World Cup Ski Racing in Aspen
VILLAGE, Colo. -- Aspen first became a major ski racing venue in 1939 when Ajax hosted the
Southern Rocky Mountain Downhill and Slalom Championships. The success of this event
spawned the Rocky Mountain Championships of 1940 and the National Championships of 1941.
prestigious local ski racing acknowledgment in Aspens early days began in 1946 when
the Aspen Ski Club awarded the Roch Cup to the winner of downhill and slalom, combined.
In 1950, thanks
to the efforts of Dick Durrance and a group of ski racing advocates, Aspen hosted its
first important international race the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) World
Alpine Championships, which drew top ski racers in every discipline.
In 1967, the
World Cup circuit was born, thanks to former U.S. Ski Team coach and Aspen resident Bob
Beattie, French coach Honoré Bonnet, and Swiss journalist Serge Lang, the influential
columnist for LÉquipe newspaper. World
Cup, a season-long series of races, provided the means of bringing consistent
international ski racing to the U.S., and determining the best skiers in the world.
its first World Cup in 1968, attracting considerable attention and prestige.
Winternational became the week-long pageant in which World Cups White
Carnival is celebrated by the Aspen community.
World Cup events have been held in
Aspen in 1968, 1976, 1981-1989, 1991-1995 and most recently in 1998.
World Cup ski racing in
Billy Kidd of
Stowe, Vt., and Canadian Nancy Greene were winners during Aspens first World Cup in
1968. Greene, the 1968 Olympic giant slalom titlist, was no newcomer to Aspen. She had won
the womens equivalent of the Roch Cup, the Bingham Cup, in a race series here in
1965. Kidd, the 1964 Olympic silver medalist
in slalom, was also an Aspen veteran. He had won the Roch Cup two years running in 1964
1968 victories in all three events during World Cup week in Aspen downhill, slalom,
giant slalom secured her first-place standings in the World Cup point chart. Kidd,
whose competitors included Jean-Claude Killy, Jimmy Huega, Bill Marolt and Spider Sabich,
won the slalom and placed third in both the downhill and giant slalom. Though Kidd won the
Roch Cup for his collective standings in Aspen, Killy, of France, won the overall World
This first ever
World Cup in Aspen drew the largest on-course gallery of spectators in Aspen history,
estimated at 3,000. Famed newscaster and ski enthusiast Lowell Thomas
presented the trophies at Wagner Park.
Stenmark of Sweden was the big name in Aspen for the 1976 World Cup. He easily captured
first place in the mens slalom and cinched the overall mens World Cup title
with that victory. Stenmark was noted as faster and smoother than anyone else
on the course as he won both runs of the slalom. Stenmarks closest competitor,
American Phil Mahre, was over 1.5 seconds out. The slalom was held on Aspen
Morerod of Switzerland won the womens giant slalom, and with it the World Cup
womens GS championship. But Germanys Rosi Mittermaier had wrapped up the
womens overall title the week before the Aspen race. Danielle Debernard of France
finished second in both GS and downhill to finish first in the womens combined
standings in Aspen.
World Cup downhill champion and Olympic gold medalist, signed autographs and shook hands
at the bottom of the Aspen Mountain downhill course after his victory there. He won on
skis that had been chilled in a refrigerator, then flown by helicopter to the top of Aspen
Mountain to ensure proper wax consistency.
As winner of
the Roch Cup, Klammer thought the trophy was his for keeps. He brought it home to Austria,
and it took the Aspen Historical Society a year to retrieve it.
and Swiss teams captured four of the top 10 places in the downhill. Americas top
finishers were Eric Wilson and Greg Jones, who placed 21st and
racer Andy Mill, after suffering a week-long bout with the flu and two falls in practice
one that re-injured a knee placed a disappointing 44th in a field of 45, ten seconds away from Klammer.
While most of
Aspens World Cup races were men-only, the 1981 event featured both men and
of the Soviet Union won the Aspen Mountain downhill in 1981, posting the Russian
teams first-ever downhill victory in World Cup competition. Behind him came the
Swiss and Austrian teams, taking the next eight places.
One of the
Austrians Harti Weirather placed second. He had come to Aspen tied with
Steve Podborski of Canada for first place in World Cup downhill standings, and his second
place in Aspen gave him a five-point edge over the Canadian.
giant slalom was an even more important race, with Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden battling it
out with American Phil Mahre. Mahre won the GS overall after a blistering second run,
securing his first of three consecutive overall World Cup victories. The third place GS
finisher was Steve Mahre, Phils twin brother. Aspenites Mike Farny, Chris Tache and
Mark Harvey placed 29th, 30th and 34th in the GS.
Nadig of Switzerland clinched the womens downhill title, and Tamara McKinney of the
U.S., after having a near collision with a snowcat during a warm-up run, won the GS.
At the GS,
McKinney reportedly approached the starting line not feeling much like racing.
Then she skied the third-fastest time in the first run, a quarter of a second behind
leader Erika Hess of Switzerland. In the second run, McKinney came from behind to win the
race and the World Cup GS overall. Aspens Beth Madsen placed 38th.
The Aspen World
Cup races of 1982 again featured men and women in multiple events.
of Canada proved himself the fastest downhill racer in the world in 1982 by becoming the
first non-European to win the World Cup downhill in combined standings.
But it was
Peter Mueller of Switzerland who had the fastest downhill runs in Aspen, winning both
downhills. Phil Mahre, who had his second World Cup combined sewed up by the time he hit
Aspen in 1982, broke from his specialties slalom and giant slalom to race
the downhill. He placed 18th and ninth.
womens events, Marile Epple of West Germany, Erika Hess of Switzerland and
Mariles older sister Irene Epple, took the first three places in giant slalom. This
trio was ranked as the top GS racers in Europe at the time.
Christin Cooper and Tamara McKinney were tripped up on the icy GS course, but Karen
Lancaster of Nevada placed a strong fourth, followed by Americans Cindy Nelson, seventh,
and Abbi Fisher, ninth. This moved the U.S. Womens Team to a fourth place position
in World Cup national standings.
in the mens downhill resulted when Canadas Ken Read stuck a pole in the icy
starting ramp as he lunged out of the gate, and lost it. Read stopped, sidestepped up the
ramp, retrieved his pole and asked for a new start. The World Cup jury, however, denied
it. Read protested bitterly, but lost his run.
Mahre was the most celebrated skier in Aspen in 1983, where he clinched his third
consecutive World Cup victory. Mahre and Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden were arch rivals in
the giant slalom, which Mahre won handily, placing first in the first run to
Stenmarks second, and third in the second run, to Stenmarks seventh.
Winning is not everything, Mahre said about his victory in Aspen. I
really just want to enjoy myself.
While Mahre was
supreme in the GS, Canadas Todd Brooker won the mens downhill after the race
was delayed one day due to 25 inches of snow that fell during World Cup weekend. Phil
Mahre placed ninth, and Ingemar Stenmark finished 13th
in the GS.
led by Brooker, Steve Podborski and Ken Read, faced a dilemma in Aspen when the Canadian
Ski Team announced it was short of funds and presented bills to the racers asking them to
pay a share of the shortfall. This infuriated racers who resented the billing, especially
on the eve of a major race. On top of that, Canadian Head Coach John Ritchey announced in
Aspen that he would retire at the end of the season. Making matters worse, Podborski
suffered a serious crash at the bottom of Spring Pitch. His resulting knee injury was said
to have terminated his racing career.
Billy Wins! shouted the headline of the Aspen
Times in 1984 as Bill Johnson, Olympic Gold Medalist, won what became known from then
on as Americas Downhill. Despite a race delay prompted by a foot of
snow, then more snow and fog on race day, Johnson reached speeds of 75 mph in a tuck on
Aztec, besting Austrians Helmut Hoeflehner and Anton Steiner, who placed second and third.
Fourth place went to Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland, who held an overall points lead in
the World Cup downhill.
on to win the giant slalom with the fastest time in the first run and the second fastest
in the second run, to beat Luxembourgs Marc Girardelli. American Phil Mahre, in one
of his last races before retirement, posted a third-place finish in the GS.
of Switzerland won the mens downhill in 1985, and his Swiss teammates took five of
the top ten places, inspiring the Aspen Times
headline Swiss Blitz! Muellers time shattered the course record,
which he had set in 1982. American Bill Johnson, who won in 1984 and was apparently
displeased by something about the course, threatened to boycott the downhill, but
dismissed his threat later as a joke and placed 21st.
of Luxembourg won the giant slalom despite a cold drizzle, soggy course and flat light.
Girardelli muscled past Swedens Ingemar Stenmark and Switzerlands Max Julen
and Pirmin Zurbriggen to win the event.
The 1985 World
Cup was shaken by a brief controversy. A ruling by the FIS that would have been adopted
for the first time in Aspen, instituted a change in the manner of determining the starting
order. The racers were adamantly against the change and a debate raged until moments
before the races began. In the end, the FIS gave in to the racers, and the traditional
criteria was upheld.
slalom was canceled in Aspen in 1986 after racers blocked the second gate of the course in
protest of dangerous course conditions. Rain had fallen the night before the GS, and slush
on top of ice was deemed a hazard to racers. Andreas Wenzel of Lichtenstein, giant slalom
silver medalist in the 1980 Olympics, was one of the organizers who denounced course
won the mens downhill, skiing the course with a cast on a broken wrist. Mueller
again broke the course record, having set the two preceding records in 1982 and 1985.
Mueller ignored warnings from his doctor that his season was finished, and he
raced better than ever with cast to finish in the top spot. Second place was claimed by
Austrian Peter Wirneberger, and in third place was Austrias Leonhard Stock, gold
medalist in the 1980 Olympics. Doug Lewis was the highest ranking American. He placed
phenomenon Pirmin Zurbriggen made history in Aspen in 1987, winning both the mens
downhill and the giant slalom. His run on the downhill was aggressive and fast, despite
sloppy conditions on a warm, sunny spring day. He was followed in second and third places
by Swiss teammates Daniel Mahrer and Karl Alpiger. Already the overall winner for the
World Cup series, Zurbriggen cinched the downhill title in Aspen as well.
In the GS,
Zurbriggen showed he was at the top of his game, winning the race by almost a one-second
margin ahead of Italys Richard Pramatton. Zurbriggens teammate, Alpiger,
called him the best skier in the world after his coup in Aspen. Responded
Zurbriggen, Id like to be remembered as one of the great racers of all
turnout on Aspen Mountain was a record-breaker. Fans crowded the course in unprecedented
numbers to watch the downhill and bask in spring sunshine. Estimates by Aspen Skiing
Company put the gallery at more than 4,300.
This year was
the first womens-only World Cup race in Aspen.
Flat light and
a tough course wreaked havoc on the downhill as half a dozen racers crashed, several
ending their seasons with debilitating injuries. The race was canceled less than half way
through the starting order, and rescheduled the following day. With better light and
visibility, Brigitte Oerth of Switzerland took first place.
The slalom was
at least as demanding as the downhill for women racers, 70 percent of whom failed to
complete the course. If you stood up through this one, you had a good chance of
winning, commented Aspens Beth Madsen.
Only 15 racers
from a large international field were able to complete two runs. When it was done,
Roswitha Steiner of Austria had placed first, followed by teammates Anita Wachter and M.
Maierhofer. Wachter, as overall winner, was awarded the Bingham Cup, which had been
dormant for nearly a decade.
were held for the men in 1989 downhill, super G, giant slalom but no events
for the women. To date, this was the only World Cup in Aspen held in February.
Karl Alpiger of
Switzerland won the mens downhill, squeaking past Marc Girardelli of Luxembourg.
Peter Mueller, a defending champion and course record holder, placed 10th. Girardelli, despite a second-place finish, took
the overall downhill World Cup title. Former winner Bill Johnson placed 57th.
In the super G,
1988 Olympic super G bronze medalist Lars-Boerge Eriksson won his first-ever World Cup
event. Marc Girardelli placed fourth. Girardelli was awarded the Roch Cup for his combined
Just prior to
the race, Girardellis father, Helmut, was refused access to the racecourse because
he had arrived late. Helmut became embroiled in a shouting match with a course guard, then
took revenge by refusing to allow his son to attend the awards ceremony or press
conference. Making matters worse, Helmuts illegally parked car was towed during the
The slalom was
also a stage for drama as the competition included top skiers Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden,
Alberto Tomba of Italy, Marc Girardelli, and Lars Eriksson of Sweden. Heavy snow fell that
morning as Girardelli led by less than two-tenths of a second over Stenmark in the first
run. Tomba sat in a distant 15th place. On the
second run, Tomba skied a near perfect run, ending in sixth.
ran the course, the crowd knew he had excelled in this, his 86th career win. Girardelli
was one of the first to give Stenmark a bear hug of congratulations. On his way to the
victory podium, Stenmark was serenaded by a chorus of Swedes bearing the Swedish flag.
This man is truly one of the greatest racers of all times, announced Andy Mill
to a cheering crowd.
of Luxembourg managed to sew up the overall World Cup title while in Aspen in 1991.
Alberta Tomba of Italy won the giant slalom to win that overall title. The Austrians and
Swiss were dominant, and the young American team failed to win any points at all, either
on the scoreboard or with fans.
mens downhill, Peter Mueller of Switzerland placed a disappointing ninth, despite an
enthusiastic crowd that hoped to cheer the returning veteran to victory. They settled
instead for Franz Heinzer, Muellers teammate. Mueller had recently recovered from
major knee surgery and said he felt nervous on the course. Americans AJ Kitt
and Tommy Moe placed 18th and 29th .
won in the giant slalom after posting a flawless first run that gave him an untouchable
lead. Tomba hammed it up in Aspen, a real crowd-pleaser with a party hearty
reputation. He mugged for the camera, fondling fruit in a suggestive manner, and he filled
a water bottle with beer so he could sip suds in public without offending his sponsors.
Soft snow and a
tight slalom course made mincemeat out of the entire U.S. team, plus a handful of World
Cup veterans. First run leader Rudolf Nierlich of Austria hung onto his lead, despite a
gatekeepers protest, which was ruled out after viewing Nierlichs run on video.
Girardelli placed fourth, and Tomba was sixth.
winner of Americas Downhill, Peter Mueller of Switzerland, raced the Aspen Mountain
course for his last time in 1992 as he was forced into retirement at age 34. Mueller, who
last won Aspens downhill in 1986, said the Swiss Team had decided he was too old.
Theyre so stupid, said Mueller, who maintained that experience was still
on his side, despite the younger, faster skiers dominating the event.
teammate, Daniel Mahrer, won the downhill, with Mueller in 19th place. Mahrer set a new course record, formerly
held by Mueller. Leonard Stock of Austria placed fourth and Marc Girardelli of Luxembourg,
seventh. Americans AJ Kitt and Tommy Moe took eighth and 47th.
The super G
course this year was so fast, half the field failed to negotiate it, including Swiss
racers Franz Heinzer and Marc Girardelli. Olympic gold medalist in the event, Kjetl Andre
Aamodt of Norway, won.
Winternational 93 was how the Aspen
Times headlined the controversial cancellation of Americas Downhill that year.
The bitterness came when FIS officials canceled the race with American AJ Kitt holding an
The race was
canceled due to a rut that had developed at a new gate that had been added for this
years course on Dago Road. Many of the
top-ranked skiers had already cleared the gate, with Kitt in the lead, when Austrias
Olympic gold medalist Patrick Ortlieb hit the rut and suffered a knee injury. Ortlieb
finished the run in ninth place, but the rut caused FIS officials, led by an Austrian, to
delay, then cancel the race.
Not only did
Kitt lose his chance for winning a World Cup downhill, but his teammate, Tommy Moe, had
placed sixth in the first run the first time in history two Americans had ever
placed in the top six of a World Cup downhill. The U.S. Team filed a formal protest, but
the FIS decision was upheld.
Aamodt of Norway won his second consecutive Aspen super G. Stefan Eberhartner of Austria
placed second, and Swiss downhill champion Daniel Mahrer placed third, a career high for
Mahrer in super G.
Three new names
were elevated to the list of Aspen winners in 1994 Hannes Trinkl, Cary Mullen, and
Fredrik Nyberg. Three events were held this year a giant slalom and two downhills,
the Sister City Downhill and Americas Downhill.
of Austria won the Sister City Downhill on Aspen Mountain, a make-up race for one that had
been canceled in Germany earlier in the year. He was faster than second-place Cary Mullen
of Canada or third-place Marc Girardelli of Luxembourg. Trinkls reign was
short-lived, however, as he fell in the Airplane Turn the following day in the
The race was
won by Canadian Cary Mullen, a new North American downhill star from Banff. Americas
Downhill was Mullens first World Cup win. He was followed in second place by Atle
Skaardal of Norway, with Pietro Vitalini of Italy in third. Mullens teammate, Ed
Podivinsky, placed fourth.
In the giant
slalom, Swedish racer Fredrik Nyberg placed first, coming from behind to win the event
after finishing fourth in the first run. Christian Mayer of Austria, the Olympic bronze
medalist, was second, and Italys Alberto Tomba placed sixth.
embroiled in a major controversy in 1995 when heavy snow cancelled the super G and halted
the Americas Downhill in mid-race, in which American racer AJ Kitt had distinguished
himself with the fastest time.
Since most of
the racers all the top-seeded competitors had run the downhill course before
the race was canceled, it was assumed Kitts victory would stand. When a similar
cancellation had occurred in 1993, Kitt had also been in first place and, despite a
protest by the U.S. Team, was denied the victory.
In 1995, the
FIS on-site jury validated the downhill and awarded Kitt the first-place win. In the
aftermath of protests from France, Canada and Luxembourg, however, another FIS jury
revoked Kitts win just three days later.
Despite the FIS
ruling, Aspen Skiing Company announced they would recognize Kitts apparent victory
by awarding him the Roch Cup.
racing returned to Aspen after a three-year hiatus with a mens super G and slalom.
The super G course was slightly rerouted to take advantage of early-season snowfall and
provide more viewing excitement while increasing racer safety. Aspen Skiing Company also
made an $800,000 investment in snowmaking enhancements to ensure prime course conditions
in November. An early-season storm laid down a sufficient base of snow and the course
preparation became an all-out effort that produced what race organizers dubbed a
bad-ass course. Racers called it one of the most challenging super G courses
in the world.
team took most of the honors by filling the winners podium with the first-, second-
and third-place finishers in the super G, and taking first place in the slalom. Stephan
Eberharter, Hermann Maier, and Christian Mayer took the first three positions in super G,
and teammate Thomas Stangassinger won the slalom. Frances Sebastien Amiez and
Norways Tom Stiansen took second and third in the slalom.
The U.S. Ski
Team placed five racers in the top 30 in the super G, with Paul Casey Puckett landing the
highest position in 12th place. The slalom proved more daunting for the Americans,
however, who failed to place any racers in the top 30 after the first run.
the Hermanator Maier, an international ski-racing star, won a dubious
distinction in Aspen when he and Austrian teammate Andreas Schifferer were arrested a day
after the race by Aspen police for borrowing a bicycle and riding double down
the Herminator ditched the bike when approached by police, and attempted to escape on
foot. They were apprehended, handcuffed, taken to the Aspen police station and were turned
over to an Austrian coach once charges of theft were dropped. The racers explained they
had borrowed the bike only because they had no other transportation and feared they might
miss their flight out of Aspen. No charges were brought against the two.