When I taught skiing, the United States was nowhere in world class competition. Buddy Werner was the best United States skier and had won a few races, including the notoriously difficult Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel, Austria, the only American to win the full length course ‘til this day. He was killed in an avalanche while being filmed for a movie for the clothing manufacturer, Bogner.
The first Americans to win medals at the Winter Olympics were Billy Kidd and Jimmy Huega. Kidd won the silver and Huega the bronze in slalom in the ’64 Games. Sadly, Huega was touched with tragedy as Werner had. He succumbed to complications from MS.
The three of them, plus Jean Claude Killy were my heroes in those days and I was fortunate to work with Killy and then Kidd. Ironically, Kidd, now a Legend of Skiing, chose to establish his career as an ambassador of skiing at Steamboat Springs, Buddy Werner’s former home.
I remet him recently at an event when another ski friend was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame. He remembered the commercial we had done vividly (for Busch Beer) and we laughed about the past and he spoke of the medals and Werner and Huega and Steamboat and Stowe (where he grew up) and the wonders of winter in the mountains. The evening triggered an avalanche of memories and there were others to share, but Kidd’s (and Huega’s) medals were the ones that started the successes of Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Phil Mahre, and others that let America compete equally on the world stage.
During the evening, I mentioned to Kidd that he resembled my friend, Dennis Hopper. Kidd said that when they saw EASY RIDER, they decided to paint their racing helmets like that of Peter Fonda’s, the American Flag.