Ski community says goodbye to Aspen’s Bob Beattie
The man who did so much to promote the sport and business of skiing received a hearty salute in return Saturday.
Hundreds of people turned out on the slopes of Aspen Highlands during the day and at the Hotel Jerome at night to celebrate the life of Bob Beattie, a Woody Creek resident since 1970 who died April 1 at age 85.
Beattie was honored for nurturing a winning mindset on the U.S. Ski Team starting in the 1964 Olympics, helping dream up World Cup ski racing, starting the dual format pro racing tour and creating interest among recreational skiers by establishing NASTAR. But his greatest legacy, friends agreed, was working with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and Aspen Skiing Co. to make skiing accessible for all kids, regardless of economic status.
“I think Bob Beattie has done more for our sport, more for the ski industry than anyone I know,” said Bill Kidd, a silver medal winner in the slalom in the 1964 Olympics as part of Beattie’s team.
More than 300 people packed the ballroom of the Hotel Jerome for a celebration that featured a panel of people who knew Beattie well — Kidd, Aspen native son Bill Marolt, alpine ski racer Chuck Ferries and moderator, ski racer and ski commentator Christin Cooper.
The three men, who were all members of the U.S. Ski Team while Beattie was coach, recalled him as masterful at bringing them together.
“Team was the critical element of his personality,” said Marolt, who followed Beattie’s footsteps as coach of the CU and U.S. ski teams.
Beattie had a fondness for the Green Bay Packers legendary, tough-guy coach Vince Lombardi. Beattie drove his athletes hard in training, which Marolt quipped was known as “the exhaustion method.”
Ferries and Beattie grew close even though Beattie rejected Ferries as a member of the CU ski team, telling him he didn’t think he belonged. Ferries earned the respect of the man known as “the Coach” when he made the U.S. Ski Team. Ferries cited examples of how Beattie’s philosophy of working as a team rubbed off on the team members, such as working with one another outside of official training time to improve ski technique.
Ferries became the first American to win the famed Hahnenkamm slalom later in his career. Beattie labeled him “the most unknown, great racer in U.S. history.”
Ferries said Beattie’s influence on him extended beyond the ski slopes, specifically his emphasis on team and excellence.
“This has affected my entire life — the fact that we had to be the best,” said Ferries, who had a successful business career after ski racing.
Kidd, wearing a cowboy hat that has made him an icon in the skiing industry for more than five decades, joked that he was a “horrible athlete” who benefitted from Beattie’s training and team concept. He was a surprise winner of a silver medal in the slalom in the 1964 Olympics while teammate Jimmy Heuga, a favorite of Beattie’s for his effort, grabbed bronze in the same discipline.
Kidd told a tale of how thoughts of Beattie and influential teammate Buddy Werner entered his sub-consciousness during the 1970 World Championships and helped provide him with the stamina to win a gold medal in the combined and a bronze in the slalom even though he was battling a back injury.
Kidd pulled his Olympic silver medal and World Championship gold medal out of his pockets to the delight of the audience.
The accolades and sometimes mild roasting of Beattie, known as “Beats” to friends, continued through the evening. A rare video shot by the ABC TV network for Beattie’s 50th birthday was shown. Beattie was a broadcaster known for his enthusiasm in ski coverage and interest in a broad range of pursuits.
His son, Zeno Beattie, quipped that Bob was demanding and doggedly determined when he set his sights on something, as everyone who worked with him knew. Beattie was famed for being outspoken on skiing issues, which often put him at odds with the establishment, be it the U.S. Ski Team backers or the International Ski Federation. Bob told The Aspen Times in a 2017 interview he loved being a burr under the saddle of establishment.
Zeno said it was important to his dad that his friends get a chance get together, so they decided on a celebration of his life during ski season. Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club racers and skiing legends hit the slopes earlier Saturday in a dual slalom race.
“It’s been great to spend time with everybody the last two days,” Zeno Beattie said to the crowd at the Hotel Jerome, which included numerous former skiers on Bob’s teams and ski industry influencers from out of town.
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