John F. Russell: Moose is Loose pays it forward
Steamboat Springs — Last week, the fairways and greens of the Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club hosted the Moose is Loose, one of Steamboat Springs’ longest running golf tournaments.
The tournament flyer said the event began approximately 36 years ago, but last week, longtime tournament organizer Jim Barrows, better known as “Moose,” said he thinks the event began 38 years ago. The idea was to use the money raised from the event to fund scholarships for local skiers who wanted to pursue the sport of ski racing, but whose families didn’t have the money needed to pay for equipment, coaching fees and travel. It is something Moose can relate to, since his first pair of “new” skis was purchased with a scholarship he earned as part of an award from the Rocky Mountain News.
When Moose started the tournament, times were different, but the need really hasn’t changed.
Back then, children spent their free time trying to figure out the Rubik’s Cube, we were all feeling a Big Chill at the box office and Men at Work was tempting us all to bite into a vegemite sandwich.
It was the 1980s, and big hair was in style. MTV brought music to our televisions, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were busy promoting the Cold War on movie screens across the country. Sure, things have changed in the more than 30 years since all that was hip, but the need for a scholarship fund to support future Olympic hopefuls has not faded. Moose knows this and has been supporting young skiers with his efforts for nearly 40 years.
Moose’s story is similar to many former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club racers. He grew up in Steamboat and was drawn to the Winter Sports Club at the age of 5, where he started ski jumping. But Moose quickly discovered Alpine ski racing, a sport in which his size and naturally aggressive style made him a standout on the race course.
Moose never forgot what the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club gave him as a child, and he has spent most of his life giving back — not only to the club — but to the athletes themselves.
He has always been a big supporter of local scholarships and has helped a great number of local athletes pursue and, in some cases, reach their Olympic dreams.
For more than three decades, the “Moose is Loose” golf tournament has held its place in the Steamboat Springs annual golfing landscape, and for more than 30 years, the event has provided athletes in Steamboat Springs a helping hand with the real cost of winter sports. The tournament is a great example of how this community continues to step forward and prove the title “Ski Town USA” comes from a lot more than just the results turned in by athletes on the slopes.
This tournament, and so many other events in our town, continue to show our support of winter sports expands past the slopes to fundraisers, parents’ willingness to support young athletes’ dreams and the fact that everyone in Steamboat seems to be on board.
Moose understands that support more than most. He came from a modest background and is still remembered for his long and noteworthy ski racing career that included accolades at almost every level of the sport.
He finished third in the first World Cup Downhill race ever held in the U.S. in Franconia, New Hampshire, in 1967, and finished the season seventh in FIS World Downhill ranking — the highest American. He qualified for the 1968 Olympic Team. Sadly, his 1968 season ended abruptly during his bid for Olympic Gold during the downhill at Grenoble, France. His spectacular fall was documented by ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
The event was dubbed “the agony of defeat” by the Wide World of Sports, but those who know Moose know the moment had very little to do with defeat. Instead, it can be seen as a testament to a man who was willing to put everything on the line in every race, who continually pushed the limits of racing and his own physical strength.
That moment made it clear that Moose always raced to win.
He recovered to win the 1969 North American Downhill Championships, but for good or ill, he will always be known as that ski racer tumbling down the slopes in one of the most notorious skiing crashes of all time.
Truth is, only a handful of the millions of people who saw that short clip as part of the Wide World of Sports’ intro will realize it was Moose. The fact is, Jim “Moose” Barrows’ decorated skiing career has made him a legend in his own home town.
Today, Moose continues to be a steady voice in our community. He has been a public servant and is always finding ways to make Steamboat Springs a better place to live. His dedication and passion for this community, as well as the sport of skiing, is still as strong today when he stepped into the starting gates to begin his career.
Thanks to his long-running golf tournament and his dedication to the sport of skiing, I will always remember Moose as the guy who has the heart of a champion.
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