‘You have to be so bloody strong’ – Dave Gorsuch
VAIL ” David Gorsuch was in the Olympics, but he doesn’t think about it much anymore.
“It certainly was important at the time, and it still is,” he said. “But life goes on, and athletics are just a moment in time, and it passes very quickly.”
More lasting are his roles as husband, father, grandfather and owner of one of the most well-known businesses in Vail.
Gorsuch competed in the downhill and giant slalom in the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif. His then-fiancee and now-wife of 45 years, Renie, also competed in the 1960 Games, in the slalom. He finished 14th in both events, and she finished ninth.
“To be able to represent my country and participate at that level, it was the peak of my athletic goals,” he said. “Everyone says they want to win a gold medal, but for me it was a great honor to be named to the team and represent the country.”
In the downhill, Gorsuch was five seconds ahead of the winner when he was two-thirds of the way down the course, he said. But when he entered a sun-drenched section of the course, the difference in snow texture slowed him down.
“As soon as I hit that traverse, the skis sucked down, and I was trying to ride the edges to break that suction,” he said.
But he was pleased with his performance, he said.
“I ran the very best race I could, and I have no regrets,” he said.
The opening ceremonies at Squaw were orchestrated by Walt Disney, and Gorsuch said the event was like a “Disneyland extravaganza.” He said it was cloudy as the ceremonies got under way, but he said the clouds parted and the sun came out just as 2,000 doves were released into the air.
“It was a beautiful week, the whole week,” he said. “Perfect weather.”
The Gorsuches married a few months after those Olympics. In 1966, they moved their nascent ski shop from Gunnison to Vail. Four decades later, Gorsuch Ltd., in the center of the village, is a Vail icon, and the Gorsuches have three sons and five grandkids.
Gorsuch will be watching the Torino Games closely, he said, and said the U.S. alpine team should do well.
“I hope they all ski the best they can and represent their country well,” he said.
Gorsuch cited monumental changes in the sport in the last 40 years.
“It’s like from the old Go-Kart races to Formula One,” he said. “It’s so much different now. We used wooden skis and leather boots. We used to tape our pants to keep them from flapping in the wind. There was nothing like the racing suits they have now.”
While racers of his era reached speeds of 65 mph, today’s competitors are reaching 90 mph, he said.
“You have to be so bloody strong,” he said.
A Colorado life
Gorsuch, whose family has been in the Colorado mountains since the late 1800s, grew up in the village at the Climax mine at Fremont Pass. His father worked as a carpenter there and also helped build the small Climax Ski Area. Gorsuch learned to ski there at the Climax hill.
“It was a great little place to ski,” he said.
Soon he was racing competitively. His first race was in 1946 at Steamboat. Racing was simply a part of growing up in Climax for him and his friends, he said.
“It was just something we liked to do,” he said.
By the time he was 12, he was racing at Junior Nationals in Winter Park and in subsequent years would travel to Utah, Wyoming, Montana and New Hampshire for nationals. He met his future wife at the Jackson Hole event. He won the Junior National combined championships in 1954 and 1956.
Gorsuch worked his way up the rankings, and in 1958 competed in the world championships in Bad Gastein, Austria. He passed on a scholarship to Dartmouth in order to travel to races in Europe ” this was several years before the World Cup was formally arranged.
“It was my dream come true,” he said.
Summers he worked at the Climax mine to save enough money to travel with the U.S. team. He was a busboy at the Red Onion in Aspen while he trained there.
In the fall of 1959, he was named to the Olympic team.
Gorsuch continued to race competitively until 1964. He won the NCAA downhill title racing for Western State in 1963.
He actually had enough top finishes to make the 1964 Olympic team, he said. But coach Bob Beattie told him that, at 22, he was too old.
“I still have a letter from Bob that says, ‘You did a good job, but we’re going to go with the younger guys,'” he said. “It (bothered me) at the time, but life goes on. Life goes on.”