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Gary Black, Jr: Ski Racing CEO dies at 75

Passing Date: 
Saturday, February 25, 2017

Gary Black, 75, died peacefully on February 25, at his home in Sun Valley.

A native of Baltimore, Black attended the Calvert and Gilman schools, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He had a lifelong love for newspaper publishing, adventure and skiing. He combined those passions in 1984 when he purchased Ski Racing Magazine, the journal of international ski racing, founded in 1968 by the late Bill Tanler. In his tenure as publisher, Black supervised the evolution of Ski Racing from a newspaper to a modern digital instant-news format, in the process becoming the global voice of alpine ski racing.

Black cut his teeth in the newsroom of his family's Baltimore Sun, which was purchased by his grandfather, Van Lear Black, in 1915. Beginning in the newsroom, working the crime beat, Black moved into sales and then led the creation of a marketing department. He left the publication in 1984 to pursue his real passion, acquiring Ski Racing and moving to Waitsfield, Vermont. He moved his family to Sun Valley in 1995.

Over the years his reporters provided insightful coverage on the world of ski racing, while Black set a tone as a watchdog for the future of the sport through his Black Diamonds column. He served for nearly 20 years on the International Ski Federation's PR and Mass Media Committee and, more recently, as a representative on the FIS Alpine World Cup Committee.

A lifetime skier and avid outdoorsman, Black served on the National Ski Patrol at Oregon Ridge, Wisp, Squaw Valley and Portillo. He was also a member of Ski Club Arlberg for more than 40 years. He played a key role as a trustee for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Foundation, as well as locally on the board of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, and was instrumental in the initiation of the Sun Valley Ski Academy.  

"The U.S. Ski Team has long appreciated the support shown by Gary Black — both as the publisher of Ski Racing and as a trustee," said USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw. "He's been an amazingly impactful individual on our team and the sport worldwide. We will miss him dearly."

Black held a special place in his heart for athletes, who were quick to recognize the contribution he made to their sport.

"Gary was a very kind person and he did a lot for ski racing," said Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn. "I remember reading Ski Racing Magazine when I was a kid and that was how I kept track of my idols and competitors. This is a huge loss for many, especially those in the skiing community."

"I still remember meeting Gary for the first time in Sölden, Austria," said Olympic and World Slalom Champion Mikaela Shiffrin. "It was my first time racing there and I was fairly overwhelmed by all of the chaos surrounding the season opening World Cup, so Gary invited my parents and me to dinner at the best restaurant in town. He proceeded to tell a million stories of his adventures through the ski racing world. He talked about the magazine, his family, how exciting ski racing is, and it became very clear how much passion he had for the sport. From then on out I started to see him as sort of a father figure for the sport of ski racing itself. He has done so much to help this sport grow and get the latest and greatest news in ski racing to fans, and he will be sorely missed."

Black received numerous awards for his achievements in journalism and contribution to sport. In 2008, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association honored him with the Julius Blegen Award, its highest honor for service to the sport. In 2003 he received the USSA’s John Clair Award for his support of the U.S. Ski Team, and in 2005 the USSA Russell Wilder Award for contribution to youth. In 2007 he was honored by the International Ski Federation with the FIS Journalist Award. During the recent FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in St. Moritz, he was recognized by the Association of International Ski Journalists (AIJS) with a lifetime achievement award. He will be recognized this April by the International Skiing History Association with a similar lifetime achievement honor.

“Gary was an inspiration in many ways to me, and I hope to many others,” said U.S. Ski Team men’s head coach Sasha Rearick. “His love and passion for the sport, and for people, coaches, athletes, fans, people of the sport of ski racing, was remarkable. He lit the fire in many people in so many ways.”

“The world lost one of the greatest patrons of American ski racing yesterday,” said current SkiRacing.com Publisher and Chief Operating Officer Claire Abbe Brown. “Thanks to Gary’s passion for ski racing and extensive knowledge of journalism, our sport has a news medium that chronicles our sport with pride and professionalism to keep American ski racing visible as a world leader in winter sport. He was an incredible leader to our entire staff, someone we all deeply respected, and we all appreciate the opportunities he afforded us to cover the sport we love.”

Black is survived by his wife, Heather, his three daughters, Amanda Rising Black, Serena Black Martin and Alexandra Kathleen Black, as well as three grandchildren, Alexander Byers Martin III, Adair Jackson Martin and Harrison Van Lear Black. He is also survived by a sister, Catharine Wilder Peterson.

In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to consider a donation in his honor to the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation or the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Foundation.

A memorial service will be held in the spring.

Compiled from reports by the U.S. Ski Team and SkiRacing.com.

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