Ski legend Beattie is as fired up as ever about the sport

 

Bob Beattie — the Woody Creek resident whose resume includes being the first head alpine coach of the U.S. Ski Team and starting the World Cup — wants the Aspen community to do something about the lack of a planned World Cup race here in 2013.

Due to International Skiing Federation (FIS) scheduling rules, the normal women’s races set for the weekend after Thanksgiving each year will take place at Beaver Creek in 2013, because the women must hold at least one event at the site of the 2015 World Championships before those races.

A tireless promoter of ski racing, Beattie, 79, said he thinks there should be more ski races in more places. Eliminating a World Cup stop, even if for one year, is going in the wrong direction, Beattie told the crowd at Wednesday’s Aspen Business Luncheon at the Sky Hotel.

“We have a huge problem right now, because next year ... Aspen is not going to have a World Cup, and it’s a huge mistake,” Beattie said during a 45-minute interview conducted by Aspen filmmaker Mike Marolt. “I think we should scream and yell and I’d like to see a men’s and a women’s downhill race [here] and I don’t care what we call it.”

The lack of any World Cup skiing in the eastern U.S. also is a crime, he said, since “that’s where the people are.”

“We need more races,” Beattie said. “We’re a huge continent and we need more races.”

During the interview, Beattie reminisced about his days in the 1950s coaching the University of Colorado ski team. He arrived in Boulder to coach both skiing and football, and was the intramural director to boot. He became famous for putting the ski team through punishing dry-land workouts that attracted other coaches who would come watch, just to see what Beattie came up with next.

When asked by Marolt what his secret was in developing winter athletes — such as Billy the Kidd and Jimmie Heuga, who became the first Americans to win Olympic medals in skiing in 1964 — Beattie said it was simple.

“There’s was nothing that we did any different other than just go out there and run up hills, like you do every day,” he said.

Following the success at the Olympics, Beattie wanted a race circuit that included North America similar to the Euro Cup. In 1966, he helped stage a race at Vail that became the precursor to the World Cup, which officially got off the ground in 1968.

Besides his involvement with skiing’s elite, Beattie also brought ski racing to the masses, through his involvement with Nastar, the recreational ski racing program that grew from eight U.S. ski resorts to 130 under Beattie’s leadership. He also was the voice of ski racing, providing television commentary for Winter Olympic broadcasts from 1976-84.

Coloring all of that is Beattie’s belief that at the end of the day, it has to be fun. Asked for advice for kids involved in ski racing, he said they should free-ski more.

“Kids spend a lot of time going through gates. ... They need to associate themselves with the mountain lifestyle — grow up as much as they can to be a mountain person and live a mountain life,” he said.

To that end, he said the thing he’s most proud of in his illustrious career is helping to pull various organizations together in the late 1980s to form the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. That nonprofit organization now has an enrollment of around 1,700 to 1,900 kids a year, and has changed many of their lives, he said. If a kid can’t afford the programming, the club has scholarships.

“I’m so proud of this program,” he said.

Following the talk, Aspen City Councilman Torre was making a bee-line straight for Beattie, hoping to talk to him about having a high-caliber ski race in Aspen next year in the World Cup’s absence.

curtis@aspendailynews.com

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