It was a beautiful, early fall day with warm sunshine as Ski Roundtop sponsored its annual charity benefit, Ski Roundtop Timber Steeplechase at Shawan Downs in Hunt Valley, MD. As usual, the horses were magnificent, riders fearless in colorful silks, the crowd fashionable and glamorous, and the food delicious. In addition to the focus on horses, there was the anticipation of a great ski season in the coming months. Ski Roundtop had a hospitality tent with a table exhibiting their new innovations and improvements. Of particular interest are new ways to fit and improve the comfort of ski boots, with custom foot beds, on sale in their on-site ski shop -; looks like something worth checking out.
As usual, this event has a serious and poignant purpose. It is sponsored by Diane and Irv Naylor. The company Irv founded, Snow Time, owns and runs Ski Roundtop, Liberty, and Whitetail. They also owned the recently-sold Ski Windham in New York. Irv was always a superb athlete in multiple sports. On April the 17, 1999, Irv suffered a spinal cord injury falling from his horse during a steeplechase Race, which caused quadriplegia. However, Irv remains vibrant and active and has focused his keen mind and enthusiasm on stem cell development. He has supported experiments at the private Bedford Stem Cell Research Center on a novel approach to developing stem cells from adult skin which do not involve any destruction of embryos. Irv remains proud of his ski resorts, and is especially proud of the extensive Adaptive Ski Center he helped develop at Windham. He told us he tried sit-skiing there about 6 times, and loved the feel of the cold, fresh air in his face. He said it was exciting, but in his dreams he still skis standing and untethered. Despite his powered wheelchair and the challenges of negotiating in an outdoor setting, he was beaming his broad, infectious smile as he constantly greeted his flock of friends and admirers. Through constant exercise, Irv has regained more use of his forearms and hands than in previous years.
We spoke about the future of the snow industry, and he warns that climate change will be a problem. The ski areas are doing as much as they can to maintain their snow base for as long as possible each season. He quips that the East now has advantages over the West, since the snow base does not get swept away in avalanches! Irv is confident that snow sport resorts will continue to grow, but he is concerned about the increasing number of ski areas owned by large corporations with focus primarily on profit. As a businessman, he knows that is necessary, but he mourns the loss of many ski pioneers like himself, who put their personal touch and legend into the trails, lodges, and ski schools. Fortunately for the snowsports world - especially Ski Roundtop, Liberty, and Whitetail -Irv Naylor is still very much with us!
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.