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SHS alumni of 93, 83 look back

ROBERT ALLENsummit daily newsSummit County, CO Colorado
Summit High School graduate and former U.S. Alpine Ski Team Olympian Jake Fiala.
Summit Daily file

As Summit High School homecoming celebrations culminate this weekend, the Summit Daily takes its readers back 15 and 25 years for a glimpse into recollections of two notable alumni: professional skier Jake Fiala and local business owner Tom Jones. Class of 1993At 14, Jake Fiala was already in full pursuit of a world-class skiing career. Growing up in Taos, N.M., he moved to Colorado away from family for opportunity.Basically, New Mexico was too far away from all the races and everything, said Fiala, now 33. If I wanted to live that dream, then where I had to be was Colorado or an academy out east.He began freshman year at Battle Mountain High School in Eagle-Vail, living all over and returning to his family in the off-season. After frequent moves between Eagle and Summit counties, Fiala settled on Summit High School his senior year, graduating in 1993. He played soccer, but most of his time was spent on the slopes with the Breckenridge ski team. School got out at noon, though practice was almost like a class.It was a very strict, regimented program, Fiala said. It was still what I loved doing (and) fun for me.Free time was spent at the movie theater or bowling alley in Dillon. The familiarity in the small communities meant much time hanging out at somebodys house and high school parties. All the time away from family wasnt too tough for Fiala, who had been raised by his father who would occasionally visit.Im sure some people are more family-oriented, Fiala said. My life is skiing. It wasnt a problem at all.To reflect, Fiala says most high-school days could be termed good ol days. He advises the 09 seniors to make the most of it.High school is good times and fun times, and enjoy them while they last, he said. All those things you think are problems at homecoming you dont get to go out with the girl you want those are not real-life problems.Fiala stayed by the slopes following graduation, living everywhere in Summit County but Keystone. He joined the U.S. Ski Team at 20. Though he took summer classes at the University of Colorado for about four years, Fiala was a full-time skier. He traveled the world and participated in a variety of competitions including downhill, super-G and skier-cross racing. He considers his greatest career success to be competing in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Just representing my country in Salt Lake City was probably my biggest accomplishment, Fiala said. His career lately has been focused on skier-cross, which will debut as an event at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Thatll be it for me, Fiala said. Im definitely going to hang up the boards, competitively, after that. Its a tough sport, physically.He lives in Summit Cove and is engaged to be married next August.Class of 1983Tom Jones had a tough time finding a homecoming date before graduating in 83.I asked a few people, he said. I think it had to do with having braces.He was on a championship Knowledge Bowl team.Thats not the way to get dates. Thats the way to lose dates, said Jones, 43. He played basketball and competed in track. He made lifelong friends.Some of my best friends are my high-school classmates, he said. I keep in touch with at least one of them every day, actually.In the early 80s Summit County was much less populated. Jones said it was a closer-knit community and that, having since met folks from elsewhere, the high-school experience was somewhat unique. I think it was a very different experience from people who grew up in the city, he said.The sports and activities inherent to the mountains influenced activities, as did the lack of hang-outs for teenagers. One of the most popular activities, really, was skiing, so a lot of socializing went on on the chairlifts, Jones said. Shortly after getting his drivers license at 16, Jones and a friend went on an excursion.One of the big things growing up here was to go to Denver, he said, adding that it was this whole other world with all kinds of possibilities.Without his parents consent, he took the family van to the Elitch Gardens amusement park. The family owned and continues to own Wilderness Sports, a store unique to Summit county. The vehicle I took … had Wilderness Sports painted all over. Somebody saw the van there and asked my parents how they enjoyed Elitchs and the whole thing ended up not so good for me, Jones said. I did a lot of stupid things like that when I was that age.Following high school, Jones earned a double major in foreign policy and French from the University of Minnesota. He traveled Europe for several years, sometimes returning home. He worked as a Summit Daily News reporter for a few years in the mid-90s, wrote some renowned trail-guide books as he began to take over the family business. Jones is now co-owner of Wilderness Sports, which was opened in 1976 and has three locations in the county. I really did not expect to work there when I headed off to college, but when I looked at pursuing a career in the big city versus living in the mountains and enjoying what I had here, I came back, Jones said.The guy who struggled to get a date in high school now is married to the belle of the ball, Nancy, and they have a two-year-old daughter, Sylvie. Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.


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