The Olympic Regional Development Authority (Olympic Authority) announces a special ceremony during the Pioneer Day celebration on Wednesday, Jan. 10 at the North Creek Snow Bowl. Four new plaques will be added to the wall of the Joe Minder Lodge to honor individuals who have played an instrumental role in the development of the Ski Bowl and the Town of Johnsburg.

The new honorees will be Tom “Buckshot” Butler, George Heim, Mike Pratt, and Kelly and Bob Nessle, each of whom has contributed significantly to the vibrant ski community in Johnsburg. These plaques serve as a lasting tribute to their dedication and vision, recognizing their pivotal roles in shaping the North Creek Ski Bowl into the thriving destination it is today.

WHAT: Pioneer Day and Pioneer Plaque Ceremony

WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 10; ceremony begins at 5 p.m.

WHERE: Joe Minder Lodge, North Creek Ski Bowl


Tom “Buckshot” Butler was a skilled skier with a smooth, fast style who was known for his antics on the snow. He taught himself to ski at age 7 in North Creek, using wooden skis with leather toe strap bindings and rubber boots. Tom was among the first to ride the T-Bar that was installed in 1946 on the hill behind the North Creek Bank. He was a member of Perry Ehler’s Junior Ski Patrol from 1949 to 1954 and was a Backwoods Ski Club member. Buckshot worked at Gore Mountain from 1976 to 1996, holding many positions under different managers.

George Heim, a retired Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, owned and operated Garnet Hill Ski Lodge and Ski Touring Center in North River for nearly 35 years. He became a cherished figure in the North Creek community, actively engaging with the North Creek Chamber in an effort to promote the area and attract more visitors. He was a dedicated to enabling skiers of all levels to enjoy cross country skiing and facilitated ski touring trips from Garnet Hill to Gore Mountain.

Mike Pratt had a successful and impactful 37-year career at Gore Mountain and the Olympic Authority, retiring last year after seven years as the President and CEO. Mike implemented creative and practical approaches to ski area management, leading an effort for the mountain to tap the Hudson River for snowmaking in 1996, a project that transformed the region’s appeal as a major skiing destination. He forged new operations at the North Creek Ski Bowl, including the critical 2011 interconnect with Gore Mountain’s lift and trail network, and he innovatively repurposed the landscape into a successful Nordic facility. Mike’s award-winning environmental efforts have minimized visual impact, reduced greenhouse emissions, protected habitats, and established multi-use recreational models.

Bob and Kelly Nessle are a dynamic and committed husband and wife team who share an undying love for the North Creek Ski Bowl. As founding members of the “Friends of the Ski Bowl Park,” they worked tirelessly to organize and promote events aligned with the collective vision of the Johnsburg residents. Bob and Kelly have been instrumental in helping develop the North Creek Ski Bowl Town Park, which has become a hub of recreation for people of all ages and abilities. They continue to work toward their dream of founding the New York State Ski Museum and Hall of Fame in North Creek, which would be dedicated to the development of local skiing.

PAST PIONEERS: This year’s class of inductees joins a prestigious group on the wall that includes the following Pioneers who were honored in past years:

    • Dr. Dan O’Keefe
    • Otto Schniebs
    • Sterling Godspeed
    • Joe Minder
    • The 10th Mountain Division
    • Backwoods Ski Club
    • Cunninghams
    • Vincent Schaefer
    • Gore Ski Patrol
    • Helen Cornwall

CITIZEN SERIES: Pioneer Day on Jan. 10 also marks the opening night of the Citizen Series, which will feature snowshoe and cross country skiing races each Wednesday from Jan. 10 through Feb. 28 under the lights on the groomed trails at the North Creek Ski Bowl.

Registration takes place inside the Joe Minder Lodge at the Ski Bowl from 5 to 5:50 p.m., followed by a mass start at 6 p.m. Participants can choose to race (or walk) on snowshoes, or can classic or skate ski. The distance options are 1.25 kilometers (one loop), 2.5k (two loops), 3.75k (three loops), and 5k (four loops) on the Ski Bowl’s professionally maintained and brightly lit stadium course.

MORE INFORMATION/UPDATES: Citizen Series dates are subject to change due to weather and other variables. For updated notifications, go to

MEDIA CONTACT: Julia Johnson, [email protected]