Ski racer reaches the pinnacle
Ryan Summerlin July 5, 2006
More than 30 years have passed, but Peter Looram’s memories of Mark Taché are as vivid as ever.The two spent winters together – Looram the mentor and Taché the up-and-coming alpine skier – on the slopes of surrounding mountains during the 1970s. While Taché was just one skier amid a core group of young Aspen Valley Ski Club talent, he stood out. “He brought a great deal of intelligence and passion to the sport,” Looram said Thursday. “He loved it, and he wanted everybody else to as well. “I always knew he could do something great.”Taché, the kid with boundless energy and the wide smile, went on to spend eight years with the U.S. Ski Team. He competed on the World Pro Tour and was an Aspen Skiing Co. ambassador. His greatest accomplishments may have come off the race course, however accomplishments that helped earn him a spot in the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
His lifelong mission to spread his love of skiing helped create countless fund-raising dollars and unique opportunities for athletes of all ages. Taché will be formally enshrined Oct. 14 during a ceremony in Denver.”Colorado has such a rich ski history, filled with incredible people,” Taché said Thursday. “I’m incredible honored.”Joining Taché in the Hall’s 2006 class are: Barbara Ferries Henderson, a 1964 Olympian and bronze medalist in downhill at the 1962 World Championships; Jim Temple, one of the original visionaries behind the development of Steamboat Springs; Ray Duncan, who founded the Purgatory ski area in Durango; and Henry Christian Hall, who, in 1917, was the first ski jumper to travel more than 200 feet on Steamboat’s Howelsen Hill.For Taché and his four siblings, skiing was a natural fit. His father, a ski school supervisor for much of his life, competed in Aspen’s World Championships in 1950 as a member of the Canadian ski team. The family moved to Aspen in 1960 – one year after Mark was born.Aspen Mountain became the family’s baby-sitter, Taché remembered. He, along with a group of friends, would head straight for the lift after school ended at 3:30 p.m. to catch one of the last rides to the top.”Those were simple, great times,” he said.
Taché’s talent and drive landed him an eight-year stint with the U.S. Ski Team (1978-85). Ski Racing Magazine named Taché Junior Alpine Skier of the Year in 1980; he also was the North American Cup giant slalom, downhill and overall champion that year, in addition to winning the Roch Cup downhill on Ajax. He competed on two FIS world championship teams, alongside such teammates as Phil and Steve Mahre in Schladming, Austria (1982) and again in Bormio, Italy, three years later. While his results were mixed, Taché was the country’s top slalom skier when he left the team in 1985. He finished out his competitive career with seven seasons (1986-1992) on the World Pro Tour. In 1987, he won the first Interstate Bank Cup in Winter Park, took second in Aspen at the World Pro Championships and was the top American on the tour. He finished second in the tour’s final slalom standings. It was during the same year that Taché signed on as a Skico ambassador, a post he held until 1991. His connection with the sport didn’t end once he hung up the boots.”I always felt that at the end of my career I wanted to spend the next few years giving back while I still had the passion and desire,” Taché said. “I wanted to give back to the program and town that gave me so much.”
Skiing was as integral to Taché’s life as ever. He was a director of Rossignol’s Summer Race Camps, and continued to pour considerable energy into the Cooper-Taché Recreational Race Program he co-founded with wife and Olympic silver medalist Christin Cooper in 1987; Taché’s brothers, Mike and Chris, now operate the program. The couple also ran the Cooper-Taché Christmas Camps for Kids from 1985-95. “We had a such a great time and we touched a lot of kids during that period,” Taché said. “That was as gratifying as anything in my career.”Taché worked closely with Rolling Stone magazine to create a scholarship for underfunded athletes, and went to work for the AVSC, as well. He served as the club’s head coach and athletic director from 1992 through 1995, and recruited his peers for the Taché Pro-Am Classic. The event helped raise $400,000 during its four years. Based on the Pro-Am’s success, Taché replicated the fundraiser in Vail for the Steadman/Hawkins Research Foundation, and for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Both generate more than $100,000 each year. Taché also created “The Gigantissimo,” a one-run, 3,000-foot vertical top-to-bottom giant slalom race on Aspen Mountain to benefit AVSC. “It was an event that we put on after the holidays when mostly just the locals were in town,” said Taché, a restaurateur and an on-mountain restaurant consultant for Skico. “We used to have 350 participants, from 4- to 80-year-olds. For $10 or $15, you could make one run and 185 GS turns. We exposed a lot of people to real racing.”
For his contributions to the community, Taché was the 1995 recipient of Aspen Sojourner’s “Sojourner Salutes” award.”You don’t always get lucky and someone like him comes back,” Looram said. “A ton of people have benefited from his approach to excellence and love of sports. That’s what I’ll always remember about him. I’m glad to have been along for the ride.” Taché joins an elite fraternity that includes Walter Paepcke, Klaus Obermeyer and Friedl Pfeifer; Carbondale’s Lou Dawson was inducted last year.”I didn’t win Olympic medals or anything like that. This award is as much about the things I did after I retired than before,” he added. “[The news] was a complete shock, but it’s a nice completion.” The Denver Post contributed to this article.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org