Legendary Ski Racing Official Allen Church Passes
One of U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s most revered ski racing officials, Allen Church, 91, passed away August 17 in Albuquerque, N.M. after a long illness. Church’s career as a volunteer official spanned five decades. In 2002, he was selected to take the oath on behalf of all competition judges and officials at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, where he served as chief of timing and scoring for alpine skiing.
Church began his career serving as an official with his home ski club in Taos, N.M. His career extended around the country and the world. With a primary focus on race timing, he became one of the world’s most knowledgeable experts and has been responsible for training thousands of other officials.
“Allen Church typified the passion we see in our volunteers that helps our sport thrive,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard President and CEO Tiger Shaw. “While we miss Allen, his legacy will be in the thousands of officials he has impacted throughout his career.”
His professional career was as a scientist, heading the Sandia Labs in Albuquerque. He was also an actor, appearing in several cowboy westerns.
But his passion was working in alpine ski racing where served as a technical delegate from 1978 to 1995. In his career, he worked at the highest levels of the sport, including World Cup, World Championships and Olympics. He is a past recipient of some of U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s highest honors for officials, including the Westhaven Award for international technical delegates (1996), John Clair Award for service to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Teams (2014) and the Bud and Mary Little Award for service to the Olympics and International Ski Federation (2003). He was inducted into the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 2015, he was recognized with the organization’s highest honor, the Julius Blegen Award. “Allen’s hallmark was that he was always available at any time to help anyone in our sport,” said Paul Van Slyke. “He was a true mentor to others and largely responsible for bringing Thelma Hoessler (2019 Blegen recipient) into our sport. He taught at her first timing clinic many years ago and mentored her through many events and experiences. Allen was an icon and mentor to many of us, his patient ways and thoughtful approach was an inspiration to us all.”
Church was born in Los Alamos in 1928 where his parents ran the Los Alamos Ranch School. His mother, Peggy Pond Church, was a famous poet. He grew up skiing at Sawyer’s Hill. In the 1940s, the Manhattan Project took over the school and the family moved to Taos. Church attended both Colorado State and Colorado A&M, initially to study veterinary science but then deciding to go into acting. After serving in the Korean War, he enrolled at Stanford, earning an engineering degree, returning to his home to work at the Sandia National Laboratories. He is survived by his two daughters, Janet Harrison, and Nancy Whetstone. It was their engagement in ski racing that brought him into the sport.