Steamboat’s Billy Kidd turns 75, shares powder day with admirers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Billy Kidd could have taken the day off from work for his 75th birthday celebration April 13, but Steamboat Ski Area’s director of skiing for the past 48 years would have missed out on the April powder.
Asked about his 1 p.m. birthday run down from the top of the Steamboat gondola to the base area with visiting skiers and longtime local admirers trailing behind him, Kidd said, “I have so much fun, I asked to do it today. I still ski like I’m 74.”
Steamboat President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Perlman, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, told a crowd of people gathered in Gondola Square to sip champagne with Kidd, that the official snow report for Friday showed 7 inches of new snow. However, Perlman said, he doubled checked the snow stake at mid-mountain and confirmed it was really 7.5 inches, “and 75 people skied with Billy today.”
What a coincidence!
There’s more than one reason why Kidd still attracts groups of skiers for his skiing date with the public; he turns it into a free ski lesson, and with a few tips about proper stance and hand position he really does make intermediate skiers more polished on their way down the slopes.
Perhaps more than the instruction, the man who broke through with a silver medal in slalom at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, sincerely plants in the minds of youngsters that they can aspire to ski in the Olympics.
One of those youngsters, Linas Vaitkus, approaching middle age now himself, showed up to express his gratitude and ski with Kidd on his birthday.
“One of my very first memories from 40 years ago,” Vaitkus said, “Is (when) my Dad took me to ski with Billy Kidd who told me, ‘Someday, you too can be an Olympian.’ Twenty-five years later, in 1998, I stepped into the starting gate for the Olympic downhill at Nagano (he competed for Lithuania), and when I skied through the finish line, the first person to greet me was Billy Kidd.”
When longtime ski area employee Deb Metscher first came to work at the ski area in 1980, she worked as Kidd’s assistant, which included managing his calendar and making certain that he got to where he was going on time.
“I still do some of his stuff,” Metscher said. “It’s like I’m part of his family,” which includes Kidd’s longtime partner Hollis Brooks, who playfully posed for pictures herself on Friday.
Kidd closed his speech to his birthday well-wishers who skied the soft powder on the Heavenly Daze trail with him, by remembering some of his teammates and particularly his Olympic coach Bob Beattie, who died April 1.
“Jimmie Heuga, Bob Beattie, Spider Sabich and Carl Howelsen are skiing up in heaven,” Kidd said. “And I’d like to toast those of you who shared a little bit of heaven with me today, skiing down Heavenly Daze.”
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