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IT IS, AFTER ALL, only natural that someone as deeply rooted in skiing as Jan Peterson be the son of a skier whose roots into skiing also run deeply. And that his skiing interests be broader than all of winter. And that his returns are greater than his withdrawals. And that when it comes to the sport, none know it better.

So it is with Jan. A skier . . . ski shop owner . . . supporter of skiing . . . a "starting gate," if you will, of many a young skier.Willis Peterson was one of the first to ski in Utah. He skied back when the only lifts came in shoes. He was one of the first ski-shop owners in the U.S., and one of the very first to be accepted as a qualified expert in ski safety by the National Ski Patrol.

He, in turn, passed this interest to his younger son, Jan. And he, in turn, developed it. He was, as a junior, recognized as one of the state's most talented in the gates, on the tracks and in the air. This was a time when skiers didn't specialize. They ran gates, cross country and jumped, or they weren't worth a good waxing.

He skied two years for the University of Utah, ran in his share of national events, and won his share of trophies.

Again, following in his father's tracks, he entered the skiing marketplace, first as a manager for the old Wolfe's store in Park City.

Next came his own retail store - Jans. Then another and another. Now he's woven as tightly into the Park City fabric as gold mining and skiing.

So much for what everyone knows about Jan Peterson.

The side of him they may not know about is his dedication to the sport behind the showroom displays and appearances in town ski races.

Many a young skier can thank the skis he's skiing on, the boots he's wearing, the poles he's pushing off on, and the gates he's running through, to the fact that Willis put Jan on skis and not on skates.

When Jan first got involved in the Park City junior racing program, there was no such word as "help" on the horizon for talented young racers. They paid their own way until the U.S. Ski Team accepted them, and if they didn't have the money, they were forced to quit.

One of the first things Jan did was get the ski equipment makers to help.

"Why not," he said as he looked back, "help these kids instead of just the (ski) patrolmen and (ski) instructors. I talked them into lending their equipment. A lot of the junior racers needed help at the time."

Well, the ski manufacturers responded. To help defray costs of ski racing, some skiers were given equipment to use and then return at the end of the season. As one observer said, "It kept a lot of kids, good kids, in skiing that may not have otherwise been able to."

Soon, the community got into it, too, and began helping in different ways - other equipment, an agreement with the schools to let eligible kids out early to train during the winter, tutors to help ensure free time for skiing, and even simple donations.

Nine years ago Jan came up with the idea of holding a winter welcome, a fund raiser, for the Park City Ski Education Foundation, of which he was president at the time. It, too, has now been woven tightly into Park City's fabric. Over the course of the eight prior events, it is estimated that close to $200,000 has been raised and put into the junior race program there.

Jan said there was nothing to it. "In a community like this, that supports skiing so much, it's easy."

That was proven back when the Utah Olympic organizers were about to make their presentation and found themselves a mere $100,000 shy of the required fees. In less than one week, behind the efforts of Peterson, Brad Olch, Jim Lewis and John Brinton, Park City had the money.

The ninth "Jans Winter Welcome" is coming up - Jan. 20. For the second year, it will be at the Snow Park Lodge in Deer Valley. Starting time is 6 p.m. Cost is a $35 tax-deductible donation. Everyone is welcome. Tickets are, of course, at Jans in Park City.

And all money will be passed on down to help young ski racers . . . as Jan planned.