On Spider Sabich Day at Snowmass, the ski racing icon was honored for her footprint and legacy

Photo courtesy of Christin Cooper

Billy Kidd: ‘The film captured the essence of Spider’

The ski racing community gathered at the base of the ski area where Vladimir Peter “Spider” Sabich reigned as Director of Skiing before his untimely death at age 31 during skiing’s glamorous heyday in the 1970s They got together last month to watch a film about his life and cheer on Spider’s posthumous induction into the American Ski Hall of Fame.

It’s not often that a movie’s big reveal takes place in a space shared by many of those portrayed in said work. Yet the Snowmass broadcast of the popular 55-minute documentary “Spider Lives! The Untold Story of “Spider Sabich, an American Skiing Superhero” turned out to be both a Hollywood story and a home movie. The April 8 community celebration coincided with Mayor Bill Madsen’s proclamation of the “Spider Sabich Day,” recognizing the runner whose footprint is deeper than a ski boot in the spring snow.

Northstar Training Spider. Photo: Christin Cooper

Christin Cooper, without whose efforts “Spider Lives!” would not have stood up, called it “a community celebration for a favorite son finally entering the pantheon to which he has long belonged”. Cooper and her husband, Mark Taché, played a vital role in the film’s development and screenplay. She drew on her experience as an NBC Sports broadcaster and watched the evolution of the film about Stain’s nephew, “Andy Irons: Kissed by God,” as part of her ongoing filmmaking training. job.

The genesis of “Spider Lives!” owes Mike Hundert, a Bob Beattie Foundation board member who worked with Beattie on the then fledgling World Pro Skiing Tour in the 1970s. According to Cooper and Tache, the film required a six-figure budget, involving mostly donations and “tons of love and passion”.

The Snowmass party used the same ingredients.

“It was the biggest gathering of people who knew Spider,” Billy Kidd said of the Snowmass party. Kidd can lay claim to authority status, as he was Sabich’s teammate and roommate ‘for years’ when they were both students at the University of Colorado, skiing at the FIS World Cup and circuit Beattie professional.

He said this week: “It was a treat for me, Moose (Barrows) and the runners of our time to see so many of these people, a number of those we hadn’t seen in decades, and then to discovering the film captured Spider better than anything” capped off the evening, said Kidd.

Kidd was eager to hear Spider’s voice again in the old clips and said it would help Kidd’s son, named after Sabich, “capture what an amazing person he was. Everyone thought he was. was the real spider we had seen up there on the screen.

The son of a WWII bomber pilot raised in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, Sabich grew up in the outdoors and seized his chance for a scholarship to join the University ski team. Colorado in the early 1960s under Coach Bob Beattie. The team also included Kidd, Barrows and Jimmie Heuga.

Before turning pro at a time when compensation for amateur and professional skiers was seriously delineated, Sabich was the U.S. downhill champion in 1968. That season he also competed at the Olympics in Grenoble, France. But that’s when a professional skier, Spider, became a celebrity in his own right who could support himself in a lifestyle that included a home in Aspen’s Starwood and a private plane.

Sabich was unstoppable in the early years of the World Pro Ski Tour and was champion in 1971 and 1972; the film captures his penultimate run against Jean-Claude Killy in “Spider Lives!”

Responsibility is taken seriously.

The screening of the film was filled with a party and dress-up photo booth and a 1970s band and was a gift to a skiing community, marking a rare large in-person gathering after two years of COVID-19.

The public seemed eager to immerse themselves in the story of the handsome and hard-working athlete who marked the golden age of ski racing. The film was piloted by the Bob Beattie Ski Foundation and kindly guided by Hayden Scott, owner/producer of Edwards, Colorado based eef4k.tv.

“It was a big responsibility to make this movie, and we’re so happy that everyone seems to like the way we handled it,” Scott said.

“Christin and Mark grabbed this project by the horns and worked diligently with our editor Baker Jones. I think the result is outstanding,” he added.

But there’s a catch: while the widespread opinion is that the film deserves a much wider audience because it has historical significance, the benevolence of ABC-TV Films and other copyright holders prevents it from being seen by more viewers. Paying the marketing rights, if the film sees a commercial release, is currently prohibitive.

“I wasn’t a local in the days of Spider, so it was fascinating to see the footage from the 70s,” said Aspenite Gail Mason, who attended the Snowmass event. “He seemed so mature for his age. For me, it was an education on someone who is part of the fabric of Snowmass.

Over 50 hours of interviews were reviewed to achieve this, including vintage ski racing footage from photographers Norm Clasen, Roger Brown and Paul Ryan. According to Cooper, the ABC Sports and Dick Barrymore film “The Spider and the Frenchman” also provided vital scenes. Many of the film’s actors, both principle and supporting acts, attended the Snowmass show.

The big reveal.

Missy Greis, daughter of Spider Sabich, received her father’s US Ski Hall of Fame Medal from Mike Hundert on April 8 at Snowmass Village. Photo: Christin Cooper

The revelation that Dede Brinkman, Spider’s friend from his California home, innocently interviewed at the start of ‘Spider Lives’ and later revealed to be bearing the skier’s offspring through Missy Greis and her daughter Grace is cinematic branding. of master.

Last month, the women appeared on stage at the Snowmass Conference Center as Spider’s Hall of Fame Medal was presented to Missy Greis. Fittingly, Missy’s godfather is the late Bob Beattie.

“It’s an extended family for sure. It was heartwarming to see all three generations evolve,” Taché said. He noted that Grace, who didn’t grow up in Aspen, received an education about her grandfather, Spider, while filming the film, which was originally conceived in 2019 but delayed by two years due to COVID-19.

“It was a truly mind-blowing experience for her,” he said.

While browsing through archival film footage, Tache even spied himself at 15, waiting to precede the pro race at Aspen Highlands, where Killy and Sabich faced off.

Around this time, Stain recalled seeing Sabich, a colossal cross-media star in the way that only Lindsey Vonn has since approached, hanging out at Hyman Ave. Mall in downtown Aspen. “You would come up and talk to him. He was just that kind of guy. He was humble and open to everything,” Taché said.

Once they began to dig into the treasure trove of interviews with Spider’s inner circle, the filmmakers realized “we had a responsibility to tell Spider’s story and tell of his life and accomplishments,” said said Spot.

He credited Sabich with providing a role model for himself and other children, like Andy Mill, who grew up around this time.

DeDe Brinkman and Spider Sabich pictured as college-age friends. Photo: Christin Cooper

“I couldn’t have been a professional skier for seven years without Spider, and Spider and Bob creating ‘this thing’.”

Besides Sabich’s strong character and sporting exploits, her death at the hands of Claudine Longet, for which she was convicted of manslaughter, is dealt with in a direct but not overly dramatized manner. Longet was going to marry his lawyer and lead a rather ordinary life in Aspen.

Billy Kidd hesitated when speaking about the period: “The Claudine part makes me so uncomfortable.” He knew of Missy’s existence at the time but had never met her until recently.

Christin Cooper insisted the film was a grassroots project funded solely by donations, a tribute film and a project “was never intended to be a definitive documentary or an investigative expose”.

Still, Kidd said he deserved more attention and a wider audience. “I told Christin, Mark and Mike to clear a space on your mantel for an Academy Award or a Sundance Award because I thought it was so well done.”

Longtime Aspenite Polly Ross was also in the crowd at Snowmass and agreed with the praise.

“I thought it was a fabulous event and was very impressed with the film. I hope it can become “mainstream” or at least in film festivals, because I think it deserves a documentary award. I learned a lot more about Spider than I had ever known before. And I loved all the old ski racing footage and seeing the rivalry with Killy.

All week leading up to Spider Sabich Day, amateur ski racers did what they do best at the 2022 NASTAR Finals away from the Spider Sabich Race Arena, located almost within sight of the conference center.

It was a great weekend for post-COVID-19 get-togethers, as several ski and sports dignitaries stayed in the area for the 2022 Aspen Ski Hall of Fame induction. On Sunday, April 11, they saw son of the country, Andy Mill, honored in perpetuity at a banquet attended by Rita Hunter and Bruce Gordon. They were also inducted as Aspen Legacies due to their timeless contributions and volunteerism.

“The spider lives! The Untold Story of America’s Skiing Superhero, Spider Sabich, also premiered to the public in Bretton Woods, NH and Sun Valley. In March at Sun Valley, the International Ski History Association presented him with their award ahead of the film’s April 8 premiere at Spider’s Playground and in front of his Snowmass pals.

“The spider lives!” is currently available for non-profit screening only, but not for widespread distribution due to still and video copyrights.

As film and party greeted Spider last month at Snowmass, the revitalized pro ski tour raged through the Taos Ski Valley. Its resurgence has been warmly welcomed by the original professional racing community, some of whose members agree on one element that could spur its burgeoning popularity: a modern, larger-than-life personality like Spider Sabich.

Follow Madeleine Osberger on Twitter @Madski99

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