Vail history tied up with Ski Classic |

Vail history tied up with Ski Classic

Special to the Dailyrepresenting a variety of countries helped put Vail on the ski racing map. Both Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney, pictured on this January 30, 1984 Time Magazine cover, will be attending this year's American Ski Classic.

VAIL ” If you groom it they will come.

In the early days, it was easy for resident skiers to think of Vail Mountain as a local secret. The American Ski Classic changed that, as international ski racers discovered for themselves the bounty of Rocky Mountain powder.

“The Ski Classic laid the groundwork for a lot of things we’re able to do here,” said John Dakin, vice president of communications for the Vail Valley Foundation. “This is the event that brought a lot of European skiers to Vail, where they could see the commitment we have to ski racing. So they were the fists that lobbied for Vail as a racing venue.”

Vail was a Grand Slalom stop for the inaugural World Championships tour in 1967, but the races didn’t return for more than a decade. In 1981 the Ski Classic was the first event Beaver Creek Resort hosted.

“It was Pepi Gramshammer’s idea to add the legends into the equation,” Dakin said. “It’s one of the few ” maybe the only ” annual event that celebrates the past with the legends. You always need to remember where you’ve been, whether in sports specifically or life in general.”

The Giant Slalom was added in 1983, the Men’s Downhill in ’86 and the Women’s Downhill in ’87.

“Suddenly, a lot of people who normally wouldn’t have come to Vail started to arrive,” Dakin said. “It was a good vehicle to introduce people to the valley.”

John Garnsey, chief operating officer for Beaver Creek Resort, has attended every single American Ski Classic, including the Classic’s forerunner, the Jerry Ford Celebrity Cup.

“Especially when we had the same participants returning year after year, there was a real sense of camaraderie,” Garnsey said. “A lot of long-lasting relationships started there.”

Garnsey used to work at the Vail Valley Foundation, which puts on the American Ski Classic. The World Cup races used to occur during the same time, which made it one enormous ski event.

“We really wanted to make the World Cup bigger and more exciting, with more exposure,” Garnsey said. “So when everything was under the same umbrella, the all-inclusive festival really affected Vail’s identity. It’s what put the Vail Valley on the international ski racing map.”

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