Antonio Olivero: Reflecting on the Peak Performers pursuit, process and people

Thank you Summit County for this labor of love

Peak Performers winners from left: Red Gerard, snowboarding; Jon Kreamelmeyer, Nordic skiing; Trygve Berge, Alpine skiing; and Keri Herman; freestyle skiing.
Allison Seymour /

Coronavirus aside — and I know that’s something you never thought you’d hear right now — what a past three months it’s been.

From the outset, the Peak Performers project seemed like an ambitious one. A three-month, community-generated series to honor the best and most influential athletes in Summit County sports history? It loomed as a mountain of a task.

It was. But it was worth it.

I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It showed that our team here at the Summit Daily — who I’m forever grateful to — and our community of sports lovers could come together to add another chapter to the storytelling of Summit’s sports history.

One of my favorite sayings in life and in sports is, “It’s better to be prepared without an opportunity than to not be prepared with one.” As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports globally in March, I feel our Peak Performers project was an almost accidental manifestation of that motto. Peak Performers gave our sports lovers something they otherwise wouldn’t have had. For that, I’m grateful to the community who helped make it happen.

Our four eventual winners — Trygve Berge in Alpine skiing, Keri Herman in freestyle skiing, Jon Kreamelmeyer in Nordic skiing and Red Gerard in snowboarding — were a deserving foursome. That’s not to say other reader-submitted candidates weren’t also deserving of having their face on Summit County’s version of Mount Rushmore.

In the Alpine skiing category, Berge was the clear top choice of the majority of our judges thanks to his co-founding of Breckenridge Ski Resort and Olympic success. But the contributions of fellow co-founder and Olympian Sigurd Rockne should certainly not be forgotten, nor should the legacies of Gene Gillis and Max and Edna Dercum — a trio who also received top votes from judges. And then there was our runner-up, Jake Fiala, who won the public vote and was a top-four selection on all but one of our judge’s ballot.

The public vote powered Herman through to the win in freestyle skiing, and the female freeski trailblazer is certainly deserving. She was the top selection on several judge’s ballots. But we’d be remiss not to highlight the candidacies of Scott Rawles and Mark Jones, Summit freeski forefathers who were top choices on several judge’s ballots, as well. The legacies of guys like Jeremy Bloom, Bobby Brown and runner-up Chris Hawks are also so important to the county’s freeski story. The trio of athletes set the stage on Breckenridge snow for a kid like Jaxin Hoerter — a current U.S. halfpipe star — to carry into the future.

Nordic skiing was the toughest category for our judge’s to pick a winner. Gene Dayton is the unquestioned patriarch of the county’s Nordic ski scene, but the athletic and coaching resumes of those like Kreamelmeyer and Jana Hlavaty were too much to overlook.

And then there was snowboarding, the unquestioned king of winter sports in Summit County. It had our most submissions and the deepest pool of potential winners.

For so many of our judge’s, Red Gerard’s gold-medal win and consistent best-in-the-world slopestyle success since, combined with his giving back, was particularly admirable.

But how could you not recognize the legacies of guys like Chad Otterstrom, Todd Richards, Todd Franzen, Justin Reiter, Chris Corning, Steve Fisher — the list goes on and on and on. It’s safe to say Summit County is the snowboard capital of the world.

A guy like Otterstrom particularly comes to mind for me. Heck, in his interview, even Gerard rambled about how the big brother of Summit County snowboarding not only introduced him to the backcountry but is still one of his favorite backcountry riders to watch on Instagram.

And then there’s those who weren’t a part of the story, those the readers did not nominate. We feel Peak Performers did an admirable job of telling the county’s history. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention historical figures like Summit snowboarding icons Nic Drago, Jake Black and Eric Willett. Or how about legendary Breckenridge Olympic Nordic combined skier Pat Ahern? Or county freeski favorite Pat Goodnough?

And then there’s an athlete like Katie Uhlaender, who didn’t fit a ski or snowboard category. With her multiple World Championships and four-time Olympic participation over a dozen years, Uhlaender’s certainly on the short list for greatest Summit athletes of all time.

To timeless competitors like Uhlaender, to those not nominated for Peak Performers, we say “thank you” for being an influential peak performer in your own right for Summit County. Your contributions are not forgotten.

With that, we’re closing the book on this chapter. Here’s to the future Peak Performers of our community. And, of course, here’s to winter.

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