20-month-old Les Streeter, grandson of Olympian, learning to ski at Beaver Creek
Dad: ‘Just as long as he’s having fun, I don’t care’
George Streeter admittedly gets emotional while teaching his son Les to ski at Beaver Creek this season. Les, who turns 2 years old in April, is named after George’s father, who died in a plane crash in Wyoming in 1986 after successfully opening a ski shop in Vail and competing for Team USA as an Olympian.
“It’s cool to share the experience with him,” George said of his son, having been too young when his father passed to have similar experiences. “Just as long as he’s having fun, I don’t care.”
The ‘panache’ of Les Streeter
In addition to putting down roots in Vail, Les Streeter became well-known for his skiing achievements throughout his career.
In 1955, Sports Illustrated included Les Streeter in a story titled “Bright year for U.S.: American skiers caught up, but the champ is still European,” saying “At the NCAA championships … Middlebury’s fine four-way skier Les Streeter took home the title of Skimeister.”
After going on to compete in the Olympics, Les Streeter was mentioned in a Washington Post travel story from 1983, “The Western Way,” where the writer described skiing icons and characters of the West: “Vail has literally dozens of superb skiers, but none has more panache on the steep and fast than ex-Olympian Les Streeter.”
On Aug. 30, 1986, the headline on the cover of the Vail Daily was “Les, Jake Streeter killed in crash.”
“A twin-engine light plane crashed and burst into flames near [Lander, Wyoming] late Thursday night,” the story reads, identifying Les and his son, Jake, among the victims.
Les Streeter was 51 years old and Jake Streeter was 25.
“We couldn’t believe it,” former Vail Mayor Rod Slifer told the Vail Daily at the time. “It’s very hard … it’s a shock.”
Each year, the Les Streeter Award is presented at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail to the athlete with the most outstanding performance in each discipline.
“It’s definitely a big deal within ski club,” winner Jack Ganley said of the award, adding that the team’s camaraderie comes over any individual award. “It means a lot. His name is always one that I’ve heard around the valley.”
Raising kids in a ‘cool spot’
While Les Streeter’s legacy lives on in skiing lore, his grandson of the same name now carries a new legacy. However, George is putting no pressure on young Les.
“We’re very fortunate,” George said. “A lot of kids don’t get to grow up doing this.”
After growing up in the valley and learning to ski on Meadow Mountain, George moved to San Diego for 10 years before returning to the valley.
“Sometimes I get a little emotional with him,” George said of his son, “but it’s one of the reasons why we moved back here, to be able to raise kids in a cool spot.”
George has learned a few tricks on the slopes from taking Les’ older sister, Marley, out. Lots of positive reinforcement (M&Ms), lots of layers to stay warm and a desire for fun are keys to success with a 1-year-old on skis. He’s also created his own leash contraption to help control young Les coming down the mountain if needed.
“It costs about $5 at Ace Hardware, or $50 online,” he said.
So far this winter, George and Les have gotten about 10 days at Beaver Creek’s Haymeadow beginner area, usually getting in about two hours before going about their days — work for George; naps and snacks for Les. George has about two days of skiing on his own this year.
“I’d rather be up here with him,” George said.