Leigh Nelson, 80, owner of Welch Village, Minn., was honored by the Midwest Ski Areas Association (MSAA) with the Jim VanderKelen Lifetime Achievement Award.

The new award is to be presented annually to honor those who have spent a lifetime promoting and helping to grow snow sports in the Midwest. VanderKelen was a legendary snowmaking pioneer in the region.

Welch Village first opened for skiing New Year's weekend in 1965, and has been a mainstay in the Minnesota and Midwest ski scene ever since.

Nelson, who turns 80 this year, is still very active. He's at the resort almost every day during the winter season and likes to lead by example.

He encourages his employees to get out daily and check the conditions. "Take some time off and ski with me, anytime," he tells them. Most are hard pressed to stay up with him.