There’s this awesome photograph hanging on the wall on the lower level of the Aspen Highlands base lodge. Just before exiting to the main-level parking lot, you can see a blown-up black-and-white image of a dual-format giant slalom ski race at Highlands in 1976. The perspective is from right behind the two racers on the course – no helmets, and sporting stretch pants and padded sweaters rather than race suits – tucked and angled with obvious determination as they round the gates on their respective courses, about a dozen gates from the finish line. There are huge crowds lining the side of the racecourse and at the bottom, fronting the legendary A-frames that used to make up the base village, and there are a disproportionate number of camper vans in the parking lot, where a Budweiser hot air balloon is also parked. The photograph so vividly captures the spirit of ski racing in Aspen in its heyday.
This Saturday, the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club will attempt to recreate that spirit with a series of events that are an homage to the man that had a lot to do with putting the fun in ski racing. The Bob Beattie Memorial Race, from 1-3 p.m., is the marquee event of a daylong celebration in honor of Beattie, who died last spring.
Alpine ski racing legends, including Christin Cooper (1984 Olympic giant slalom silver medalist), Billy Kidd (1964 Olympic slalom silver medalist), Bill Marolt (native Aspenite, ski champion, coach and former head of U.S. Ski & Snowboard) and many more will team up with AVSC kids ages 7-13, skiing with them in the morning and then in the afternoon tackling the dual giant slalom racecourse in a relay format.
Prime viewing for this fast-paced event will be along the course, with the finish line on the Thunderbowl run visible from the base. A USASA-sanctioned rail jam, expected to draw young athletes from around the region, will take place near the base at the same time. And in the party tent on the Highlands Alehouse deck, snacks and beverages will be served for the entire Bob Beattie and AVSC community, culminating in awards and prize drawings after the race.
“It’s going to be an action-packed day,” said Susan Muenchen, special events organizer for AVSC.
Beattie, who lived in Woody Creek for decades, was a ski racer in college before moving into a successful coaching career, most notably as head alpine coach for the U.S. Ski Team in the early 1960s. Perhaps best known for his ski racing commentating, he also helped start the alpine skiing World Cup, NASTAR ski racing, and the World Pro Ski Tour – the last of which included, incidentally, the aforementioned Budweiser-sponsored ski race at Highlands pictured in the photo.
Besides successfully pushing for more head-to-head, dual racing events as a way to spice up ski racing, Beattie’s major passion was getting kids – any and all kids who want to – into the sport. He also co-founded Aspen Supports Kids, or ASK, the AVSC recreational program (formerly known as Base Camp but originally called ASK) that brings in the youngest and least experienced skiers and snowboarders and aims to make snow sports more equitable through scholarships and equipment loans.
In an interview with this writer for Aspen Sojourner magazine in 2017, Beattie insisted that it’s up to the local clubs to elevate interest in ski racing, but not just by focusing on the next Mikaela Shiffrin or Bode Miller. “All kids want to do is have fun,” he said. “And I want to see all kids out there just skiing.”
Along those lines, “Bob really wanted kids to be part of his memorial,” said Muenchen. So, expect a lot of youthful energy on Saturday at Highlands but also a unique mingling of generations of passionate snow sports athletes and spectators, all doing their part in furthering the spirit of ski racing.
For more information, visit bobbeattiecelebration.com.