Vagneur: Great time at World Cup this year |

Vagneur: Great time at World Cup this year

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore
Tony Vagneur

An unforgettable 2023 World Cup is in the rearview mirror with many personal stories from last week — new friendships made, old friendships rekindled. Two will ride with me for a long time. 

There was a crowd, the deep voice unmistakable, unfamiliar: “I was born and raised in Aspen.” We were all clicked into our skis, but with some dexterity and muscle, I managed my way through and around the group to tap the voice on the shoulder. “OK, fess up, who are you?” 

Francois Pelletier, owner of that distinctive voice, and I met for the first time at the start of the men’s World Cup downhill. Somehow unremarkable, as that’s how it should have been. There’s a strong attachment for me to the Pelletier family, and all us kids were born and raised here, but our ages were far enough apart that we didn’t know each other as youngsters.  

Romeo and Sandy Pelletier and their five kids were an Aspen institution, a sight to behold, if Sandy managed to get them all on the hill at the same time. Those kids — Francois, Rene, Pierre, Monique, and Nicole — are familiar to many Aspenites and cut a large swath, or is that a large power turn, through Aspen over the years. 

Some time ago, I met Monique at the bottom of Little Nell, a USSA team member and Olympian in 1992 and ’94. Nicole and I just missed each other at the 2017 World Cup Finals — she was a member of the U.S. Development Team, is a free-skiing maniac, and a sportswriter. None of the rest of the familial offspring did I know until just meeting Francois, a ski coach, a kite boarder, and just a great guy. They all know their way down the mountain. Believe me.  

Their mother, Sandy, a great-looking, lively blonde who could also dance as well as ski, was a Mouseketeer back when the television show was very popular. But my main connection over the years has been with the father of the local clan, Romeo. (Headquarters are now in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.)

French surnames notwithstanding, we both know about raising potatoes, family enterprises back when, and BS-ing, a requirement for drinking membership in the old bar at the Red Onion. Romeo pulled me through a tough time, the ski-patrol strike, by putting me on his 1970s town racing team, along with Kristi Lein and Buddy Ortega. We were good enough to either win or place most of the time. Romeo had been a forerunner in the 1967 Roch Cup downhill and posted the fastest time for the day.  

A quick stop at the Food Factory, a Pelletier fast-food establishment across Mill from the Hotel Jerome, provided dinner on those nights when a fast bite was needed after spending too much time at the office — the Red Onion. The 5/0 was my favorite.

And who could forget Romeo’s Tiehack, a later quick-stop gathering spot with a great deck at the bottom of Ego Hill. What a great place to get some sun and watch your kids spend a relaxed Saturday. One of my cherished possessions is Romeo’s ski-patrol sweater, going back in time, which he gave me in 2017. He entrusted me with its legacy and — it was hand-delivered by his daughter, Nicole. 

During the World Cup Finals in 2017, yours truly was a member of the course slip crew, skiing on a pair of Kastle MX 88s, 178 cm. Over the years, it was my custom to give my buddy, ski patrolman Ed Pfab, Kastle skis that I was replacing. He seemed to get along with ‘em, and I’d catch him skiing them on occasion. It’s possible that he never met a brand-new pair of skis that he liked.  

Ed died this fall after an accident at his home on Sopris Creek. During our last conversation, shortly before he passed, at my horse pasture, the offer was made that I had another pair of Kastles with his name on them.

“Great,” he said. “Those are good skis.”

So this year, when once again I volunteered to be on the slip crew, unsure for a bit about what skis to use, it suddenly became clear. Those Kastle skis from 2017, intended for Ed and gathering dust in my garage, became my ski of choice, in honor of Ed Pfab. 

Understandably, that decision didn’t make the publicity blurbs about the World Cup, and I didn’t make a big deal out of it, kept it personal between Ed and me, and in a way, it brought a bit of healing to his tragic passing. 

Now that we’ve moved on, here’s to Ed “Mex” Pfab and the Aspen Mountain ski patrol he served so well.

Tony Vagneur sends his best to Fred “Fish” Thomas, course slipper extraordinaire, who ducked out early. Tony writes here every Saturday and welcomes your comments at   


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