Aspen ski race winners will be honored in unique way
ASPEN, Colorado – The winners of the Winternational World Cup ski races Nov. 28-29 will get trees planted in their honor on Aspen Mountain in addition to a cash prize as a way to give unique recognition to the athletes.
The Aspen Skiing Co. will start a special grove of trees on Aspen Mountain in honor of Andrea Mead Lawrence, an Olympic legend who lived in town during the 1960s. The first new trees planted in the grove will honor the women who win the giant slalom and slalom races on Saturday and Sunday.
“After next weekend it will be two trees, and it will grow from there,” said John Rigney, Skico vice president of sales and events.
Traditionally, the winner of the longest race at Winternational – in this year’s case, the giant slalom – gets her name on the Bingham Cup. But the award is somewhat obscure for all but the most intense race fans after the event is over. The Winternational organizers wanted something more visible.
“We bounced through hundreds of ideas and kept coming back to the environment,” Rigney said. The creation of a Colorado blue spruce grove was selected because it matches the Skico’s ideals and creates a cool monument to the racers. “It’s a legacy, and they can be proud,” he said.
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The grove will be started on the skier’s left on lower Norway, on the Lift 1A side of Aspen Mountain, according to Nancy Scheinkman, who is helping organize Winternational. The grove will be just below a timing shack along the World Cup course, visible from the grandstand at the base of course. Existing blue spruce are nearby, giving organizers confidence that planted trees will flourish. The racers’ trees will actually be planted sometime next growing season rather than during the winter.
The grove is meant to be a long-term monument to the racers, which demonstrates the Skico’s commitment to hosting World Cup races, Rigney said.
It also honors Mead Lawrence because of her accomplishments in alpine ski racing, environmental activism and for the town of Aspen. She won two gold medals in alpine skiing in the 1952 Olympics in Norway. No other American has matched that feat.
Mead Lawrence was a remarkable skier who competed in the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, when she was just 15. She raced in Aspen in the FIS World Championships in 1950.
In the 1952 Olympics, she won the giant slalom medal but achieved legendary status for her performance in the slalom. She fell on her first run but salvaged a fourth position. Her second run – the race combines times on the runs – was regarded as perfect. She offset her deficit and won.
Mead Lawrence moved to Aspen with her husband and three children in the early 1960s, and she got involved in civic endeavors. She served on the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission and helped elevate the ski club to a new level.
Later that decade she left Aspen and eventually moved to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where she was known for her conservation efforts in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. She died of cancer in March.
Her daughter Didi Lawrence, a Roaring Fork Valley resident, said she is thrilled with the tribute to her mother.
“I was totally honored, and she would be, too,” Lawrence said by phone while working on the World Cup course on Friday.
Her mom loved her time in Aspen, and she was also beloved in town, Lawrence said. She was part of a generation that helped create the resorts and the outdoor, mountain lifestyle that continues to attract so many people to places like Aspen.
“Part of my mom’s spirit is in the mountains,” Lawrence said.
And the presence of her spirit on Aspen Mountain will be enhanced with the creation of the “World Cup Champions Grove in honor of Andrea Mead Lawrence.”
A permanent plaque will be installed with the name of the grove and some of Mead Lawrence’s biography. Each year the plaque will be inscribed with the names of the race winners and their disciplines, Scheinkman said.