When it comes to combining music and skiing, perhaps nobody did it better than the man whose stage surname name honors the Colorado state capital.
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And who can blame Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. for taking the stage name John Denver? The air force brat was bound for glory both on stage on the slopes and a name like that just wouldn’t do.
The Early Years:
John Denver began his ski career while living in New Mexico with his Airforce family. There his passion for the sport was born and although his family would move throughout the southern and southwestern portions of the USA by the end of his childhood, the enthusiasm for the mountains never waned. Ultimately Denver would attend Texas Tech in Lubbock before dropping out and moving to LA to chase his dream of becoming a famous folk musician.
It wasn’t until after he’d achieved his dream amongst the bright lights of Los Angeles that Denver would actually chase his passion for skiing back to the snow covered mountains of Colorado. He found his shangri la in Aspen during the year of our lord– 1971.
With characters like Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Nicholson and the everpresent 70’s ski scene happening right before his eyes, John Denver went on a creative streak.
Now seems like a good time to watch this video…
It was during this time he wrote such famous ballads as “Rocky Mountain High” and “Back Home,” the first of which secured the top spot on the charts and sold 1 million copies in its first year. During this time the governor of Colorado named Denver Colorado’s official poet laureate.
“I’ve had a deep love affair with skiing for many years.”– John Denver
As Denver continued to create hits for his loyal fan base, he also committed a large chunk of his time and money to the environment. Funding multiple environmental organizations through his regular benefit concerts, Denver cemented himself as one of the first celebrity leaders of environmentalism in the United States.
But in 1980– everything changed. John Denver released a track that would become a skiing anthem for decades to come. On the album Autograph, the opening track comes in hot and heavy. It’s name– “Dancing With The Mountains.” The video was and is an instant hit among the skiing faithful and has since been recreated a number of times.
Through his latter years, before his tragic & fatal plane crash into California’s Monterey Bay, Denver most notably broke down barriers with Russia and China, touring both countries espousing peace and environmental responsibility.
Since his death, the John Denver estate has commissioned a limited edition ski in 2012 with Icelantic Skis. Icelantic’s resident artist, Travis Parr told Westword that his family wanted a pair of skis because, “skiing in Colorado was one of the things he loved most.”
Now can we get John Denver in the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame already?
References: Rolling Stone, Westword, JohnDenver.com, Vanity Fair