Lights, Camera, Ski- Celebrities love the Ski Classic |

Lights, Camera, Ski- Celebrities love the Ski Classic

Special to the DailyGymnast Bart Connors and actor Clint Eastwood after the race.

VAIL Dirty Harry did it. So did Mr. Moon River and the Bachelorette. Jimmy Connors, Ahmad Rashad, John Havlicek and Cliff Robertson they all did it, too.It happens to be the Ford Cup, a ski race that involves a couple of professional skiers but is populated by celebrities and regular Joes game to hop on the course and have a good time. The Ford Cup is one component of the American Ski Classic, an event that celebrates Vail and skiing.

The Ford Cup really takes people out of their comfort zone, John Dakin, vice president of communications for the Vail Valley Foundation, said. Ski racing becomes the common ground for people who may be very competitive but arent racers.The original purpose of the Ford Cup was two-fold. It was meant to provide a winter counterpoint to a successful summertime event, the Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament, Dakin said. It was also supposed to help bring exposure to the valley by bringing high profile people to Vail.President Ford created the World Forum, which brought political figures to Vail. With the Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament and the Ford Cup Race, he was able to bring the celebrity element of his public life to town. A lot of people who normally wouldnt have come to Vail were made aware of it, Dakin said. Until his knees demanded otherwise, President Ford always raced in it. It was fun to watch people at the start gate do a double take as they looked around and saw him standing next to them, ready to race. His main concern was that everyone have a good time.Clint Eastwood, Henry Mancini and a host of other celebrities have visited Vail for the past 25 years to participate in the Classic. At the height of his Dirty Harry fame, Eastwood was a regular visitor. According to Dakin, he was an extremely focused skier with his eye on the prize. Dan Havlicek from the Boston Celtics came, said John Garnsey, chief operating officer for Beaver Creek Resort. He was an OK skier when he got here. But he was so competitive, he just improved every day.So did Joe Morgan, Hall of Famer second baseman.He really didnt like to lose, Garnsey explained. The intensity at the starting gate it could get a little extreme.That intensity wasnt reserved for sports figures used to bringing home a win at all costs. When actor Paul Rudd got to town, his downhill experience began and ended with an outing 10 years previous. He spent all day running gates, and by the time the race rolled around he put in a decent showing.Adam Aron, former president of Vail Resorts, didnt have too many skiing street creds when he assumed the companys helm. But he did have a savvy marketing eye. Two years ago, Adam decided to take a side trip into the banners on the racecourse, Dakin said. Of course he managed to fall into the Vail Resorts banner, the one that would give him the most media exposure.Aron also noticeably improved his skiing technique over his tenure as Vail Resorts president, as evidenced by his annual participation in the Countrywide Ford Cup races.Through the Ski Classic, celebrities like (actors) Ian Ziering and Kelsey Grammer fell in love with Vail and bought houses here, Dakin said.The original element of the Countrywide American Ski Classic, the Ford Cup debuted in 1981 as the Jerry Ford Celebrity Cup, a winter version of the already successful Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament, and the first event ever hosted at the newly-opened resort of Beaver Creek.Contested over two days, the Countrywide Ford Cup features head-to-head competition, with teams captained by some of the greatest names in ski racing history and comprised of celebrities, sponsors and paid participants. The 2006 Countrywide American Ski Classic is a project of the Vail Valley Foundation. For additional information on the Countrywide American Ski Classic, call 949-1999 or visit Colorado

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