Aspen Skiing Co. scrambled to secure America’s Downhill trademark
March 15, 2017
Vail missed its chance to snatch the name "America's Downhill" from Aspen.
Aspen Skiing Co. held a trademark on the name of the premier alpine ski racing event from December 1985 until January 2015, when it was considered "abandoned" by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
"We had the trademark but it expired from non-use," Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said.
Skico scrambled to get it back after the International Ski Federation confirmed in June that Aspen would host the World Cup Finals, one of alpine ski racing's prestige events. The downhill is typically the marquee race.
Skico filed a new application for a trademark and service mark for America's Downhill on Oct. 20. The application said Skico planned to use the name on clothing merchandise, but Hanle said the only mention of "America's Downhill" is on caps being sold with the Aspen World Cup Finals logo on the front.
Aspen hosted numerous downhill races before the America's Downhill name caught on. Both the men and women raced downhill when the World Cup circuit came to town for the first time in 1968.
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The course's legacy continued to build through the years, with Olympic gold medal winners Franz Klammer and Billy Johnson taking the downhill race in 1976 and 1984, respectively.
Aspen Historical Society Curator Liza Hancock said her research indicates that America's Downhill was used for the first time in media accounts in 1983, when Canadian Todd Booker won an event in March 1983.
Skico's initial application for the trademark was made in June 1984, and it confirmed that America's Downhill was first used commercially in February 1983.
Aspen could lay claim to the boastful name because the town hosted one of the few World Cup downhill races held outside of Europe during the 1970s, '80s and '90s. It wasn't just America's Downhill, it was the only game in town until Vail Resorts developed the Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek after landing the 1999 World Championships.
The men's downhill was last held in Aspen in 1995, when American A.J. Kitt's victory was later stripped by the FIS. He was leading after the top racers had completed the course but racers with lower bib draws couldn't run because of deteriorating weather. Aspen Skiing Co. recognized Kitt's victory and the relations soured between the company and ski racing's governing body.
The last women's downhill in Aspen was held in 2007.
Meanwhile, Beaver Creek has established itself as a regular stop for the World Cup men's speed events on the Birds of Prey course. Vail's got the downhill races, but Aspen's still got the name.