personally played such a pivotal role in her racing career. She described how Jan was a father figure to her in a very heartwarming speech that left hardly a dry eye in the house.
Jan received his honor surrounded by his entire family including his daughters Andrea and Abbey, their spouses, his granddaughter, Lucy, and Jan’s wife of nearly 50 years, Amanda Peterson.
So what does Coach think about being the newest member of the Park City Ski Team Hall of Fame? “It’s an unimaginable honor,” says Jan with a smile, “but helping kids was really the issue all along.”
Liz Yokubison, Senior Editor