It was an injury and chance that brought Salt Lake's Jan Bucher-Judge to the ski slopes. Who would have guessed that one of the state's top skaters would become one of its most noted skiers, but it happened.
Jan Bucher-Judge, 30, was recently selected for the Utah Sports Hall of Fame for her inroads into freestyle skiing.As a youngster, ice skating was her sport. By age 11 she was competing in the rink. Then at age 17, she shattered a bone and tore ligaments in her right ankle. That was, she admitted, the end of any serious thoughts of a skating career.
Given the suggestion she try freestyle skiing, she traded blades for boards. What she found was that she could do the more difficult spins and turns, but not the most basic moves on skis, such as the snowplow turn. She could get up the hill, thrill other skiers with some daring moves, but needed help to get down.
With time and patience she learned to put turns together and stop when she wanted. And, with airborne maneuvers and some refined skating moves, she went on to become one of the best ballet skiers in the young and, at the time, floundering sport.
What started as a grand debut in the sports world suddenly turned into a phenomenal letdown. A sport that drew thousands to watch skiers dance on skis, do flips or jumps and bounce the the moguls like a dislodged snowball, suddenly was banned in the United States for safety and insurance reasons.
Even now, freestyle skiing makes only a few stops in the United States each year, which has made it difficult for Utah fans to follow the hometown favorite.
So, Bucher-Judge took her routine to Canada and Europe. Since she began competing in 1976, Bucher-Judge has won seven World Ballet Championships, and recently returned from the Winter Games in Calgary with a silver medal in ballet skiing. This Olympics, ballet skiing was a demonstration sport. She hopes that one day it will be a regular medal event in the Games.
In her years of competition, she has won 46 events. In the freestyler's off-season, she runs a freestyle ski camp at Mt. Hood, Ore.