Like every human endeavor, it starts with one or more individuals who dare do something extreme, something they feel is worth personal sacrifice even if it means being the object of derision, even hostility.
This is the way skateboarding began in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains back in 1975-1976.
The guys, in particular, resided in Summit County. Two were in their mid-to-late 20s; one was 30-something.
The 20-something guys were neighbors on Ptarmigan Mountain, a rustic, residential community shoehorned between Silverthorne and Dillon.
We worked and skied together, inbound and out-of-bounds, camped, skateboarded, and more.
The mid-30 man was Jim Bowden, a former ski instructor at Keystone, the venue of my introduction to the man.
At the time, I was employed by Keystone as director of racing. I was the first appointed to the position by ski school director Rolf Dercum.
The appointment turned out to be the best job I could have landed fresh out of college, and it fit like a glove.
It was in this position that I discovered an entrepreneurial nature, something I had no idea was in my makeup prior to the Directorship.
Peter “Manbar” Camann at the Log House (timing hut) after the Keystone Businessman’s League Invitational Challenge Cup II, March 1975 | Photo: Bruce Schaefer
Education began with grade school and high school in Manchester, NH, followed by matriculation at the University of New Hampshire (UNH).
All the while enrolled at UNH in the Whittemore School of Business and Economics, I had no idea what I was going to do once I graduated.
I had neither direction nor interest in the corporate world.
I needed to find my bearing: what should I pursue, or more to the point, what do I want to pursue?
It all came down to what was near and dear to heart and mind.
Unfortunately, neither was a subject of study in the University’s curriculum.
Despite not having a specific direction, I knew enough to realize that a focusless future was not something that would sit well with me.
Another thing I became aware of derived from summertime employment, high school thru college: I was not cut out for anything that required “punching a time-clock.”
Experience with those types of jobs was not conducive to this freethinking individual.
I had a creative genie inside that had been let out of the bottle years prior and was never going to be put back in. The last thing I wanted to be was uninspired and purposeless.
That was not in my makeup despite not knowing what life purpose there was for me?
The two endeavors I felt fairly knowledgeable about regarding a learning curve became the guide employed in determining a goal.
I had no answer but felt the solution could be realized with a career in golf or the ski industry. I weighed both long and thoughtfully and ended up choosing the ski industry.
Having heard many compelling and enchanting reminiscences of glorious, deep powder days skiing the Rockies of Colorado while at UNH, it was those ruminations that solidified my decision to move west.
The west was a place that beckoned since a youngster, watching television westerns. That impression manifested a boyhood fascination for life the cowboy way.
As well, magazines with large format photography of the west’s canyons, mesas, and craggy, snow-covered peaks added immeasurably to the lure.
The craggy ridge-line of the east wall at A-Basin, Summit County, Colorado, circa 1976. Like the Sirens of Greek mythology, the waist-deep powder-filled troughs lured our “outlaw” nature to scale the ridge and drop in, despite it being “out of bounds.” Photo by John “Woody” Woodruff.
Summit County: + 9,100-Foot Elevation
Once relocated to Denver, it did not take long to find employment at Keystone, 75 miles due west over Loveland Pass.*
Come December 1971, the move to Summit County became a long-term commitment backed by full-time employment in construction in Breckenridge and weekend employment in the ski school at Keystone.
This was an interesting era in Summit County because much of what was happening pre-dated corporate indoctrination, building codes and standards, even the term “destination resort.”
Literally, the day I arrived in Summit County, I headed to Breckenridge and was hired on the spot at a modular home construction site in the area called Tiger Run.
I did not have a place to live before seeking employment.
I just winged it despite being a frigid 5 °F (-15 °C), snowing and blowing. I would tackle that need after work; the issue did not register the slightest apprehension.
As things turned out, a carpenter’s helper offered me shelter at his apartment in Frisco, the tiny town that you pass through on the way south to Breckenridge.
I had no idea that I would be the sixth roommate in a small, two-bedroom apartment with a dog named “Funny,” a friendly, waggly-tail Black Labrador retriever.
My co-worker and I ended up out-weathering the others who were from New Mexico, including “Funny.” It was just too cold for them, so they left the apartment with their well wishes by late March.
That summer, Rolf Dercum hired me to work on the construction of his fantastic, multi-story, split-level home tucked away off Montezuma Road east of Keystone.
During the summer, I worked out with one of Keystone’s ski patrolmen, Tom Provo, who was just an animal when it came to training.
Tom was a thick-bodied, strong as an ox kind of guy who loved pushups, pull-ups, and free weights.
He was also a superb skier with racing acumen and just light-hearted about life.
Rolf must have recognized that transition in me because he asked if I would like to be Keystone’s race director for the coming ski season.
After getting over the initial awestruck moment, it took all of one deep inhale to accept the promotion.
* The Eisenhower Tunnel did not open for vehicular traffic until March 8, 1973.
Admittedly, I had no prior experience in this position. I am quite sure Rolf knew that, too. Yet, he still asked, which confounds me to this day.
What did he see in me that inspired him to ask? I have no idea?
But, he made the right choice because of what was achieved in the first season, thereon.
Along with two – subsequent to each other – equally inspired colleagues during my tenure as director of racing, Bill Bergman and Jack McGeehan, we brought notoriety to Keystone racing right from the first season.
“Bergy” helped launch the program, while “Jackson” instilled the desire to learn the history of FIS alpine racing, statistical documentation, and its value.
In addition to that nonpareil endeavor, the next introduction was Bob Beattie’s World Pro Ski Tour (WPST).
Without Jack’s tutelage and breadth of knowledge of the historical relevance of alpine racing’s FIS World Cup and the WPST, the steps taken to preserve the records of Another Roadside Attraction’s (ARA) history are all due courtesy of Mr. McGeehan.
No question, I was flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, which lasted months until learning became the journey respectful of the sport and its nuances.
Being scared was not something to be fearful of; it became an asset and a motivating force that remains engaging to this day.
Another Roadside Attraction (ARA): the official logo designed by Art Burrows
NASTAR – A Citizen Ski Racing Program *
John Fry, former editor-in-chief of Ski Magazine, founded NASTAR in 1968.
As a skier, Fry became intrigued with what he viewed as a shortcoming in the nation’s teaching program as standardized by the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA).
It was his exposure to racing that revealed the American Ski Technique didn’t much resemble what good skiers were doing” on snow.
That observation became crystal clear during a photo session for the magazine’s cover.
During the review of the photos taken of skiers recruited to run the same sequence of slalom gates in a “flush,” it was evident all executed roughly the same technique.
That convinced Fry that the race technique was worthy of study for PSIA to consider elements in their teaching protocol.
Unfortunately, the certifying organization showed no interest in any kind of discussion at the time, so Fry moved on.
The search for such confirmation led Fry to one ski weekend at Mt Snow, Vermont.
In conversation with the ski school director, he learned of a program the French had incorporated as part of their instructor on-snow competency test, i.e., turning when you have to as opposed to when you feel like it.
The curriculum required the “instructor to perform well enough in a classic slalom with hairpins and flushes to finish within 25 percent of the time recorded by the fastest instructor.”
That informative exchange turned out to be John Fry’s eureka moment – the use of time percentages to rate competency and performance.
Time percentages became the key to NASTAR’s foundation in the same way golf’s handicap system made that intricate game popular and equitable.
Since NASTAR’s inception, recreational skiers have been able to compare their on-snow skills with the nation’s best racers.
* The NASTAR acronym derives from NAtional STAndard Racing.
Former FIS Alpine World Cup racer and member of the French National Ski Team, Henri Duvillard, is featured here on a page from World Pro Skiing magazine, which served as an advertisement in Skiing magazine, circa 1976.
Decades later, underscoring the value that this citizens’ racing program became, the USSA entered into an agreement with NASTAR to raise the profile of ski racing in America.
Beginning May 4, 2015, the US Ski Team assumed operational control of NASTAR, fulfilling John Fry’s visionary goal.
In the winter of 1972-1973, Keystone was one of twenty resorts in the franchise’s “freshmen class.”
Most of the others in the new resort category were larger, some being the largest in North America.
Places like Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat Springs dwarfed Keystone’s annual skier visits by thousands, and all had established race programs.
Marketing ski racing was a raw, novel enterprise in that era.
When the ski school created the race department, the capital allocated for it was the minimum: the franchise fee, base pay for two, timing equipment, bamboo poles (race gates), and a 3-foot x 4-foot hut for the timing house.
There was nothing in reserve, not even for advertising. Bergy and I were left to our own devices to create a successful program.
With vivid graphics on banners adorning base lodge handrails and optimism soaring, we adjourned to the racecourse, Lower Paymaster, to greet on-hill registrants.
After four hours of standing at the start looking down Lower “Pay’s” groomed slope and uphill from the other post, the outhouse size timing shack, our enthusiastic two-way communication started to wane.
The somber reality of having to endure the same the next day, waiting to time someone, anyone, was unsettling.
Co-founder of Keystone Ski Area, the late Max Dercum, was an official NASTAR Pacesetter who, decades later, would be inducted into the Colorado and National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, circa 1975 | Photo: Bruce Schaefer
By the end of the weekend, seven had raced, and all were from ski school and ski patrol.
The evidence was plain as day; something unique had to be innovated to ignite a local passion for racing. If not, we were done for.
That first weekend, the heralded season opener crushed all visions of grandeur envisioned for the program.
The high dive into the awesome world of ski racing turned out to be a giant belly flop.
Public perception of citizen racing was even less than its understanding of racing; it was persona non-grata.
Another jolt came when a newsletter arrived announcing the franchise’s Coordinator Incentive Award.
The prize was an all-expense-paid trip to the NASTAR National Finals, Alpine Meadows, California, in late March 1973.
We had no notion whatsoever of this contest until reported in the January newsletter. The participant numbers showed the competition had a distinct advantage over our newly minted program.
Max Dercum, avid Businessman’s League racer, waits for the countdown from starter Jack McGeehan, HooDoo Trail, Keystone, circa March 1975. The day was always brighter when Max showed up for the race | Photo: John Woodruff
That unwelcomed news listed all franchisees in the country, and Keystone was at the bottom in racer participation.
Though we knew our numbers were low, we were not prepared for the comparison that made us look rather inept.
It was painful to acknowledge, but confidence remained, knowing the innovative program we planned to launch in the new year would increase our numbers, at least, to a more respectable level.
However, until we got to January, our numbers were lower than low, which made us anxious each day on the mountain.
Knowing how much had to be done with something we knew so little about, technically and promotionally, turned into serious motivation.
This was all new territory, even for the ski industry. Marketing racing to an uninformed public would not be an easy sell.
This was starting from scratch with everything: lack of knowledge about the sport, management trepidation of racing’s limited reach/influence, and the public’s lack of interest in a sport whose image was the domain of agile, super-rugged athletes with quick reflexes.
Sitting in a near-empty base lodge, our “aha” moment came after pondering almost as many hours spent on the hill.
With failure not being an option because it meant returning to instructing snowplows and stem turns, an idea finally coalesced with “Last Call!”
A 10-week recreational race league tabbed the Businessman’s League, tied to NASTAR, became the brainchild.
Every team member would be registered in the citizen’s race program each week, making a win-win-win of something that had such a dubious public persona.
By making the program coed and linking it to NASTAR, our numbers would dramatically increase by the week, revenue would be guaranteed by the week, sponsors would be guaranteed promotion each week, and racers would be eligible to win NASTAR medals each week.
We projected 10-12 businesses with ten skiers, maximum, per roster.
Our cold-call, peer-to-peer contact introducing the program worked as well as what we envisioned.
The program’s positive points far outweighed the negative viewpoints countered, which each business pressed to hear during the introduction.
In essence, there were no negatives.
The program proved to be an outstanding, inexpensive marketing tool for owners and their employees.
We showed there was no better way for businesses to connect with other locals than on a mountain where more than 120 other outgoing personalities stood, waiting for their share of the thrill – ski racing.
Networking was one of the many perks that evolved from this program.
Knowing that many of the businesses targeted were restaurants that were closed on Tuesdays, it made sense to designate Tuesday as League day.
The Bergman Family at Keystone in the former Alhambra Mine log cabin. Left to right: father Bill, mother Jane, Bergy, and sister Lolly, circa 1975 | Photo: Bill Bergman Collection
The league turned what was an otherwise quiet day at Keystone into a cash cow for the mountain and its peripheral businesses.
Just like that, the dismal outlook that pervaded to that point dissolved. We now had a tangible vision to pursue.
Registering everyone in NASTAR was an integral piece of the strategy. And, what a capital idea that turned out to be!
It was so stealth a plan that no one in the country knew what we were doing, but if any of the competition were as inquisitive and competitive as we were, they would have wondered what was pushing up Podunk Keystone’s numbers so swiftly?
NASTAR’s front office noticed, however, and called to inquire as they were intrigued.
They were looking for a success story to write about in the next newsletter, but we weren’t talking.
They could see our numbers and racer registration sheets since we were required to send the “carbon copy” of the registration forms to document racer participation.
We sailed from about 40 participants in December to over 800 in January!
Left to Right: Pete Hawley, Lynn Palen, Berski, and Randy Smith, circa 1975 | Photo: Pete and Lynn Hawley Collection
The best part was that not a single area caught on.
By the end of the first season, co-directors Bergy and Manbar were off to Alpine Meadows thanks to the NASTAR Coordinators Incentive Program.
To top off the success of the first season’s program, friend and neighbor John “Berski” Nyberg qualified for the NASTAR National Finals because of the low handicap he earned racing the Tuesday Businessman’s League.
Nyberg’s name is mentioned because of his connection with Randy “R” Smith, whose name will become more than familiar to you throughout the book.
Berski, Pete Hawley, and R. Smith shared the same home on Ptarmigan Mountain, an outlier mountain community contiguous to Silverthorne, two houses up from where I lived.
Other matchless characters who resided on the same road, County Road D, better known as Red Barrel Road, all skied A-Basin and/or raced the Businessman’s League: Ken Emrick, Geary Ritchey, Paul Lee, and “Rapid Rolling” Robert Lethemon.
Emrick’s parents owned the house between my residence and the Berski-Hawley-Smith (B-H-S) log abode.
Geary “Bull” Ritchey, moving north from Amarillo (Texas) to Summit County, found residence in the A-frame on the uphill side of B-H-S.
Paul Lee, aka “Lee-boy,” lived in an A-frame, second house up from the corner on the opposite side of “the barrel.”
And, “Rapid Rolling” Robert lived at the high end of Red Barrel, contiguous to the BLM meadow, the junction to upper Ptarmigan where Bill Pula, aka “Mr. Bill,” resided.
Mr. Bill was neither a skier nor racer, just a polite, old school fellow with the kind of humble personality, intellect, and integrity that melded well with this Ptarmigan Mountain “fraternity.”
Pula was a miner who commuted to the Climax Molybdenum Mine on Fremont Pass, Leadville, about a 25-minute drive from Ptarmigan.
Note: Fremont Pass became one of our many deluxe downhill playgrounds.
Most of us gravitated to the trades to support our recreational habits, developing valuable skills from a multitude of experiences working as an all-inclusive sub-contracting crew on construction jobs that Geary always seemed to find.
Most of us were carpenters though “Lee-boy” was a painting contractor, Sunshine Painting, Inc.
Our collective also included a master electrician and master plumber.
Emrick was the only (Colorado) native amongst us, but he never held that against us; I doubt it ever crossed his mind, as broad-minded individuals do not trifle with such meaningless incidentals.
When you make a difference for the better in a community, where you are from is immaterial other than a point of passing interest.
All that said, the Businessman’s League and skiing out of bounds (OoB) was the stickum that bonded us from the beginning.
The ‘big catch’ during a wilderness camping adventure into the Gore Range, Colorado, July 4, 1976. Left-to-right: Manbar, Charles Rochon, Paul Lee, Geary Ritchey, and Gail Kruse (seated) bedazzled by the sparkle of sunlight dancing on the surface of Willows Lake | Photo: Tom Kerbrat
Ken Emrick, who finished second to Art Burrows in back-to-back seasons in the Summit Telemark Series, shows dynamic form through the gates at Copper Mountain, 1978 | Photo: Ken Emrick Collection
Race Department: What It Was and What It Took
Bergy resigned prior to the start of the second season to pursue goals with greater income potential like real estate.
Realizing the reality of the lower-income level of Race Directorship, I forged on because the work was as rewarding as it was fun.
Equally pertinent, however, was the discovery of some very valuable personal assets: a penchant for detail, organization, and first-person promotional skills.
In addition, ski racing and race management energized me to levels of inspiration and innovation I had not known existed.
The position allowed me the freedom to set my own hours, as well as a great deal of autonomy.
I learned early about 9-to-5 jobs – they were not compatible.
Creativity required workdays longer than what labor had standardized decades prior, leading to initiating early wakeups to begin the day at 6, 5 or 4, or even 3 am.
For Keystone, days of big events, one’s referred to as a max heart rate day, began with a 2 am wakeup to a 9 pm day-over.
That’s what was in my “playbook.” Long days, filled with passion, were fun to be involved in.
Oddly, it rarely felt like work – energy on days like this was massive.
Everyone, racers, co-workers, area staff, and the public provided the adrenaline and energy used to get the job done and well, I might add.
As the groundbreaker of Keystone’s race program, every day presented new challenges as interdepartmental boundaries had yet to be determined.
It was up to each manager to structure policy specific to each department’s business.
Over the years, the race crew accrued experience organizing and producing every type of event except a FIS World Cup or WPST event.
The experience led to sanctioned high school races, collegiate events, Rocky Mountain Division sanctioned downhill races, weekend NASTAR races, the Businessman’s League, ski club obstacle courses, even a CBS Sports special, “Challenge of the Sexes.”
This was a made-for-TV event that pitted former FIS World Cupper turned WPS Pro, Hank Kashiwa, against former US women’s ski teamer, Kiki Cutter, in a handicapped format down “Last Hoot,” the Black Diamond, double fall line, ice-covered slope directly in front of the Base Lodge.
“Challenge of the Sexes” racing bibs designed for the event for Kiki Cutter and Hank Kashiwa. Peter Camann collection | Photo: HH Hawks
Keystone Challenge Cup II 1975 dual Giant Slalom (GS), upper jump. Copper Mountain racer and ARA logo designer Art Burrows (right) fly off the top jump | Photo: Bruce Schaefer
NASTAR Season II
Entering the second season, 1973-74, NASTAR changed the incentive program.
No longer would it separate franchisees by regions, nor would it include a separate category for new franchises.
From then on, every franchisee, all 100+, would compete for the same prize: the trophy for most participants.
All the same, as small as this department was, confidence held steady the program would be competitive in the drive for the season-ending participation award.
From January on, the monthly newsletters ranked Keystone inside the top 5, so as winter closed in on spring, there was still time to pull off something big.
Our next innovation would cap league play with a statewide invitational, the Keystone Challenge Cup.
The league was so full of blue-chip talent it would have been sinful to deny these athletes one final challenge.
Thus, the Keystone Cup would serve as a showcase event, a dual GS that included two WPST-style jumps.
Calls were made to ski areas statewide to determine department heads to whom invitations would be mailed. The hoped-for response was avid.
Inside of two weeks, the stage was set for the 1st Keystone Challenge Cup at the end of March 1974 on Lower Paymaster.
League rules were applied – ten racers with at least one woman and one 30-year-old or older teammate per roster to count in the top 5 points total.
A two-run qualifier whittled the field down to the top 16 men and top 8 women in a single-elimination, pro-style race format.
Teams from A-Basin, Breckenridge, Copper Mtn, Aspen, Lake Eldora, Loveland Ski Area, Vail, Telluride, and Winter Park turned out to compete.
The winner was Jim Warren (Lake Eldora), with local Mark Jones finishing second. Mark Jones’s dad, Ed, was the ski school supervisor.
Ed had three sons that were all superlative skier athletes. Mark was the youngest and certainly the fastest that day!
This was the event that kicked the Keystone race program over the top to finish top 3 in the NASTAR participation award.
Keystone’s 5th Winter of Operation
The season of 1974-75 was the year Mr. McGeehan came on board as assistant director.
It also marked the beginning of Keystone’s corporate transformation from a ski area to a destination resort.
The marketing staff had a new boss and a big budget.
Construction plans to create a large commercial base and ultimately a village at the base of the mountain was becoming a popular point of discussion around the county.
This was the beginning of a long-range plan of gradual transition, morphing from a seasonal entity to a year-round destination resort.
Corporate realized there was not enough revenue from a five-month season to support area operations over a 12-month period.
They needed to revise the master plan to alter the way they did business, transforming it into a model similar to the competition happening at Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge.
The corporation had the real estate and capital reserve to invest in more raw land.
They also had the wherewithal to leverage land swaps with the U.S. Forest Service in order to expand skiable terrain to adjoining peaks.
That created a marketing advantage that would bring more revenue from consumers worldwide looking to spend disposable income.
Our challenges were many, most of them coming via an interdepartmental tug-of-war with marketing.
As the race program grew in renown, marketing viewed the race department as a convenient accouterment, an add-on they could use as a selling point to promote the area.
Ski clubs were always scouting for vacation spots, and since fun races were trending, alpine racing was a match made in heaven for marketing.
It was a great idea for marketing whose purpose was to grow the resort’s bottom line, but it did not do a thing for the race department’s bottom line.
The budget was under assault as those “fun races” added significant man-hours to the operation, which soon “redlined,” and the administration wanted to know why?
Ongoing requests to stage an obstacle course, fun race after a full day of serious race operations began to take a toll on our two-man staff.
Since most appeals were made the day of the event, it did not take too many requests before sentiment began to sour, knowing our colleagues in Marketing were oblivious to their good intentions.
Marketing was the undisputed potentate of all departments, ruling the roost with their newfound affluent influence.
One look at the race department’s closet-sized office on the ground floor, next to the boiler room, was a good indicator regarding its position in the organization’s depth chart.
Talk about working your way up from the bottom, racing could not have had a bigger handicap.
The office measured 4ft wide x 6ft long, double the square footage of the timing shack; good thing, too, because there would not have been enough room for the filing cabinet and a chair for Jack.
After being summoned to administration to explain the department’s overrun issue, it took some convincing before management grasped what was causing the problem.
It was obvious they were not listening even though it appeared they were.
Their eyes were open, but their ears and brain apparently were not engaged during prior conversations on the very same subject.
It was only when accounting submitted the financials that revealed the issue I had been trying to illuminate.
It all worked out in the end, but it was not until all the factors were properly examined for the “finger-pointing” to cease.
From that day forward, a policy change required marketing to charge a fee to cover costs for materials and labor.
Racing’s bottom line carried the day as revenue from weekenders, clubs, vacationers, and locals covered both labor and expenses, and then some with marketing following the policy directive.
The HooDoo Timing House (“Peter-built” log cabin) after the Keystone Invitational Challenge Cup II, March 1975. Jack McGeehan (wearing a yellow hat and boots) gives a thumbs-up for a well-done event | Photo: Bruce Schaefer
HooDoo’s Log Timing House
Racing now had two seasons of successive revenue increases.
The department’s potential illustrated that because demand was growing, a new trail dedicated to the program was a reasonable solution if, for no other reason, safety was a key consideration.
Lower Paymaster is an intermediate slope, a blue square designation by today’s standards.
Being a main route for skiers heading to the bottom, the trail became shared-use access when fenced off for racing.
Fencing stretched the length of the course as a measure of preventing unintentional collisions with recreational skiers.
For that reason alone, management budgeted a new trail dedicated to racing and named it HooDoo.
HooDoo made the program safer, having been cut from a thick stand of old-growth pines that covered much of the mountain.
The narrow entry point to the start made it easy to rope off from the skiing public. HooDoo was isolated, exactly what was needed to operate a safe race program.
The downside was its location.
Racers had at least a 12-minute chairlift ride up the Peru Lift and a minute ski from the unloading point to the race trail.
Once through the course, skiers had a two-minute ski back to the base to catch the Peru Lift back up to race again.
That is the way it was in the early days of ski racing at Keystone.
When informed that a new trail had been clear-cut and dedicated, I made my way up to inspect and measure the race hill.
HooDoo would need to be wired to link timing and headset communication, start to finish.
While standing in the future finish corral, I noticed logging skidders stacking logs in a pile at a trail intersection, 150 yards below.
The skidders were dragging trees from the top of the mountain where existing trails were being widened.
At that moment, an epiphany collided with my boyhood fascination with western life.
Knowing our timing cubicle was inadequate for the program, I walked down to examine the logs.
Once log girths were ascertained satisfactory for a log cabin, I made a proposal to management.
Following an informal discussion, I was given “a green light” to build it.
All that was needed was to have the contractor – Canadian loggers Moeller Brothers – haul the stack uphill to the finish.
Whatever additional materials were needed, I would handle them.
Armed with two drawknives, a chainsaw, and necessary supplies, the two-man construction crew headed up to the HooDoo corral.
It took little convincing to pique Jack’s interest to volunteer, but that commitment developed into a reliable working relationship and lifelong camaraderie.
The day began with skinning logs. Eighty were selected for a cabin, 8ft wide x 16ft long.
Our timing could not have been better because Keystone’s village-to-be was underway.
Old buildings scheduled for demolition made glass salvage convenient and free.
A former restaurant and bar with second-floor housing, “Moon Valley,” became the donor. It provided the windows we needed, two picture windows and two casement windows.
The picture windows provided an unobstructed view of the bottom quarter of the course, while the casement windows provided a parallel view of the finish.
Backside of dual racers, Keystone Challenge Cup II. Racers close in on the finish line in a Semi-final heat, circa 1975 | Photo: Bruce Schaefer
Construction began the first week of September and wrapped before Halloween, late October.
Early snows only slowed progress but never shut our work down.
Once the roof was completed with windows and the door installed, a salvaged propane heater would provide enough warmth.
The timing hut established functional quarters with a modest level of privacy to ensure race accuracy.
To focus solely on operations, it was critical to reduce distractions that were common due to setup limitations, i.e., timing quarters at ground level instead of on a second story.
The clocks, the constant communication with the starter, racers on the course, racers hanging around the finish, and spectator hubbub around the cabin, made it vital to reduce distractions.
That was the desired goal. All that said, the structure was a great addition!
Tom Hanna’s Businessman’s League low handicap trophy 1973-74 season. The trophy was designed and fabricated by Jack Wildberger, Keystone Maintenance Engineer | Photo: Tom Hanna
Keystone Businessman’s League – The Seed of Unlikely Success
The Businessman’s League continued to flourish. The 1974-75 season marked the league’s third season.
The idea of league racing at other resorts was spreading. However, Keystone’s big league remained one-of-a-kind in Summit County.
Breckenridge had not organized one, and Copper Mountain did not have the depth that Keystone was drawing, at least according to racers competing in both.
It was gratifying to hear them rave.
If you had any kind of race pedigree and you heard about Keystone’s Tuesday Race League, you could count on racing some pretty special guys and gals.
Keystone produced an abundance of talent led by former Canadian National Ski teamer and two-time Olympian Rod “Yogi” Hebron.
“Yogi” was backed by Rolf and Judy Dercum, assistant ski school director Rod Carnie, and ski instructor Boone Lennon, who later became a US Alpine Ski Team coach.
When they felt like it, any of them could win – they were that good!
Speaking of talent, Breckenridge – aka “Breck” – also had a deep, rich field of bonafide racers.
Former Eastern scrapper, Tom Hanna, was the league’s low handicap winner the year before.
Trygve Berge, a Norwegian veteran of the 1956 Winter Olympics and a founder of the Breckenridge ski area, who raced professionally and excelled at Downhill, always left an indelible impression.
John “CJ” Mueller and a bunch of hardcore racers ganged up on a number of Breck teams and stormed the mountain every Tuesday.
Summit County local C.J. Mueller featured here in a commemorative poster celebrating his record-breaking run in Les Arcs, France | Photo: Wade McKoy/jhskier.net
Years later, CJ “broke 3-speed skiing records,* including being the first speed skier to exceed 130mph.”
His reward came when he qualified for the US Speed Skiing Team for the 1992 Winter Olympics, Albertville, France.
The skill level of racers competing on Tuesdays was one of those max heart rate kind of days.
All the same, novices out to enjoy the day competed on the same course.
It was all copacetic.
It did not matter what one’s intensity level was; the community was at home with the broad mix of characters and skillsets.
That said, racers typically paired with someone of like level proficiency. This was a grassroots enterprise at its best.
The league was as competitive as it was social – skiing and racing was the “buzz.”
The big buzz, however, came at the end of the day in the bar when the sponsor’s keg was tapped.
The majority of the field hung out, waiting for results.
Everyone wanted to know times, handicaps, the top 10, team scores, standings, and if they medaled.
On average, Tuesdays were 16-18 hour days, yet they felt like only eight – the time passed so quickly!
It was always a heck of a day for just two guys handling it all, who did not even take the time to remove their ski boots until after 9:00 pm when all was said and done.
With an eye on the calendar, the plan for the second Challenge Cup on March 20, 1975, was set.
The same rules and same format applied for a dual GS with two pro-style jumps.
The top 16 men and 8 women would go head-to-head in a single-elimination format.
1975 NASTAR Coordinator of the Year trophy presentation at Keystone Resort. Left-to-right: Barbara Wolfe (girlfriend) and the author | Photo: Bruce Schaefer
The winner was the Canuck “Yogi” Hebron, former Canadian World Cup downhiller.
The elder ace of the Challenge Cup recruited all his mastery to win this one, with each dual round more intense and tougher than the one before.
The Challenge Cup was one more big race of the season that contributed to Keystone winning NASTAR’s season-long participation contest.
Without the loyalty of league racers turning out each Tuesday on average, 130 racers per day, the trophy would have been awarded to another resort.
A post-season awards banquet was held to honor area staff as well as the NASTAR Coordinator of the Year trophy, which went to the man who three years earlier had no experience in race management and organization.
He was making fresh tracks, and not just in race management.
* CJ wrote: “I broke 3-speed skiing records, but none became an official record because before the day was over, at least one other skier managed to edge me out each time I reset the speed mark.”
1975 Keystone Challenge Cup II runner-up, Dawn Rosenberg, Lake Eldora Race Team | Photo by Bruce Schaefer
The Best Businessman’s League in the County Ends Badly
The next season – 1975-76 – started on a good note, but by the time the new year rolled in, it became evident Corporate’s posture had stiffened.
The climate and culture were undergoing more than a cosmetic makeover.
What has become the norm in today’s corporate culture, staff downsizing and departmental housecleaning, has its roots in the way Keystone operated in 1976.
Upper management often portrayed an outer visage of affability, but their actions were juxtaposed with their words.
A drumbeat of corporate warfare began to pound, singling out employees for dismissal.
The mandate, likely unwritten, was to clean house and rehire new staff for less (money).
I think what is appropriate regarding the above may best be summed up by the following, expressed with utter profundity by friend and sage brother Bowden: “When you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”
Throughout this unsettling period that initiated after the new year, Keystone’s NASTAR program and race department continued operating as scheduled.
Weekend programs were picking up, the Tuesday Businessman’s League continued to flourish, “fun” races were intermittent, and the mix of races scheduled per growing interest from in and outside the county kept the schedule full.
Monthly news from NASTAR’s corporate office in Aspen reported Keystone’s program continued its top 5 ranking and meeting expectations.
By now, after three successive years ranked number one in the new franchise category, number three overall second season, and number one overall third season, I never got tired of trying to advance the program to a first-rate operation like Vail, which was impressive.
Timing is everything, and as March arrived, the program was chugging along splendidly.
The wheels were in motion for the third Challenge Cup when stability was rocked.
It was Monday, the day before the League’s second to last week and a well-deserved day off.
A clinic was planned on the bottom of the hill in full view of the timing house.
One of our Breckenridge racers, John Tamaska, volunteered his video equipment to film the clinic.
Fifteen racers took turns running a section of gates, then skied to the cabin to view their technique. Everything was orderly and organized.
Had we been on the hill at the time that management skied up, things would have turned out much different than they did that day.
It was apparent our use of the cabin and hill without permission did not sit well – liability be damned.
They entered the cabin unannounced and were surprised by the number of racers inside.
Without an expression, they turned and departed. They were annoyed, and it was obvious.
If they were looking for an excuse to sever another associate, this would be a golden opportunity not to let slip by.
Bill Pula and Neely Woodward captured in one of many moments of levity enjoyed during a summertime social on Ptarmigan, circa 1978 | Photo: Curt Kimbel
Sure enough, the next day, I was summoned upstairs and given a reprimand, then handed my “walking papers.”
When you have issues with staff, particularly one who shows initiative, accountability, reliability, punctuality, departmental exceptionality, and program success, the logical thing to do, a rational individual would think, is to discuss the issue at hand.
But, corporations are not people and, therefore, do not have the capacity “to think,” only to react to dictum.
When a corporation’s board of directors wraps itself tightly in a structural reorganization, it always leads to labor expungement to reset the clock downward.
Rationality is expendable.
Maverick: Charting Uncharted Waters
The 20-something guys, my Ptarmigan neighbors, Geary (Ritchey) and Neely (Woodward), came knocking as soon as they heard of my sacking.
They were stoked to hear I was done because they had a plan, and it included me. It was a wishful vision, impractical and unrealistic at best.
In fact, all they had going was recruiting me for the organizational skills I had gleaned at Keystone.
The goal was to stage a competition for a recreation that had little known history.
The impractical aspect of their wishful reverie was the activity’s checkered past; it provided nary a crumb to reference for guidance.
It was as maverick an idea as ever there was, an audacious proposition with zero substantive evidence that could assure a rational individual an ounce of reasonable success.
They likened it to ski racing, trying to assuage that my on-mountain experience had somehow qualified me to produce an event for skateboarders.
I was dumbfounded that skateboarding and skiing would even be mentioned in the same context.
I could not visualize skateboard racing like ski racing, which was so authentic.
In their whimsical thought process, all they needed to do was teach the neophyte how to skate, so he would “get” what they were trying to convey.
I wondered where this concept they were excited about had its roots?
The reporter, Shelly Porter, asked if she could take a picture of us? Incredulous, we said… “here on this flat surface?!” Her casual response was, “sure, why not?” So, not knowing what we should do to make an action sport look dynamic while standing still, we got into the only positions that came to mind. Both of us had Turner SummerSkis. Geary got into a tuck on his Full Nose while I pressed the kicktail down on a Park Board. Frisco News July 7, 1977 | Photo: Shelly Porter
California, no doubt, but who introduced the idea and influenced them that competition was the thing to do?
I did not even know there was a market for skateboards in Colorado.
Unless personal observation had been obscured, the sports shops I frequented were not showcasing skateboards as new inventory at all.
Was there a demand for boards in the metropolises along the Front Range, i.e., Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs?
Mystified of being unaware of its startup in Colorado was confounding.
Geary and Neely’s information was an awakening.
Skateboarding had new life, but embedded was a conspicuous stigma that would have to be approached with a certain degree of diplomacy.
Innately, I understood that getting involved would be challenging, beginning with educating the public via a bias media.
How biased might a rational, inquisitive mind wonder?
That question was answered by a simple examination of sports periodicals and broadcasts.
Coverage of it in any market outside California was illusory. Skateboarding and race competition, in particular, was an enigma.
Their vision was sketchy, and it sure did not provide enough convincing information such a venture could be a career builder.
Their justification for approaching me was based on Bowden’s lack of action.
According to them, he had been saying since the previous spring that he would organize an event to crank up interest in the High Country.
After a year of no follow-through, they were convinced he had neither organizational experience nor inspiration.
Words by Peter Camann | Skateboarder and Author of “ARA’s Untold Story: Skateboard Racing in the Rockies: Colorado 1975-1978”