A number of Midwest Sports Council ski clubs are headed for Colorado this pending 2018-2019 season. While other western U.S. states and Canadian provinces have plentiful and excellent perpendicular playgrounds, Colorado is obviously the nearest of the Rocky Mountain states for Midwesterners headed west for winter fun.
My most memorable personal memories of skiing some of Colorado slopes are as follows, but not necessarily in order of the most vivid:
SNOWMASS – My first trip to Snowmass was when it was called Snowmass-At-Aspen, just a few days after it opened in 1968. I was invited to produce a short television report for the station for which I was working in Las Vegas, then KSHO-TV, about the new area and interview Stein Eriksen, Snowmass-At-Aspen’s first Director of Skiing. It was the first time I met Stein and it began a lifelong friendship with that truly world-class great human being. The trip was arranged by Aspen Airways to commemorate its inaugural flight between Las Vegas and Aspen and intended to last only two days. Aspen Airways was paying for our lodging and meals, too. The day we were scheduled to leave, Aspen was hit by a blizzard. That extended our stay for at least another day. The “another” day morphed into three additional days. The additional expense to Aspen Airways was enormous, thus, even though after-dark takeoffs were prohibited at the Aspen airport, the airline’s representative decided to have us take off at night, regardless. Just missing the top of the hill at the end of the runway, we took off illegally. Subsequent visits to Snowmass were less eventful! This year will mark the area’s 50th anniversary.]
COPPER MOUNTAIN – I was honored to be at Copper Mountain on its opening day, as I was doing a story for my KSTP-TV SKI SCENE program and was invited to visit the area the day it opened. The invitation came from a man named Garry Mitchell who was Copper’s director of public relations and marketing. I was also the guest of the founder, Chuck Lewis, sadly now deceased. It’s the only area on which I’ve skied nonstop from top to bottom, thanks to skiing with Garry. The director of skiing was Ned Gillette. Ned was an outstanding person and had an adventurous spirit. That spirit first moved Ned and his wife to the Von Trapp Lodge in Vermont, but also sadly then landed him and his wife in Kabul, Afghanistan, long before we ever knew about Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, Ned and his wife were murdered there, never knowing why at that time. Copper continues to be one of the better Colorado ski areas, but those bittersweet memories abound for this scribe.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – From bittersweet to very pleasant, my memories of Steamboat would take dozens of pages to relate. Those memories are all thanks to my dear long-time friend, Steamboat’s director of skiing, Olympic champion Billy Kidd. Not only did Billy and his then wife cook a honeymoon dinner for my then wife and me in 1974, but I also had the joy to invite Billy to join me and Suzy Chaffee to ski in Iran in 1977 for an HBO film I was producing there, courtesy of then ambassador to the United States, Ardeshir Zahedi. Billy taught me everything good I know about skiing. He told me during his early days growing up in Stowe, Vermont, he would literally do slalom walking and running between parking meters to practice the movements he would eventually use to win medals in the Olympics. Billy is very accessible to anyone visiting Steamboat, or when he’s visiting somewhere else. Make certain you ski with him when you’re at Steamboat. He will love it!
WINTER PARK – One can’t even begin to think about the name “Winter Park” without also thinking about the name of Hal O’Leary. Hal, in 1970, created a program to teach disabled skiers, regardless of age, how to ski and how to get more spirit in their lives. Hal is now 91 years old and still helping those disabled skiers become very able to enjoy winter sports at Winter Park, which is owned by the City of Denver. Hal was a frequent guest on my KSTP-TV SKI SCENE program in the 1970s. Winter Park, itself, is a massive area with a myriad of runs too numerous to name here, but all first-class, emulating the wonderful and first-class native Montrealer, Hal O’Leary.
Editor’s note: You can reach Barry at [email protected]. He welcomes ideas for future columns and is available as a speaker at club functions