Tom Branch - Inspiration - 1996
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'."